Friday, February 27, 2015

Taco Bell goes for Cap'n Crunch

Taco Bell restaurants announced Friday the testing of a new co-branded breakfast item featuring Quaker's Cap'n Crunch Berries cereal. The trial is currently underway in Bakersfield, California, and if it goes over well the chances are good we'll see it spread elsewhere. These "Cap'n Crunch Delights" are deep-fried donut holes stuffed with icing and rolled in the cereal, and will be available all day.

Certainly this is a novel addition to Taco Bell's menu, and perhaps it represents some out of the box thinking at Quaker as a way to strengthen brand awareness. This could be the type of innovation cereal companies need to try to keep relevant, bolster traditional cereal sales, in a marketplace that seems to shrug with indifference over the typical breakfast fare.

(Source: Nation's Restaurant News)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: General Mills' French Toast Crunch

The big cereal story a couple of months ago was General Mills' reintroduction of a previously discontinued cereal, French Toast Crunch. After vigorous campaigning from passionate fans the company decided that was a good PR move, and hopefully a revenue generator as well.

With all the hype surrounding the return of this cereal I figured this would be a great opportunity to discover what I missed over eight years ago when the cereal disappeared from the store shelves. For some reason I do have not any fond memories of French Toast Crunch, so it was not particularly exciting for me to hear of its return. So, this could be my second chance to find out whether this is the best thing since Corn Flakes. Or not.

So, what's the draw? For most people the allure of French Toast Crunch is the taste. The cereal claims to be "bursting with cinnamon and syrup taste," and while it is not first one to imitate other breakfast foods (e.g. waffles) the flavor sensation is unique while tapping into familiar tastes. The recipe works, and is enjoyable to eat.

So how do the little french toast slices hold up in milk? Straight out of the bag, this is all about crunch. Hardly authentic french toast, unless you like it dehydrated. But, like most cereals it comes alive in milk, and this is one case where the longer it soaks the better. French toast sopping in syrup is supposed to be soggy, and after 5 to 10 minutes the cereal's association with the real thing is surprisingly strong.

Taste and texture are big aspects of French Toast Crunch, but they're all part of something greater, the overall experience. Again, I believe what has made this such a popular cereal for many people is the fact that this cereal is not only a great imitation of a traditional breakfast favorite, but just plain fun.

So far this cereal is a winner, but now we have to deal with the reality of nutrition. You don't buy this cereal because you're looking for organic, high-fiber grains, naturally packed with antioxidants. Certainly it's not the worst cereal on the market, but it is sugared (30% of weight), low in protein (1g per serving), and comprised mainly of enriched vitamins. But, who really cares. Remember, it's about the experience.

I must admit this was a fun journey back to the past. It is an enjoyable cereal to eat, and I understand the appeal. Having said that it's still not one of my favorite cereals, but if you were a French Toast Crunch lover in the past you won't be disappointed. And, even if this was not on your radar, it's still worth giving it a try. Maybe you'll discover why so many people wanted it back.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Post doubles down with MOM acquisition

As I get back into winter blogging mode, there is one big cereal story in particular that I must comment on. A couple of weeks ago number three cereal maker, Post, demonstrated that it is not only committed to solidifying its number 3 spot in the cereal industry, but is eyeing the future with growth definitely in mind. They have agreed to buy MOM Brands for $1.15 billion, adding the latter's successful bagged cereals and other varieties to its portfolio.

MOM (formerly Malt-O-Meal) has been a cereal disruptor with its focus on knock-off cereals sold in larger sizes, and often at a lower price than the mainstream boxed cereals. It will now be interesting to see how Post leverages the purchase, either through branding changes and/or manufacturing efficiencies.

Consolidation in the cereal industry is inevitable, especially now with the larger companies struggling to find an edge in a tight market.

(Source: Bloomberg)