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?

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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.

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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.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Cereal Toppers - the future of cereal?

I recently came across Cereal Toppers, which are dried fruit packaged and marketed for those wanting to add excitement to their morning cereal. There are five different fruit combinations, and the product is available in some grocery stores and online.

I think this is a brilliant, yet simple, idea that has tremendous potential for future innovation. For Cereal Toppers themselves this is a great way to break into the dried fruit market by finding a strong niche. I saw these for sale in a grocery store in the cereal aisle, and I can see people buying them who otherwise would have never considered buying dried fruit for this purpose.

What about a whole line of Cereal Toppers that extend beyond dried fruit? Chocolate? Nuts? Candy? Syrups? It would make it easier for people to create their own custom cereal combinations at home. It could start a whole new trend in breakfast eating. Successful marketing is critical to get the ball rolling.

Anybody listening?

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cereal poll update

It's been a LONG time since the last Breakfast Bowl poll. The last question was: "What do you think of Kellogg's Cereal Straws?"

Here are the results:

They "suck" - 35%
Great! - 34%
Who cares - 31%

Now it's time for our next question. It's January, and therefore dieting season. Cereals, which are high in carbs, have received much negative publicity in recent years. Kellogg, on the other hand, is promoting Special K as a diet.

So, the question is: "Is cereal a help or hindrance for weight loss?"


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Monday, January 14, 2008

New Year ... New Cereals

The New Year has seen a proliferation of new cereals.

So far, Kellogg seems to be first out of the gate with a wide range of new cereals. There are new additions to their Special K and All-Bran lines, but there are some more noteworthy innovations that have caught my attention:

Wild Animal Crunch - A vanilla-chocolate flavored whole-grain cereal that ties into the growing ecological concern by partnering with Discovery Channel's Animal Planet show. UPDATE 01/21/0802/06/08 - There appear to be at leastare FIVEFOUR different boxes (each with different animals on the front) available for this one cereal.

Frosted Flakes Gold - This appears to be Kellogg's second attempt at a super-charged Frosted Flakes in the U.S., replacing the less than-successful "Tiger Power". This version is much bolder, and the box itself is quite impressive, with an almost foil appearance.

Grab'n Go cereal packs - Playing into the desire for greater convenience, Kellogg has taken two favorite, Corn Pops and Froot Loops, and placed them into individual serving pouches, ideal for people on the go, children's snacks, etc. It is hard to know whether this concept will catch on, but it is a worthy experiment (and better than cereal straws!).

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Curves women

Last year General Mills partnered with Curves women's fitness centers to launch a line of fitness-oriented cereals and bars that are intended to compete with Kellogg's Special K line. In my opinion the new cereals are more of a marketing ploy than health food. Give them credit, however, for making strong connections with women. This continues now with a promotion they have been running, called "Real Change, Real Women" contest. Women wrote in with a personal story, and now the 12 finalists appear on a website where their stories can be read and voted upon. The winner will appear on an upcoming Curves cereal box.

It will be different having real women on the Curves boxes, especially since there was some controversy with the models on the original boxes. On the earliest sample sized boxes, it appeared to many that faces were "photoshopped" on to bodies, especially when an African American woman appeared to have a caucasian body. TIP: Those boxes are worth collecting!

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Kellogg invests more in innovation

Bakery and recently reported that Kellogg will spend $40 million to expand its institute for food and nutrition research. The intent is more product innovation.

As someone who constantly calls for innovation in the cereal industry I applaud this investment. But, I am also cautious. Throwing money at research is in itself not going to promote cutting edge innovation. A culture of innovation is needed in companies like Kellogg, so that true breakthroughs can occur (not just new varieties of Froot Loops, etc.) As I have demonstrated on several occasions (example 1, example 2), there are innovators out there, but often they are small startups or fringe companies willing to step outside the "box" and take significant risks.

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