Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cereal and the economy

The recent downturn in the economy seems to be affecting almost every industry, not just banks and auto companies. Although food in general is a staple, a prolonged recession will have an impact on consumers' choices and buying habits. This will include cereal.

Recently the big three cereal companies (Kellogg, General Mills, and Ralcorp [Post]) have shown positive financial results. But this reflects the past, not necessarily the present or the future. The question is: Will consumers continue to purchase cereal as in the past when their personal finances are squeezed?

It appears that even the big companies question this. For example, Kellogg recently launched a campaign on their website promoting the "value of a Kellogg breakfast", which costs less than 50 cents a bowl, including the milk. Obviously they wan to prevent any changes in perception.

Nevertheless, the big winners in the coming months could be low-cost manufacturers like Malt-O-Meal, whose sales continue to rise. In the end people will likely to continue eating cereal, but will find their satisfaction in bulk sizes, knock-off recipes, or generic brands. This will also be an opportunity for innovators, but not on the high-end. Companies that can bring new value to the cereal aisle have much to gain.

We'll keep watching these developments.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, December 08, 2008


A fitting diversion for this time of year:

What's a snowman's favorite cereal?

... DRUM ROLL ...

Ice Krispies!

Technorati Tags: ,

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Public Service Announcement

As the colder weather and Holidays come upon us we need to be reminded of the importance of safe driving. That includes resisting the urge to eat cereal and drive!

Although not the first time we have noticed this problem, a women was trying to eat cereal with a bowl and spoon while driving on a icy road in Ontario, Canada. The result was an accident and the woman covered in milk and cereal.

So, please be careful and use common sense!

This public service announcement is brought to you by The Breakfast Bowl.


Technorati Tags: , ,

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Big Cereal

As industries mature big companies emerge, controlling the vast majority of the market. But, these companies find it difficult to change when necessary and to innovate. The result is that new, upstarts show up on the scenes carving out new markets. You can see this in almost every consumer product, from automobiles to beer to pharmaceuticals. And, of course, cereal.

A recent blog posting by John Gapper of the Financial Times examines the current state of Big Cereal and how speciality brands are the ones taking the leadership on the high end of the market.

Some interesting quotes: "The Big Cereal innovation pipeline seems to be running dry... The industry is bifurcating between low-cost generics and high-priced speciality items, with the established mass products coming under strain in the middle."

Worth reading.


Technorati Tags: , ,

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Target's packaging wins award

Earlier this year Target introduced an innovative new packaging concept for its Archer Farms cereals. The bagless containers were named 2008 Package of the Year in the Food Category by Food and Beverage Packaging magazine. Target is known for moving beyond the ordinary and their execution of this design with packaging company Sonoco is worth noting. Congratulations!

(Story in Marketwatch)

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


A recent tip by a commenter has revealed yet another U.S. entrant into the custom cereal business, following in the footsteps of [me]&goji and Germany's mymuesli. MixMyGranola is in many ways very similar to the other two, except that focus on granola. Nevertheless, it's the same principle: pick your ingredients online and they will package them up and send them to you in a cylindrical container.

I am the first one to admire innovation, and custom cereals are innovative. Although this is still a fledgling opportunity which much potential, it will be critical for companies to not simply copy each other, but find unique ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Otherwise innovation will cease and great idea like this will be diminished.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cereal for the Holidays

Life has been rather quiet in the cereal world. The most "exciting" thing to report on right now is Kellogg's unveiling of a holiday menu using Corn Flakes as a key ingredient. The chosen recipes are the most requested by consumers, and include:

Cheddar Broccoli Corn Bake
Sweet Potato Bake
Creamy Green Bean Casserole
Apple-Celery Stuffing
Cherry Dot Cookies


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More General Mills Halloween

For many years General Mills has been known for its "monster cereals" (i.e. Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry). This year, just in time for Halloween, General Mills appears to have made some of their regular cereals a little more ghoulish. Actually the designs are rather cute and should catch people's attention. So far I've seen Trix and Honey Nut Cheerios boxes.

Anyone else seen any others?

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Breakfast politics

Just when you think you've had enough of politics, AirBed&Breakfast has come up with Obama O's and Cap'n McCain's cereals.

These are real cereals in limited edition boxes. But before you rush out to buy the boxes take note that these collectors' editions are not cheap. They are $39.00 each, plus shipping.

I bet they'll sell out!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, October 06, 2008


Following in the footsteps of German cereal innovator, mymuesli, is an American company called [me]&goji. This New England upstart promises "custom artisanal cereal" that is "designed by you, handmade by us". Like with mymuesli you pick the ingredients and they put them all together and send them to you in a plastic cereal capsule. Some of the ingredient choices are quite exotic, and include such things as goji berry, chia seed, and macadamia. In all there are over 40 natural and organic ingredient choices. The cost starts at $4.90 for a 600g (21oz) capsule (but couild easily be much higher depending on your ingredient choices) plus USPS shipping. Not cheap, but when you are innovative and unique you don't necessarily have to be.

