Friday, December 31, 2010

Cereal Leftovers

As 2010 comes to a close it's time to clear out a collection of recent cereal related items that caught my attention but didn't make the cut for a full blog post.:

The Mommy Files on provide a fun llist of the "craziest breakfast cereals ever"

BBC looks at why eating breakfast at your office desk is not a good idea

Fooducate challenges Michelle Obama's belief that Honey Nut Cheerios is a healthy breakfast

Pediatrics journal publishes a study that makes the startling discovery that high-sugar cereals increase children's total sugar consumption. Brilliant!

babble evaluates the recent move by cereal companies to lower sugar content

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Post joins the bandwagon

We've been noting the increasing trend for healthier cereals, especially among those targeted to children. General Mills and Kellogg have been making changes in this direction in recent years, but now Post has announced reduced sugar for its Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles cereals. But, notably absent, are Alpha Bits and Golden Crisp, the latter in particular a cereal with over 50% sugar. So, does this represent a true philosophical shift for Post, or is it merely a public relations move?

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

New focus for Special K

It's that time of year again when we're feeling guilty about over-indulgence during the Holidays and pondering New Year's resolutions for better fitness and weight loss. It's no surprise then that Kellogg is again gearing up its marketing for Special K, its cereal positioned to help people (and women in particular) shed pounds.

Unlike previous years, however, this year's Special K approach is somewhat different. Instead of focusing on being another weight loss product, the theme is now "What will you gain when you lose". In other words, they are emphasizing the emotional benefits of reaching their weight loss goals, such as confidence and pride.

I have long questioned whether or not Special K could sustain itself as credible weight loss system. This latest move might be a step in the right direction. Be not fooled, however. Kellogg is still taking advantage of the anxiety many are facing about being overweight. That's still a big part of the message. In fact, in conjunction with this campaign they have launched an iPhone app to assist those following the weight loss program. But, the shift to emotional needs, might be a better long-term strategy which could make for stronger overall brand identity. Helping women feel good about themselves could be extended to other aspects of life such as work, motherhood, aging, etc. It will probably require, however, an even more overt move to feminize Special K. That could be risky, but might be what it takes for Special K to assure its prominence long-term.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

McDonald's joining Starbucks with oatmeal

More evidence that oatmeal for breakfast is a growing trend:

According to the L. A. Times, McDonald's restaurants will begin selling a maple-flavored oatmeal mixture for $1.99 beginning this week. The cereal will also contain apples, raisins, cranberries and cream and will be served in a cardboard cup. McDonald's has probably seen the success that Starbucks has had selling oatmeal over the several years ago. Jamba Juice has also added it to their menu.

Oatmeal is a great comfort food, and gives McDonald's a new, healthy option for breakfast guests.

Will this contribute to a further surge for oatmeal and hot cereals in general?

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Weaning Kids Off Sugar

Sugar has been a mainstay in breakfast cereal for decades, but new developments this week suggest that its significance may be waning.

First, a new study from Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity (and reported in Time) reveals that children eat less sugar if they're allowed to sweeten the cereal themselves. This suggests that the high levels of sugar in many cereals may not be necessary to satisfy the sweet teeth of children.

Not likely a result of this study, but coincidentally General Mills has announced that they will continue to lower the amount of sugar in children's cereals to no more than 10 grams per service (source: This fulfills what they were promising exactly one year ago and is further indication of the growing awareness among consumers of health issues and the desire for more nutritious options.

Cereal is evolving.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Holy Crap?

In a crowded cereal marketplace the key is standing out.

Here's a bold attempt by a small Canadian company. Last year their company, HapiFoods, began selling a new, health oriented cereal. The "Holy Crap" response they received from consumers led them to use the name. And, now with some media exposure, they have sold thousands of this cereal, and another variety, Skinny B. In fact, they are weeks behind in production, and turned down an NBC Today Show appearance because they wouldn't have been able to handle the demand.

