Thursday, August 25, 2016

Customization still available in the U.S. with MyCerealMix

A few months ago I pointed out that yet another custom cereal maker, MixMyOwn, shut down. This is at least the fourth such company to quit, unable to match the success of this format in Europe, namely mymuesli of Germany.

Just when I thought that this approach was dead on this continent, I was made aware of another one, MyCerealMix, that has recently cropped up to try their hand at this innovation. The company claims that it is possible to make your own cereals "from 30+ all-natural ingredients. No added sugar, nothing artificial. It's easy, healthy and delicious." Similar to the others, you start with a base and add various things such as nuts, seeds, freeze-dried fruits, and "super foods" to come up with your own concoction. Your mix is shipped in a windowed, resealable, foil pouch.

I reached out to the company, and founder Tobias Patella was kind enough to fill me on more details and answer some questions I had. He told me that this all started as a result of his own paleo/primal eating lifestyle, and he wanted to see cereals that were all-natural, but could be personalized to individual preferences and needs. Although they have a website where people can put their recipes together, and they utilize social media to spread the word, they got started an old-school way, simply handing out flyers in southern California and giving out samples at gyms. As far, as what makes MyCerealMix different than the others who have failed at this, Patella said that, "we are differentiating our product by guaranteeing that all of our ingredients are 'better for you. By offering a truly healthy offering for all consumers that look for an alternative to the sugary-loaded cereals you'll find everywhere else."

On the one hand, I remain convinced that the custom cereal concept is a valid one, and somebody is going to make it work in the U.S. People want personalization in life, and this offers that. On the other hand, however, I wonder whether they will have the startup capital and other resources to make their brand competitive in a challenging marketplace. Will they will be able to distinguish themselves adequately as a brand, and not just through customization?

We'll be watching!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Review: General Mills' Tiny Toast

As I've pointed out before, this blog is not focused on cereal reviews, but the industry and phenomenon of breakfast cereal. Nevertheless, every once in a while a particular cereal comes across my breakfast table that is of such significance that it deserves a careful look and taste test.

The new Tiny Toast cereals from General Mills provide a perfect occasion to grab a bowl (or two, in this case) to provide my impressions of what they bill as their "first new cereal brand in 15 years," an over-hyped claim in my opinion. These received much attention when released a couple of months ago, and General Mills is hoping that they will generate some of the same kind of excitement that some of their other "toast" cereals enjoy, namely Cinnamon Toast Crunch and French Toast Crunch.

Tiny Toast comes in two flavors, blueberry and strawberry, and both will be considered in this one review.

So, how do these new cereals actually taste? In short, pretty good. With the increasing commitment of General Mills (and other companies) to use only natural flavors, newer cereals are much more pleasant and muted, than the blasts of flavors that come from artificial ingredients (let alone the powerful whiff of chemical scents that erupt from the bags of newly open cereals with artificial flavors). The blueberry and strawberry flavors here are evident, although I like the strawberry better. Blueberry Tiny Toasts actually bordered on lacking in taste.

An obvious distinguishing point of this brand are the tiny little toast pieces, and they are pleasant to consume - light, and only mildly crunchy out of the box. In other words, they go down easy, but have substance. They also hold their own in milk, although after ten minutes they start to get a little gummy.

Breakfast cereal is about so much more than just the cereal itself, and with Tiny Toast General Mills has created a brand with some personality and that is tied in with their previous toast varieties. Just the idea of eating tiny toasts is fun, and the cartoonish look of the box and logo contribute to that impression. But, despite the design and "Match the Hashtag" game on the back, this cereal is not intended just for children. The pictures and statements on the front that these contain real fruit, remind everyone that these are somewhat serious eats too.

If this is somewhat serious, then what about the nutritional qualities of Tiny Toast. Despite the claims of natural flavor, natural colors, fortified vitamins and minerals, and "First ingredient: whole grain," these cereals are nutritionally meh. There is only 2g of protein, and 1g of fiber, and the percentage of sugar by weight is over 30%. Not that I was expecting more, but don't be fooled - this is not for those looking for a nutritional powerhouse.

Overall, even with the fanfare, Tiny Toasts are an interesting addition to the General Mills lineup, and in the short-term should garner consumer attention; but I really do not see anything special here. They have something to offer as an experience, but in a year or two will likely follow the fate of many new cereals that have come and gone over the years. By all means, try them for yourself, and let me know if they become a favorite of yours, or just a little occasional variety for your morning breakfast bowl.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Moving the cereal aisle to the produce section

Recently there were reports that Kellogg cereals were starting to show up alongside fruits and vegetables in Meijer's grocery stores. So far this seems limited to the Midwest grocer, but it could very well be a way for Kellogg to reposition cereals in a new way by associating them with fresh and healthful foods. Of course, adding fruit to your breakfast bowl has long been a way to enhance your cereal, but now the connection is being made more deliberately, perhaps even to the extent of suggesting that you can enhance your produce with cereal.

This is likely a marketing test for now, but it will be interesting to see if cereal companies continue trying these types of efforts to raise the profile of a food that is in need of rejuvenation.

(Source: Quartz)