As I've stated before with mymuesli, this is an innovation to watch.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sugar Culprits

Despite recent attempts to improve the nutritional quality of cereals marketed to children, there are still some cereals to avoid, at least according to a new report from Consumer Reports. Studying 27 cereals marketed to children they found that some were two were more than 50 percent sugar (Post Golden Crisp and Kellogg's Honey Smacks), and nine were at least 40 percent sugar. Only four of the studied cereals rated "very good".

After Golden Crisp and Honey Smacks, the next least healthful cereals are Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter Crunch, Cap'n Crunch, Apple Jacks, Froot Loops, and Corn Pops.

Is anyone really surprised?

Source: MarketWatch

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Frosty O's

While not a record, today a 70's empty box of General Mills' Frosty O's sold on ebay for $761.99! (ebay item 300261546913).

The rare nature of this box along with its nostalgic value certainly contributed to the high selling price. More indication of the emotional connection many people have with cereal.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Starbucks goes cereal

Coffee chain Starbucks has been looking for a boost for its business, and may have found it: oatmeal. Recently Starbucks introduced hot oatmeal for breakfast, served with mixed nuts, dried fruit or brown sugar according to preference. According to a Reuter's report, Michelle Gass, senior vice president of marketing is quoted as saying, "It is the single highest volume (food) item in our history". It makes sense since their highest coffee sales are in the morning.

Maybe we will see more cereal offerings in the future?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flutie Flakes returning

The MetroWest Daily News recently reported that Flutie Flakes will be returning this fall, 10 years after they originally introduced across the U.S. and Canada.

For those of you that don't know, Doug Flutie was the Heisman trophy winner who later played for the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers, after a time playing in the Canadian Football League. Ten years ago he launched his own cereal (actually rebranded generic frosted flakes) with the hope of raising money for an autism foundation he founded in honor of his son who was diagnosed with the condition. Ultimately he sold 3 million boxes.

What is even more significant about Flutie Flakes is that it made successful a new type of cereal: private label sports cereals and other foods. Since then PLB Sports has launched numerous other cereals and foods featuring such athletes as Dan Marino and John Elway, and both college and professional teams.

The 10th Anniversary relaunch of Flutie Flakes is certainly worth noting.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Friday, September 19, 2008

More than O's

How do you build on a successful brand?

Extend it.

Without question General Mills' Cheerios is one of the most successful cereal brands, and the company has recognized this. From the original toasted O's recipe, the brand now encompasses ten different varieties.

The latest is Oat Cluster Cheerios Crunch, a combination of multi-grain O's and oat clusters. Crunchie clusters are popular right now (e.g. Post's Honey Bunches of Oats) so General Mills is picking up on an important trend.

I'm not into reporting on every new cereal that crops up. Many are far from exciting or being noteworthy. What captures my attention with this new variety is the way that these new extensions may be gradually straying from the original concept. Perhaps it is good marketing strategy in the short-term, but over the long-term if General Mills continues to extend Cheerios even further the brand could easily become diluted and meaningless.

How far can they go?

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

High School Musical Cereal

One of my fascinations with cereal is how it has tapped into pop culture over the years. Kellogg's latest offering is a perfect example. They just released High School Musical cereal to coincide with the highly popular Disney TV film that has a strong following among a certain segment of young teens. The vanilla-flavored, star-shaped cereal looks disgusting, but the cereal is not what this all about. Currently, Kellogg seems to be doing the best job in tying into popular themes. Early this year this also released a Kung Fu Panda Crunchers cereal, and one based on the latest Indiana Jones movie.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I've been gone a lot this summer (which explains the sparse blogging), and one of my trips took me to Canada. While most Canadian cereals are the same as their U.S. counterparts (except for bilingual English and French boxes), there are some unique products worth noting.

This year I was intrigued with YogActive, a German cereal that is being imported into Canada and sold by mainstream stores like Walmart. Available in nine different flavors, including mandarin orange and strawberry-dark chocolate, what makes them truly stand out is the fact that they are a probiotic food, containing 15% yogurt pearls with active Lactobacillus acidophilous bacteria. While not the only probiotic cereal on the market, this is the first brand devoted to this type of functional food. 


Technorati Tags: , , ,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wheaties - back in the game?

I've been questioning recently whether General Mills is serious about keeping Wheaties a strong, sports-oriented brand. Kellogg's recent coup with Michael Phelps seemed to confirm that Wheaties is no longer the box on which to be seen.

It appears that General Mills might be getting back into the game. They announced this week that two recent gold medal Olympians will appear on upcoming Wheaties boxes: Nastia Liukin (gymnastics) and Bryan Clay (decathlon). They have also updated their website with a new look.