The cereal is a combination of chia, hulled hemp seeds, buckwheat, apples, cranberries, raisins and cinnamon. It is also free of wheat, gluten and lactose. While the cereal is somewhat novel, the packaging is far from innovative or exciting. But, the name itself is enough to garner attention. So far it's been working.

(Source: Toronto Star)

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Over the years I have highlighted the inventions of passionate cereal lovers, such as innovative bowls.

The latest is the Obol, which bills itself as "The Original Crispy Bowl", designed to eliminate soggy cereal (although some people like milk-drenched cereal!) With a unique "Swoop n Scoop" design, the cereal and milk are kept separate until that moment that you move your spoonful of cereal in and through the milk.

What is particularly noteworthy of this bowl is its creative design, which includes its ability to be easily held.

Could this be a new way to eat cereal?

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Monday, November 15, 2010

The perfect wine for your cereal

Looking for a whole new take on cereal?

Then check out this video featuring wine expert Gary Vaynerchuk. He has become an Internet sensation with his serious but irreverent and entertaining look at wine on his website, wine library tv. In an episode from last year Vaynerchuk addresses the ultimate burning question for cereal connoisseurs: "What Wine Pairs with Cereal?"

Even if you don't drink wine this is fun to watch!

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Cereal Leftovers

Here are some recent cereal related items that caught my attention that didn't make the cut for a full blog post:

cottage industrialist gives instructions for turning your cereal box into an expandable file folder

A Guardian columnist gives tips on how to be green and a cereal lover

A Gazette-Mail reader writes on the frustration of cereal mail-in offers.

Not new, but I discovered a Gizmodo report on a cereal spoon USB drive. For the ultimate cereal lover?

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Cracks in the cereal bowl

Just a few weeks ago there were some reports, at least from General Mills, that these were good times for cereal. But, new reports this week suggest that the picture is far from bright.

Kellogg's announced that sales are down 4% and cuts its earnings outlook. A UBS Securities analyst suggests that overall cereal is a sluggish performer right now, possibly due to fewer innovations, the effects of the current economic conditions, and even Kellogg's recall this year.

Also announced this week are upcoming price increases from General Mills and Kraft, largely due to higher grain prices. These increases are likely to further impact cereal sales as consumers look to alternatives.

All these developments suggest that we could be in for some dramatic changes in the cereal aisle in the next year. The question is, will the big cereal companies continue to lose ground as consumers shift their allegiances and preferences to more focused brands that offer perceive value?

I'll be watching.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cereal leftovers

Here are some recent cereal related items that caught my attention that didn't make the cut for a full blog post:

Los Angeles Times reports that police raided marijuana dispensaries and found pot-laced breakfast cereals and candy bars. Froot Loopy?

Charlotte Observer reports that a gay rights group is sending Representative Larry Brown almost 300 boxes of Froot Loops because of remarks he made about gays.

The Huffington Post features a look at pop stars and compares each of them to a breakfast cereal. For example, Katy Perry as Froot Loops.

What's with Froot Loops this week?

Saturday, October 16, 2010


It's that time of year again for one of the rituals of fall: Halloween. And, for years cereal manufacturers have capitalized on the opportunity by introducing special themed cereals and boxes. But, none are as successful as the monster franchise from General Mills, Boo Berry, Count Chocula, and Franken Berry. Despite the rather disgusting nature of the two fruit flavored varieties, each year the box is updated with a new design making them an attractive diversion for consumers and essential purchases for collectors.

This year I have noticed another interesting Halloween development in the cereal world. As I mentioned last week I have seen Wheaties halloween costumes for sale. I hope that this does NOT become an annual tradition!

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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Cereal leftovers

A few years ago I occasionally listed significant tidbits of cereal information and reflections that were interesting but not necessarily worthy of an individual post or in-depth comment. I haven't done it since, but I'm going to get back into the routine since there are many of these types of items that I come across each week that you might find interesting.

