Saturday, November 29, 2014

Weight Watchers cereal

With Holiday excess in full swing, there are many companies preparing themselves for the annual ritual performed by those who try to counteract the effects of too much egg nog with the discipline of weight loss. In the cereal world, up to this point Kellogg has dominated this market with its broad and diverse Special K line, but recently they have struggled targeting weight management and appear to be adjusting their approach.

But with the next wave of weight loss seekers striving for a solution to their waist lines, MOM Brands is entering this niche market with a line of cereals taking advantage of a licensing agreement with Weight Watchers. This new line-up will likely have credibility for many consumers, and will appeal to those following the Weight Watchers program (each cereal lists its PointsPlus value) and those simply hoping to shed a few extra pounds.

The new cereals will come in five flavors: Frosted Shredded Wheat with Protein, Whole Grain Honey Nut Toasted Oats, Oat Clusters with Cherries & Almonds, Chocolate Frosted Shredded Wheat, and Oat Clusters with Almonds.

Whether or not these cereals will actually help people lose weight is still to be seen, but for MOM this is a smart marketing move. More companies need to establish strategic licensing agreements like this to gain a foothold in consumers' minds. We'll see if they can supplant Special K in this category.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What do consumers want?

As cereal companies struggle to find the product and marketing strategy that will bring success, it often feels like they are throwing Jell-O at the wall to see what sticks: New products, new flavors and varieties, re-designed packaging, niche targeting, etc. Unfortunately, these seldom bring breakthroughs.

At the beginning of this year General Mills thought that non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) ingredients in Cheerios and Grape Nuts would attract consumers who had to choose between many different brands (including generic knock-offs) in the grocery store aisle. Naturally they would pick the non-GMO cereals and see General Mills as a trusted, safe brand. Right? Not so quick.

According to an AP report not long after the change, there is no evidence that sales of General Mills' GMO-free cereals have increased. While it could be argued that it is the right thing to do, and certainly many consumer advocates have praised the decision, the bottom line is that most people simply do not care. A couple of months ago, General Mills' shareholders reinforced this view by casting a vote 98% against a proposal to remove all GMO's from the company's products.

The point is that making a move like this is not the answer to the downturn in cereal sales. Consumers are not easily impressed with all these marketing maneuvers. For the small minority that are committed to eating non-GMO foods Cheerios might now be an option, but the reality is these individuals are likely buying other cereals from a brand with a stronger, more consistent health focus. Perhaps General Mills is already understanding this, as is reflected in their recent purchase of Annie's.

Again, it's innovation that is going to turn around the cereal industry. Hopefully this recent experiment at General Mills will reinforce the fact that grasping at straws rarely works.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Killer concept in London

In my last post I highlighted how mymuesli is creatively reinventing cereal in Germany. But, this is not the only European company taking cereal to a new level. This time we go across the pond to London where two brothers (and identical twins!) are preparing to open a cereal restaurant called Cereal Killer Café. Sure cereal restaurants are not new - I've been talking about them here for over eight years - but this goes beyond the much more limited attempts in the U.S.

Alan and Gary Keery have a grand, passionate vision for their cereal amusement park. Claiming to be "obsessed with everything cereal" they are going all out, offering over 100 different kinds of cereals from numerous countries. And to make it even more interesting there will be 12 varieties of milk and 20 different toppings. But, this is more than about cereal as a food. For true breakfast enthusiasts they are creating a nostalgic café  where hundreds of pieces of cereal memorabilia from the 80s and 90s are displayed. Here you will not only be able to get a great bowl of cereal to consume, but you can immerse yourself fully into an experience that celebrates cereal culture.

This will be a fun venture to watch, and it may provide a template for what cereal restaurants should be like. Cereal Killer Café may not be easily scalable, but it offers far more excitement than the much simpler model adopted by early innovators like Cereality. In the home of breakfast cereal, the U.S., there is no reason that something like this could not be successful.

(Special thanks to several Breakfast Bowl followers who brought this to my attention: Lynda, Luke and Jerry!)