The question is: Will this be enough for Wheaties to have a full come-back?

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Safeway goes Looney

Grocery giant Safeway has released a new line of children's food products as part of its private label "Eating Right" brand. To enhance the image of the new Eating Right Kids line they have entered into a licensing arrangement with Warner Bros. to utilize their Looney Tunes characters such as Bugs Bunny, Tweety, and Marvin the Martian. Eating Right is postioned as healthy foods, and over 100 items will be made available in this new children's line.This includes five cereals, all of which use natural flavors and meet certain nutrition guidelines.

This is not first time cereals have featured Looney Tune characters, but Safeway has found a way to unite popular culture with health. And, that makes it worth watching (and eating).

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, August 22, 2008

mymuesli heads to the U.K.

By far, the most innovative cereal company out there right now is mymuesli of Germany. The company allows customers to order custom-made muesli, choosing from 75 different ingredients.

mymuesli has announced that that they are now shipping to the United Kingdom, certainly a logical choice as Britain is the biggest cereal country in the European Union.

Now, if we could just get them to setup in the U.S.!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

He's Gr-r-r-eight!

Summer has been a quiet time in cereal world, but things have really heated up this week with the announcement by Kellogg that they will be honoring U.S. Olympic medalist Michael Phelps. Phelps, winner of a record eight gold medals, will be featured on boxes of Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes, beginning in September.

No one questions the accolades given to Phelps, but the blogosphere and media have already lit up, concerned that Frosted Flakes is not a healthy cereal for Phelps to be gracing. Perhaps it sends the wrong message to children?

This is a major coup for Kellogg, but not the first time they have featured a major athlete. But, for me, it raises the question again: Where's General Mills and Wheaties? Did they even try? Or is Wheaties now out of medal contention?

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, August 04, 2008


Later this week, the Food Network will be airing an episode of "Heavyweights" that focuses on the long-time competition between Kellogg's, General Mills and Post through the years. It will feature some interesting history and background to cereal manufacturing and marketing.

Of particular interest to me: A producer from the show contacted me several months back to discuss the idea and I provided some information and photos for them.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New beginning for Post

As reported last fall, Kraft sold its Post cereal division to private-brand food maker, Ralcorp. It look likes the deal will close next week.

This should be watched closely for several reasons: First, it will be interesting to see how a private-label company responds to controlling a big brand like Post. Second, despite some recent advancements and its strong Honey Bunches of Oats line, Post has been a struggling cereal brand in the last decade or more. Can it be revived to a position of prominence again?

(See article in St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cereal cost

Food prices have been rising lately, and cereal has been no exception. Obviously, the high cost of fuel has certainly been a major factor. Some also blame the increased production of ethanol from corn which is driving up food prices.

A chart produced by the Toronto Star provides an interesting look into what costs go into a box of cereal. Most significant is that the actual cost of the grains comprise only 2% of the cost, and transportation accounts for 4.5% (but that could be rising). If these numbers are close to being accurate, it corrects some misconceptions we might have as to why cereal prices are really rising. Which prompts one to ask: Are the cereal companies completely honest when they communicate the reasons for higher prices and shrinking boxes? It's too easy to blame fuel prices, etc.

It also shows: Processed foods have little to do with the actual ingredients.

Worth thinking about.

(See larger version of chart here)

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Can you identify the cereal?

Need some summer fun and distractions?

Try this Breakfast Cereal ID Quiz over at AOL Food. They give you 20 pictures of actual cereal pieces and you have to identify them. Some are easy, others much more difficult. Plus, some interesting trivia tidbits.

I scored 19 out of 20.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More vintage

Upon further reflection of my recent post on vintage cereal boxes I have come up with an idea that cereal companies may want to seriously consider.

What about vintage cereals, not just vintage boxes?

That's right, cereal companies could tap into our fascination with nostalgia by re-introducing cereals from the past in vintage packaging. They wouldn't have to be permanent additions, but limited editions. No more than one or two at a time would be needed by each company, but it would be a great way to capture sales in a highly competitive marketplace. I also suspect they could charge a little more and still sell them out.

Wouldn't it be great to taste again Kellogg's OKs or Puffa Puffa Rice? General Mills would have many excellent choices to offer, such as Sir Grapefellow, Crazy Cow, or Twinkles. What about Quaker Quake (they've already done this with Quisp!)? Or, Ralston Freakies? And, of course, Post Pink Panther Flakes!

We're tired of yet another flavor of Special K, or a new marshmallow in Lucky Charms.

How about something a little more exciting?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vintage Post

Vintage cereal boxes are not new (General Mills made some earlier this year). Now it's Post's turn.