So, here are some recent cereal related items that caught my attention:

Physics Central explains the physics of cereal in your bowl

On ebay I've noticed Wheaties Halloween Costumes. Scary? (Georgia) reports that a man found a used tampon in his cereal and is suing the the store and manufacturer.

mental_floss provides a great overview of the stories behind some well-known cereal mascots

On the subject of cereal mascots, Jon Adams' City Cyclops has come up with a mascot image mashup of 16 cereal characters.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Cereal box FAIL

There has been considerable buzz over the past few days over the phone number error that was printed on boxes of Ochocinco Cereal, a custom cereal featuring Cincinnati Bengals' Chad Ochocinco. Consumers were encouraged to phone the Feed the Children charity, but a misprint directed callers instead to a phone sex line. This is the second time in less than two years that a cereal was caught misdirecting innocent breakfast eaters to a surprise telephone sex encounter.

The company who manufactures the cereal, PLB, will be correcting the mistake.


(Source: Reuters)

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


A common adjunct to many sweetened cereals are small marshmallows. For many years these have been added and have now become a mainstay for many brands. To some they add delightful and unique texture, color and flavor. To others they are disgusting, especially once soggy.

For those of you who want the little marshmallows but without the cereal, there is a now a company ( that sells nothing but cereal marshmallows. No cereal. No fiber. No vitamins, minerals, etc. Just the sweet little crispy marshmallows that turn gooey in milk.

A true niche.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's up with oatmeal?

I've been noticing a rising trend in the last couple of years, and even more so in recent months: There seems to be a resurgence of interest in cooked oat cereals. Walk down any cereal aisle and you will notice that the selection of instant oatmeals is quite significant.

Years ago preparing oatmeal from scratch using oats, especially from Quaker, was a morning staple. The advent of prepared, cold cereals has obviously changed things for the majority of people. Could it be that in the midst recession or because of a desire for things more natural that porridge in general, and oatmeal in particular, are "hot" commodities?

For a number of years now Quaker has offered convenience through its Instant Oatmeal products. Quaker certainly dominates the market as in most consumers' minds they own the word "oats". But, others are recognizing the opportunity and getting into the action. Some are obvious, like Kashi. But there are newcomers to the market place as well. These include smaller, niche companies that are focusing on being natural, such as Pro Oats and Umpqua Oats. Even cranberry specialist, Ocean Spray, has a new line of instant oatmeal. And, the company that seems to be shaking things up right now is Better Oats, a newcomer that is gaining considerable traction with almost 30 varieties covering a range of preferences and styles. Some of the innovative flavors include dark chocolate and chai spiced.

Could it be that consumers are looking for a change, and that this could continue to be a growing market? What do you think?

UPDATED 11/7/10: Some additional evidence:

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Quaker tries value

Perhaps a sign of the economy, Quaker appears to be test marketing $1.00 packages of cereal. Spotted at several Walgreen's these small boxes may be intended for those short on cash, but their size does also make them convenient for traveling, etc. Of particular interest, it is the first I've seen Crunch Treasures, a new Cap'n Crunch variety with 1/2 the sugar.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

General Mills upbeat

Around the same time that Wheaties FUEL celebrated its first anniversary General Mills announced its first quarter financial results and gave insights into their view of the future as far as cereal is concerned. According to CEO Kendall Powell claims to "be very bullish about the cereal category", convinced that consumers see cereal as both a good value and nutritious. And, despite the fact that 90% of U.S. household buy cereal, he believes there is still room for growth.

Probably of great interest were a couple of other revelations. Chocolate Cheerios appears to be a resounding success, and one of their most successful product launches in years. Regarding Wheaties FUEL the official line is that "It's doing well and it's helping to increase sales for original Wheaties, too" [the latter I also recently noticed]. Apparently they will be delivering 2.5 million samples of it this week to tie in with the new NFL season.

Interesting insights.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Wheaties FUEL: One year later

It was one year ago today that General Mills officially launched Wheaties FUEL, a major brand extension to its sports oriented cereal, but this time even more directly targeted at men and athletic performance. The actual cereal hit shelves in January.