I recently came across three of their cereals in vintage-looking boxes: Raisin Bran, Spoon-Size Shredded Wheat, and Grape Nuts. While not as authentic looking as what I've seen from General Mills and Kellogg, they are nonetheless fun, especially with the historical information on the back panels.

Nostalgia is a great way to sell cereal, as the morning breakfast bowl is deeply embedded in our culture and on our psyches. Cereal companies need to tap into this more.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Cereal Bowl leading restaurant race

Over the past few years I have been watching with interest the fledgling growth of cereal restaurants. It's an innovative concept that has much promise, but is still struggling to get traction.

Exactly one year ago today the initial frontrunner in the race, Cereality, was bought out by Cold Stone Creamery. While Cold Stone has experimented with two combo stores (one in Colorado, the other in Arizona), Cereality is down to four locations. They had such promise.

The clear leader in the race today is the The Cereal Bowl. They now have twenty-two franchise locations, and are looking ahead with new store designs suited for more urban areas than college campuses, and new sustainable packaging. They appear to be one to watch now. (Source: QSR magazine).

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Give it away

Cereal samples have been around for quite some time. But Kellogg is pushing the concept even further by actually giving away full boxes of cereal.

OK, they're not handing out boxes in the stores, but certain new cereals have a "Try FREE" banner on the top. You simply send in your receipt and a form from inside the box and they will send you a check for the amount. A creative way to get people's attention. But, like most rebate programs, the actual number of people who bother to send in the form will probably be low. Yet, it could be a good marketing investment for Kellogg.

This offer appears to be on the new Smart Start Strong Heart Strawberry Oat Bites, and I've seen it on the new Frosted Mini-Wheat Blueberry Muffin flavor. If successful you may see it on other new cereals too.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, June 30, 2008

Alpha-Bits are back?

I have to admit, this one caught me off guard. Post has recently relaunched Alpha-Bits cereal. What surprised me is that I didn't even miss them. Apparently this class cereal brand was taken off the market in 2006.

According to Post, the new Alpha-Bits "is back with a great tasting formula that also has nutrients to support healthy brain development!" Must be so that they can spell better?

I can't speak for the cereal itself yet, but I like the new box!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kellogg's meddles with recipes

Last year Kellogg announced major nutrition and advertising changes because of increased public pressure against their marketing to children. Most notable, so far, has been new nutrition labeling.

Kellogg recently announced that they will now be modifying recipes of many of their popular cereals, including Froot Loops, Corn Pops, Apple Jacks, and Cocoa Krispies. They will be reformulated to contain less than 12 grams of sugar per serving. Rice Krispies will now be lower in sodium. This is in compliance with their own new guidelines which limit advertising to children if certain nutrition standards are not met.

Certainly the world has changed, and the pressure on Kellogg is understandable. But, cereal purists will grieve over the changes. Some of the "fun" behind these sugar-laden cereals is being toned down, and that's a cultural loss.

Kellogg's press release

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kellogg shrinks again

The high cost of fuel is impacting all facets of our economy. Cereal companies are no exception. Certainly rising prices have an impact on sales, but the one practice I find deplorable is tricking consumers by shrinking the box sizes. While not the first time that has been done, Kellogg appears to be doing it again with certain cereal (see

How small can they get?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, June 12, 2008


General Mills has announced a new charm to Lucky Charms, the first permanent addition in more than 10 years. For those of you who keep track of these details it is a yellow "magical hourglass" to give Lucky "the power to control time".

This comes at a time when there is growing concern about the use of artificial food dyes.

But, who cares as long it sells cereal?


Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Is it art or a light?

Refined Sugar Studio, a Cincinnati contemporary design studio, has created a fluorescent light fixture featuring cereal box images, all of whcih are sugared cereals.

It's called "Refined Cereal".

The perfect addition to the home decor of any cereal lover!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, May 26, 2008

It's the coffee

Cereal, as a high-carb food, often gets a bad rap for raising people's blood sugar. A recent Canadian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that the real culprit could the caffeinated coffee you are drinking along with your cereal.

Stick to a glass of juice.

(Story from the London Free Press)

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cereal Heroes - coming to a theatre near you

There is word this week that Fable Works, a movie production and animation company, will be producing a 3D-animated movie, Cereal Heroes, to be released in 2010. According to their press release,

The story follows the adventures of cartoon cereal-box-mascots who are mistakenly brought to life when a plan to replace the worlds fallen superheroes with characters from comic books goes awry. These unlikely Cereal Heroes with ridiculous powers soon find themselves alone and on the run in an unfamiliar world that only they can save from certain destruction.

There is no word if they will using real cereal mascots (i.e. advertising placements) or coming up with their own. Somehow I can't imagine Toucan Sam, Sugar Bear, the Trix rabbit and Tony the Tiger saving the world.

Press release link

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cereal influences gender of babies

A recent study out of the UK examined the relationship between the foods eaten by pregnant women and the gender of their babies. The only food that showed a correlation was breakfast cereal. Women who ate breakfast cereal daily were more likely to have a boy.

Does this mean mothers will start changing their eating habits to help determine the sex of their next child?

Article from

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A new angle

Sometimes all a cereal brand needs is a new angle.

A stalwart cereal in Canada (and several other countries) is Shreddies, a malt-flavored, whole-wheat square. Post, recognizing that a brand make-over was needed, last year obtained the services of Ogilvy Toronto to develop a creative marketing campaign centered around a fake relaunch of the cereal. Instead of Shreddies as squares, they are now diamonds. The result is new attention and energy for a cereal that had lost much of its luster from 30-40 years ago.

Some links worth noting:

Ogilvy Toronto's marketing of Shreddies

Globe and Mail story of a man who listed one of the "last square Shreddies" on ebay.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, April 21, 2008

More on Archer Farms

A few weeks ago I reported on the new cereal packaging innovation being launched at Target with their Archer Farms house brand.

Visiting my local Target today I am even more impressed seeing the new cereals on the shelf. They look great, and stand out from the usual boxes of the other brands. The unique shape, the lack of inner bags, the plastic flip top, the attractive overall design, and appealing recipes make for a premium brand in its own right.

My question is: Why can't the big cereal companies come up with innovation like this?

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cheerios beyond the bowl

Have you noticed how almost all cereal boxes on the front feature a picture of bowl with its cereal? Sure, the box contains what's depicted, but is it always necessary?

General Mills has introduced a new design for its flagship Cheerios line, and there's no bowl! Instead are an attractive assortment of O's, strongly reinforcing an already strong brand. It's a sharp look that will make Cheerios stand out on the grocer's shelf.

It's time for some other cereals to sport a new look!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Kellogg's streetwear

In the end is it cereal they sell or brands?

Survival and profit in today's competitive market requires the latter.

Licensing their brands with other consumer good is not new for cereal companies. They've been doing it for a long time. And, getting people to "wear" your brand is probably the highest form of brand exposure as it backs the product with a level of endorsement. It is not hard to find cereal brands highlighted on such items as T-shirts.

But, most of the branded goods reek of blatant commericalism or kitsch. But, Kellogg may have found a way to tap into a new market by licensing its brands to "Under the Hood", a new clothing line geared to the younger crowd obsessed with urban fashion.

Pretty impressive stuff, and with tremendous potential to raise Kellogg's profile within a brand-fickle generation.


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cereal haikus

Looking for some cereal fun?

TimeOut New York has an interactive, online quiz featuring 12 haikus. The goal is to identify the breakfast cereal indicated by each of the 17-syllable poems.

Good luck!


Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Cereal colonialism

What do you when you have saturated your market?

Look for new markets.

Breakfast cereal has been a food staple in North America for well over a century, and has been gradually making it's way into other markets like Europe, and more recently Asia. But, recent stories in Business Daily Africa (#1, #2) indicate that, based on experience in Kenya, the expansive continent of Africa may be the next frontier for cereal companies. Economic and cultural barriers are big challenges, but who knows, maybe cereal will someday be a truly universal food.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Malt-O-Meal recall

I've been away and haven't blogged here for a couple of weeks. But, now that I'm back...
Here's something you don't normally associate with breakfast cereal: A product recall.

Discount and private-label cereal manufacturer, Malt-O-Meal, announced that is voluntarily recalling certain lots of its unsweetened Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat cereals because of the possibility of Salmonella contamination. This recall affects its own brand and those under the labels of Acme, America's Choice, Food Club, Giant, Hannaford, Jewel, Laura Lynn, Pathmark, Shaw's, ShopRite, Tops and Weis Quality.

Detailed information is available on the company's website.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Breakfast of the Mediocre

What's with Wheaties?

For many years no other cereal has been as closely linked to sports as the orange-boxed Wheaties. "The Breakfast of Champions" was marketed primarily through its close association with well-known athletes, including those from baseball, football, basketball, the Olympics, and golf. The boxes themselves have been a popular collectors' item by both sports and cereal enthusiasts.

But, Wheaties appears to be taking a new direction. No longer can you find your sports heroes facing you at the breakfast table each morning. Instead you are given a drab message indicating that you can "Jumpstart Your Metabolism". The emphasis is on "Everyday Champions", you and me benefiting from the whole wheat cereal. The active lifestyle emphasis is still there, but gone are the excitement and endorsements. With this type of mediocrity Wheaties will probably find itself lost on a very competitive grocer's shelf.

Certainly the costs associated with licensing sports stars, teams and leagues is a real consideration for General Mills. But, I wonder if they're doing enough to give Wheaties a new, and stronger, identity.