I was an early proponent of General Mills doing something to breathe new life into Wheaties, a brand with a clear identity and so much more potential. I believe that FUEL was the right move.

But, I'm not convinced that FUEL has been as successful as General Mills had hoped. I have no hard sales data to back this up, but based on my own observations it doesn't appear that the cereal has rocketed to great significance in the mind of most consumers, especially men. Interestingly, (and, again, pure observation) it appears that traditional Wheaties may have benefited from this launch.

I give General Mills credit for creative marketing. They assembled a star cast of athletes, and leveraged social networking like no other cereal previously marketed. But, I think there is one flaw in their execution: The cereal itself.

I don't like to comment much on cereal taste because it is largely subjective, but in my opinion and in the comments I hear from others I talk to, FUEL is not a knock-out cereal for the tastebuds. Despite all the claims for providing energy, etc. the cereal must be an enjoyable eating experience. It's not a bad tasting cereal, it just doesn't stand out as anything special. Ultimately, even macho men want to eat something that they truly enjoy first thing in the morning.

The Wheaties FUEL story is not over, and I hope that General Mills works at this more. It's a great concept.

What do you think about Wheaties FUEL?

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Special K gets a fiber boost

In some ways this is hardly a story with reporting, but on the other hand it is significant.

In recent years Kellogg has given new life to one of its core cereal brands, Special K. By focusing on weight loss, they have created a whole range of cereals, bars, and drinks under the Special K label. The effort has paid off, making Special K Kellogg's number one brand.

But, there was always one thing that puzzled me. For such a health conscious cereal, Special K was significantly lacking in fiber. Even Apple Jacks and Froot Loops have been boosted with additional fiber. It looks like Kellogg has finally realized the inconsistency and has added fiber (for a total of 3g per serving) to many of its Special K cereals, except its original variety.

It's long overdue.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pops MiXit

It's been a busy summer personally, but quiet on the cereal front. But, with September almost here some cereal developments are beginning to emerge.

For example, there isn't much fanfare that I can see, but Kellogg has launched Pops MiXit cereals, five different flavored cereals designed specifically for mixing. According to their website these cereals are "for a limited time only", and there is indication that the primary retailer is Walmart. The varieties are: Chocolate, Double Fudge, Graham, Marshmallow and Strawberry. The purpose is to mix and match the various flavors to "create your own unique cereal every morning".

Mixing cereals is something that people already do naturally, but here's a deliberate attempt to build on that inclination. Even though this appears to be test marketing, I'm glad to see Kellogg stepping outside the box and trying something innovative. It will be interesting to see if the concept catches on or if it evolves into some other kind of cereal products.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

The price of a recall

Not to dwell on the topic, but the recent Kellogg's recall has hit the company's bottom line. Second quarter financial results reveal a 15 percent drop in profits. Their stock price dropped over 4% as a result of the news.

Kellogg is certainly to recover eventually from this costs associated with this recall. The bigger question is how long it will take to restore consumer confidence, especially since they were less than forthright in fully explaining the causes behind the recall.

Source: AP

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cereal records?

It's a slow summer in the cereal world, which allows opportunity to reflect far too long on relatively meaningless developments.

For example, in Indonesia this past weekend a new record was broken where 2,274 people cereal together for the first time. Exciting, eh?

What other cereal eating records should people be attempting? Maybe we need something like the annual hot dog eating championship every July 4th: Crazed contestants forcing down bowls of Froot Loops, or maybe All-Bran?

I think the heat is getting to me.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Kellogg's recall - update

Kellogg's recent voluntary recall of certain cereals gained some media attention, but the biggest criticism leveled against them concerned the fact that they didn't immediately disclose the ingredient that was causing the unusual flavor and odor. Since then it has been revealed that the culprits are hydrocarbons, specifically hydrocarbon methylnaphthalene, whose safety is yet to be firmly established.