Overall, I think they are on the right track: Position Wheaties as the athlete's cereal. You can see this already happening with their "Everyday Champions" emphasis. And, on their website they have research that reveals Wheaties fuels muscle recovery following exercise.

But, General Mills needs to do more to drive this message home. Perhaps a good strategy would be to market Wheaties specifically to men and their desire for athletic performance. There are already fitness cereals for women (Kellogg's Special K and General Mills' own Curves). Why not a testosterone-fueled marketing campaign that is geared at males and their fierce competitve nature?

It would be sad to see a strong brand like Wheaties weaken, and out of the cereal playoffs!

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Monday, March 24, 2008

Target innovation

Target is known for its innovation. Another example is in its new cereal packaging that is to be introduced soon, as part of their Archer Farms house brand.

Archer Farms cereals themselves are not new, and already have a small, but loyal following. But, Target is hoping to raise their profile with unique packaging. Instead of the commonplace cardboard boxes or plastic bags, the organic cereals will be packaged in a sturdy, plastic cardboard container with a convenient flip-top lid.

Another attractive, premium option for consumers.

UPDATED April 21/08

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, March 21, 2008

Design matters

One of my favorite marketing blogs is Brand New, which focuses on corporate and brand identities. They recently commented on Kellogg's re-design of the logo and package design of Smart Start cereals. Overall they are not impressed with the changes.

Whether you like the changes or not, the real issue here is that there is much more to cereal box design than meets the eye. Your first glance at a box when walking down the cereal aisle provides a critical moment in your purchasing considerations. Ideally the packaging will project an image that resonates with your needs and desires, and is consistent with its contents. All successful consumer goods do this.

This is one of the reasons that cereal boxes themselves are fascinating, and a critical part of the overall breakfast cereal culture.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Some people have way too much time and money on their hands!

According to an AP story, Sisters Emily and Melissa McIntire of Chesapeake, Virginia found a Corn Flake that resembled the shape of Illinois. As any enterprising American would do they placed the item for sale on ebay, and surprise, surprise soon bids climbed to exceed $200,000!

ebay wasn't impressed and pulled the auction, claiming that it violated their policy regarding the sale of food. (They were also likely suspicious of the credibility of the bids). So the sisters have relisted the flake working within ebay's regulations, and the bid is still over $1000.

Others, seeing money growing on trees, have begun listing their own flakes of Illinois and other states, and even knock off products related to this whole phenomenon.

I think it's time for me to go to the kitchen and dig through my cereal boxes. Who knows what I will find?
UPDATE (03/22/08): The auction is over. A trivia museum bought it for $1350.00. I can't wait to visit that musuem!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cereal lip balm

I know the title is strange, but here's another cute example of brand extension. General Mills has licensed several of its brands to Boston America Corp who makes a a wide range of novelty products. The result is a series of lip balms in crazy flavors like Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, Boo Berry, Franken Berry, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

But is the lip balm any good?

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More soy

A study was recently released in the Journal of Food Science examining consumers' acceptance of soy in breakfast cereals.

There has been considerable buzz about soy in recent years because of its high nutritional quality, and more and more food manufacturers are looking for ways to incorporate it in functional foods. Some breakfast cereals have already experimented with soy as an additive. (For years already, I personally have added a soy powder supplement to my morning cereal. Many others use soy milk).

But soy has some drawbacks. Some people have trouble with its taste and texture. As a result food scientists have been working to find ways to make soy more attractive by adding sweeteners and spices (such as cinnamon). While the more soy in the formula the poorer the response by the study participants, it is interesting to see the work that is going into this type of research.

Maybe someday soy will be a primary ingredient in your breakfast cereal.

How about soy sauce flavored Rice Krispies?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cap'n Crunch Shake at Carls Jr.

Here's a unique marketing partnership: Fast food restaurant Carl's Jr. is now selling a Hand-Scooped Ice Cream Shake or Malt featuring Quaker's Cap'n Crunch. These are good tie-ins that cereal companies should continue to pursue to strengthen and broaden their brand awareness.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cereal poll update

It's time for our next Breakfast Bowl poll. The last question was: "Is cereal a help or hindrance for weight loss?"

Here are the results:

Help - 62%
Hindrance - 38%

Now for the next question. At one time the best part of opening a cereal box was the premium inside - toys, books, even candy. But, they are now hard to find.

So, "Should cereals have more premiums (i.e. prizes) inside?"


Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Chia cereal

Remember Chia pets? The tacky little clay figurines that "grow" are based on the Chia grain, a highly nutritious seed that is high in such things as omega-3 fatty acids and calcium.

Ruth's Hemp Foods of Toronto has introduced Chia Goodness, a blend of chia seeds, shelled hemp seeds, buckwheat, dehydrated apples, almonds, raisins, cinnamon, salt and sugar.