As with all public relations matters the question is whether Kellogg handled this in the best manner. Discerning consumers are demanding more accurate information upfront. And, if because of the nature of this ingredient the perception could grow that many processed breakfast cereals are far from being has healthful as they should be.  This could also influence public regulators to get involved.

It will be interesting to see if this recall and the fallout from it affects their bottom line.

(Source: New York Times)

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Hulk Hogan sues Post

I missed this story from a few weeks ago, but it is one worth noting. Former wrestling star Hulk Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) has launched a lawsuit against Post Foods because of a character the latter developed. "Hulk Boulder" has some likeness to Hogan and is used in a Stone Age-themed Cocoa Pebbles commercial with Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble et al.

(Source: New York Times)

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Kellogg's recall

Consumer recalls are never a good thing for a company. Of course, how the recall is handled is critical for whether this turns into a public relations disaster. Nevertheless, it does leave a certain stain on their reputation. Kellogg recently issued a voluntary recall of select packages of Corn Pops, Honey Smacks, Froot Loops and Apple Jacks cereals, around 28 million boxes! The issue is an unusual smell and flavor that comes from the packages' liners. But, according to Kellogg, there is no real health danger as the ingredient (which they don't name) is a common ingredient in the waxy resins on the liner. The ingredient is FDA approved, but in quantities higher than normal.

So far this has not turned into anything like the recent problems at Toyota, and if Kellogg continues to handle this in an honest, upfront manner it will easily blow over. I think their reputation would be harmed more if the recalled cereals were some of their more health-oriented brands.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cereal upstarts V

In recent weeks I have had a series of posts looking inside three relative newer comers to the cereal industry - companies that are trying to break into the marketplace with their unique cereal concepts. I appreciate the willingness of Carolyn Creswell (Carman's), Adam Sirois ([me]&goji), and Maximillian Cascone (Pro Oats) to share the candid thoughts and dreams behind their respective ventures.

As we've observed, these company leaders are passionate about their cereal and optimistic for the future despite the challenges they face against the well-entrenched cereal marketplace. The fact that there are alternative cereal brands, however, suggests that perhaps they are on to something. There obviously are a significant number of consumers who want something beyond ordinary in their breakfast bowl, and for this reason there is still room for companies who can truly innovate and think outside the (cereal!) box.

In the words of Pro Oat's Cascone, "We're doing something different, something we truly believe in and that hasn't been focus-grouped into oblivion. It's very much an 'upstart' mentality - one that says, hey, we're here, and this is a product that has the potential to really take over a large part of the market - we're ready to do it!"

These three highlighted companies are not the only newcomers on the scene. There are others, such as MixMyGranola, Umpqua Oats and YogActive. The reality is that, like in any industry, there will be winners and losers. Some of these entrepreneurs will never achieve enough traction to succeed. A rare few may become powerhouses to the point of either changing the industry or becoming take-over targets of big multi-nationals. This latter scenario is the story of some other previous upstarts like Bear Naked, Cascadian Farms and Kashi.

It will be interesting to watch the development of these upstarts in the coming months and years. I'll you keep you posted.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Quaker goes vintage

Add a fourth cereal company trying to tap into the nostalgic sentimentality of consumers. According to several reports on vintage-looking boxes of Cap'n Crunch and Crunchberries are showing up in some stores. UPDATE 8/31/10: There is also a Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch box.

This is a great fit, because Cap'n Crunch is truly a classic from childhood!

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cereal upstarts IV

With life slowing down a little I'm finally getting back to my series on new companies breaking into the cereal market...

From my previous posts we have observed that the three companies I am using in this case study are enthusiastic about their products and business But, there are challenges. Specifically, I was interested to find out the obstacles that newcomers into the cereal market face. Each of them had a unique answer:

I was not really surprised by what Carolyn Creswell of Carman's shared. For this company it simply comes down to money: "The cereal giants have large marketing budgets which offers them an opportunity to promote and offer price cuts on a very regular basis. As a small company (under 20 employees!) we just don’t have that sort of capital." Their approach is to "keep our costs to a minimum and focus on top quality at a fair price".