Innovative, but is it too niche to gain traction?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Cerealicious - an international story

While both breakfast cereal and cereal restaurants have their origins in the U.S., they have global appeal. For example, Cerealicious is a new chain of cereal restaurants that have opened in the Philippines. They are marketing these as dessert baras and they Filipinize the cereals by local adding nuts, fruits, cookies and candies. But apparently they are experimenting with other cereal items on the menu, including the addition of fish and pork! Maybe there are lessons that can be learned from Cerealicious that will help the fledgling industry here.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Inventors are still trying to come up with the perfect cereal bowl, especially in our highly mobile society. I have highlighted a number of them in this blog.

Here's the latest, the CerealThing, a mug-shaped contained with individual milk and cereal compartments, separated by a patented valve. The insulatated milk compartment also has a built-in cold pack.

More information is available at

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Macho Muesli

Jordans Cereals, a British company that I have highlighted before, seems to be one of the industry's innovation leaders. Recently they introduced Macho Muesli, a cereal designed specifically for men. This was just the creation of some R&D test kitchen, but comes from a marketing campaign where men were invited to visit a Men & Muesli website and to share their ideas through an online survey.

Besides the tub packaging, Macho Muesli is a unique cereal taste, with "a tasty chunky blend of wholegrain cereal flakes with raisins, chopped nuts, dried sweetened cranberries, cocoa nibs and pumpkin seeds". In Jordan's words, "it's not bird food!"

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Learning from global operations

While ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are an innovation that originated in the U.S., their appeal has extended throughout the world. And, even the major cereal companies have been wise enough to allow their brands to take on local ingenuity and character.

Kellogg for example has the most extensive global operations. It is fun to visit the websites from many of these countries to see the unique products, packaging and other innovations.

In the United Kingdom, for example, there is Coco Pops Creations, a "pick'n'mix cereal" with four different cereal shapes and sizes to mix and blend for a different combination at every breakfast.

Certainly, what works in one country won't necessarily work in another. But, perhaps companies should be more willing to try some of these ideas elsewhere. I know some of this goes on already, but in an increasingly global economy this should be the rule.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Saturday, February 16, 2008

General Mills goes vintage

Things have been relatively quiet with General Mills lately. But, I've noticed that they have introduced limited editions of vintage cereal boxes, including Lucky Charms (the only one I've been able to find so far), Kix, Golden Grahams, Wheaties and Honey Nut Cheerios. This should be a fun trip down memory lane, tapping into our nostalgic cravings.

And, there is also a corresponding vintage T-Shirt offer.

Now, if only the cereal prices were vintage!

UPDATE 03/03/08: It appears that these retro boxes are only available at Target stores.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More breakfast kits

The other day I posted about Kellogg's new Jump Start breakfast kits. Since then I've discovered that Kellogg is not the first company to come up with this concept.

Last year East Side Entrees partnered with General Mills to come up with Breakfast Breaks, a similar concept incorporating cereal (Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Lucky Charms) plus juice, a snack and even a spoon, napkin and moist towelette. While now available in some retail stores, the kits were developed for the National School Breakfast Program. In that context these kits make perfect sense.

I still can't see them doing well in the general marketplace.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

African American Cereal

In our highly diverse society, niche marketing is an effective strategy.

Now there is even cereal targeted to African Americans! Lawdy Miss Clawdy is a new brand that targets this distinct market with a wide range of food products. Their 'Make Momma Proud' Cereals come in four varieties, and feature inductees of the The National Black & Entertainment Hall of Fame (Dorothy Dandridge, Lloyd Price, Louis Armstrong and Sugar Ray Robinson). Besides encouraging pride among African Americans, proceeds from the sale of these cereals will go to support the construction of a new Hall of Fame building in Harlem, New York, and three universities in Louisiana.

Why not?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Kellogg product and brand extensions

In recent years Kellogg has worked hard at building upon its current products and brands to retain customer attention and loyalty in a crowded marketplace. From a marketing perspective this is wise, but I question how long they can do this before they have diluted themselves?

For example, I have discussed before how Special K (originally a single cereal product) is now a sub-brand itself targeted specifically at women struggling with weight issues. There are several varieties of the cereal now, plus cereal bars and even protein waters.

All-Bran is their latest attempt using this strategy. All-Bran is at the front of consumers minds when they think of fiber cereal. Here too Kellogg has introduced a range of new cereal flavors, bars, and their latest innovation All-Bran Fiber Drink Mix in pink lemonade and iced tea flavors. Hardly cereal, but a definite tie-in to health conscious consumers. Overall the All-Bran category becomes stronger.