But, smaller, upstart companies have other challenges too. [me]&goji faces challenges specific to its own business model which focuses on creating custom cereals sold only online. Adam Sirois stated that "It is a challenge for us as on online company to communicate our product and convince new customers to take a chance on something they can't hold or haven't had before." The big retail companies have a corner on store shelf space and consumers' minds. Gaining familiarity is tough.

Interestingly, Pro Oats sees a completely different type of challenge: ingredient availability. Maximillian Cascone put it this way: "We were surprised by the challenges we faced finding all-natural ingredients from bulk suppliers. Almost everything we found had some kind of coloring or chemical or other garbage that was exactly what we were trying to avoid. You'd be surprised how few suppliers there are of organic and all-natural dried fruit in bulk - almost every place we found all traced back to one or two suppliers." And, in most cases these suppliers have minimum order requirements making it difficult for a small company still in limited volume production.

So, with all these challenges what is the future of cereal upstarts? I'll examine that in my next post.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

New from Kellogg

Life has been crazy the last couple of weeks. I will get back to my "Cereal upstarts" series ASAP, but in the meantime here are some recent developments:
Kellogg is introducing a new variety of its cornerstone cereal, Corn Flakes. New Corn Flakes Simply Cinnamon is "oven-toasted Corn Flakes with a touch of delicious cinnamon flavor". New varieties are hardly new, and this is not the first Corn Flakes variant, but this is significant because Kellogg has yet to find a successful one for the Corn Flakes brand. Will this one work? It just might.

On another note, there have been some unconfirmed sightings of a Toy Story 3 cereal from Kellogg as part of the new movie release. But, so far I haven't seen it and there is no indication of one on Kellogg's own Toy Story 3 promotional website. Has anyone seen this cereal? If so, please let me know. UPDATE: June 21/10: Confirmed sighting of box.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cereal upstarts III

Continuing with my exploration of new companies breaking into the cereal market...

As we discovered in my last post, the three sample companies are optimistic over their prospects. But, they face many challenges, especially as they compete against large, multi-national cereal companies in an already crowded cereal marketplace. While they recognize the challenges, they seem undaunted in their determination and belief in what they have to offer.

Pro Oats' Maximillian Cascone has the following perspective: "Like any smaller company, we don't have the advantage of the economies of scale that a company like Quaker does. We don't have the luxury of multi-million dollar ad campaigns to brainwash consumers into buying our product. So our goal is to create a product that beats theirs in its healthful properties and make our way into markets that we think will be attracted to our product, even if it is slightly more expensive than the big name brands. As our brand becomes more widely known, we will grow into larger markets."

It is apparent for our upstarts that the strategy is finding a niche that will give them an edge. Pro Oats focuses on a "very-high protein quick oatmeal that is all-natural". Carolyn Creswell from Carman's is also up to the challenge, and is convinced that they have something unique to offer because in their assessment in the U.S. there are "not many companies offering a pure, natural product that wasn't full of sugar or flavourings". She states that many Americans who tried Carman's in Australia contacted them requesting the products in their home country.

But, it's not only having a unique product that gives these companies a fight chance against the big boys. It also has to do with their entrepreneurial culture. Adam Sirois of [me]&goji is convinced it comes down to "innovation and agility" because "It takes longer to turn big ships so smaller, more nimble companies have an advantage when it comes to meeting the needs of consumers." And, with the availability of social media such as Facebook, etc. "it is easier than ever for a small company to gather customer data [and] really gauge consumer needs, at little or no cost."

Tough competition is obviously their biggest challenge, but there are others as well. We'll explore those in my next post.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cereal upstarts II

I am currently examining the attempt of newer companies to break into the crowded cereal marketplace, and have chosen three different ones to gain insights into their thinking and strategies: Carman's, [me]&goji, and Pro-Oats.

The first question I posed to their company representatives is: "What do you see as the future of the cereal industry?"