But it's not only brands that Kellogg is extending. The products themselves are getting reused in new ways. They have just released Kellogg's Morning Jump Starts, a breakfast kit that contains cereal (Apple Jacks, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Minii-Wheats or Rice Krispies) plus some other Kellogg product (like Keebler cookies or a Pop Tart), and juice. It's supposed to be a convenient meal-in-a-box, but I question whether its cost and excessive packaging are really that attractive, except for those parents way too busy to sit their children down for breakfast. But give them points for trying. I doubt, however, that this will catch on, except perhaps in the fast food restaurant industry.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Bear Naked story

The New York Times recently ran an article on Kelly Flatley and Brendan Synnott, founders of the successful Bear Naked granola cereal brand. Bear Naked is an innovative, alternative brand that recently was purchased by Kellogg, leaving the two partners with tons of money.

In many ways it is sad to see a small, upstart like Bear Naked get taken over by a big corporation. But, if you offered me $122 million I'd probably take it too!

Nevertheless, a story worth reading.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Flake technology

While marketing of cereals seems to get most of the attention, underlying the breakfast cereal industry is mass manufacturing. It's one thing to implement a recipe in your kitchen, another to consistently make thousands of pounds of the stuff for once batch. Obviously food technology is a big part of our food supply system, cereal included.

This may seem far from breathtaking or revolutionary but Baker Perkins, a food equipment company, has designed a new roller that is designed to make more even and consistent flakes. The result could be higher quality and lower costs.

My point in all of this is that appropriate technology may be one of the key things the cereal industry needs to increase customer value, regulate costs, and spur innovation.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, February 04, 2008

How else can you use cereal?

Cereal is certainly one of the most versatile of modern foods. And, not only for eating. For example, children will frequently use them in crafts and art projects.

In Britain, a land of strange creativity, the town of Bexhill is erecting a clock, patterned after Big Ben, that is made out of Shredded Wheat. (Read the story in the Hastings and St. Leonard's Observer).
Exciting, or what?

How else can you use cereal?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Cereal and bloggers

It's been a long time since I've listed significant blog posts in recent weeks and months. Here are some that have caught my attention:

Russ Cavins laments over the evolution of cereal and how they "just aren't what they used to be".

if on a rainy night reflects on the relationship between the healthful nature of cereal and the behavior of children.

Wexford Girl writes on her love affair with cereal

suburbian queen composed a fun little post describing the stages of life with cereal.

eaties was a cereal restaurant startup in Asheville, North Carolina but closed due to lack of success. Here is the farewell post. experiments with cereal in baking and demonstrates that there are cereals other than Rice Krispies that make great treats.

all kinds of stuff provides a fascinating exploration (including wonderful photos) of the evolution of Tony the Tiger to demonstrate how branding really started to go downhill in the 70's.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hot cereals

Winter brings back memories of a hot bowl of oatmeal. In our fast-paced society, preparing a bowl of porridge seems to be a luxury. But, this itself may be why there could be a new trend toward healthy, hot cereals. has an interesting new article, "The New Cereals: hot and healthy". With many consumers tiring of the same old packaged offerings and looking for more wholesome alternatives, a revival of hot cereal consumption seems probable.

Could this be an avenue traditional cereal companies should be exploring?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cereal restaurant updates

It's been awhile since I've last reported on developments in the fledgling cereal restaurant industry. A few years ago it looked like this would be a fast growing industry under the banner of early leaders Cereality and The Cereal Bowl.

But things did not take off as originally anticipated, perhaps because of inadequate strategies.

Nevertheless, the concept is not dead and there are those still working to see cereal restaurants a ubiquitous presence across the country. In addition to the frontrunners there are a growing number of independents and newcomers, such as the new The Milky Spoon in California.

In addition, cereal restaurants are experimenting with partnerships with other restaurants. According the Miami Herald, the latest is The Cereal Bowl partnering with P. B. Loco, an operator of peanut butter cafes.

Obviously, this restaurant concept has a way to go toward full acceptance and maturity. But, it is interesting to watch it emerge and evolve.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Friday, January 25, 2008

Digestion niche

Starting with the Kellogg Sanitarium over 140 years ago, cereal has been considered a health food. Certainly the highly sugared and artificial flavored versions of recent decades seems to contradict that, there has always been a strong contingent of cereals designed to promote health. High fiber cereals (such as All-Bran) and the recent marketing of cereals for weight loss (e.g. Special K) are but two examples.

Consistent with the popularity of yogurt, a relatively new twist in the cereal aisle has been the introduction of pre- and pro-biotic cereals.

In 2006, Kashi introduced Vive, the first pro-biotic cereal. "Pro" biotics are live lactobacillus bacteria that naturally assist digestion in the intestinal tract.

Within the last month Kraft has introduced a line of pre-biotic foods, including a cereal, under the Live-Active brand name. "Pre-biotics" are special fibers that enhance the proliferation of friendly probiotics.

The key point in all this is that focusing on health niches is a good strategy for cereal companies, especially when they can be innovators in the industry.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,