Not surprisingly they are quite optimistic about the future of the industry, and especially their respective company's place in it. While I only interviewed three upstarts, it is interesting that virtually all the new entrants into the cereal market are brands emphasizing healthier cereals. And, this was evident in their responses. They sincerely believe that people are fed up with mass manufactured cereals with questionable nutritional value.

As Adam Sirois of [me]&goji stated, consumers are increasingly realizing "the big companies could spray extruded flakes with vitamins and offset the bland taste with sugar". It is evident that recent concerns about the nutritional value of some cereals is feeding this perception and big, multi-national companies are an easy target, leaving room for those that offer healthier options.

Maximillian Cascone of Pro Oats put it this way: "Like the rest of the food industry, the cereal industry will continue to move towards all-natural and organic ingredients and processes.  This is not because the food companies are being altruistic, but because consumers are becoming more and more conscious of their food choices ... There appears to be a growing consensus and awareness that food and its ingredients and processes can profoundly affect your well-being and overall health. The consumer as always will vote with their wallet, and the smart money will be on natural and organic foods."

To respond to this trend, innovation will thrive. Carman's founder, Carolyn Creswell, believes that the cereal industry will continue "to grow through a range of new product development", especially in light of new research on the health benefits of certain nutrients and foods, such as oats. Many companies are likely to jump on this bandwagon for the foreseeable future. Sirois is convinced that "the future of the cereal industry will show a kick-up of smaller cereal companies. Though the cereal industry is known for having too many options, 95% of those options come from the same 2 or 3 factories. There is still space for innovation in this industry and it will come from the smaller guys, who will be quicker to meet the needs of consumers".

These three companies, along with a myriad of other new health-oriented cereal manufacturers, are obviously convinced that cereal is a lucrative market with great potential as consumers search for alternatives to the common options available to them. Like with any emerging industry, there are many who will try to gain a foothold in the marketplace, but eventually only a handful will survive and there will be industry consolidations, etc. My next couple of posts will examine how these companies plan to compete and the challenges they face.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cereal upstarts I

One aspect of the cereal industry that has regularly captured my attention is the attempt by small, emerging companies to break into the cereal marketplace and take on the "big three". There are dozens of alternative brands out there focusing on a particular niche, some appear to be reasonably successful. A few, like Kashi, became so successful that they were actually taken over by one of the big cereal giants (i.e. Kellogg in this case).

Over the next week I will be writing several posts that look deeper into "upstart" cereal companies that are currently trying to gain a foothold into a very crowded cereal marketplace. To do so I have contacted three such companies, representing a diversity of approaches and strategies. Company officials have provided me their perspectives and I will be sharing those in the coming days. A couple have also given me samples to try.

The three companies I will be highlighting are:
  • Carman's Find Foods an Australian firm just starting to make a presence in the U.S.
  • [me] & goji one of the custom cereal companies, and
  • Pro-Oats a small instant oatmeal manufacturer just getting started
I know you will find their stories and insights interesting.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Not Just Cereal

Cereal has long been a convenient snack food, whether for toddlers or sitting in front of the TV in the evening. Now comes a candy, from Nassau Candy company, that combines cereal coated with chocolate in a convenient snack pack container. It's probably not suitable as a breakfast food (although I'm sure people will try!) but it potentially could cement a whole new dimension for cereal.

Not Just Cereal comes in four flavors, and will be available at Walmart ... in the candy aisle.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Kellogg tries Cinnabon

Making a cinnamon roll cereal is a great idea, but one that hasn't really taken off yet. Now Kellogg has introduced Cinnabon, capitalizing on a licensing agreeement with the well-known baker.

This is not the first attempt by either Kellogg or Cinnabon. In fact, for Kellogg this is the third time. Previously they had produced Cinnamon Mini-Buns and Swirlz, but neither really took. Cinnabon tried to market its own cereals a couple of years ago, also with limited success. This is not a new relationship, as Kellogg has already been selling
Cinnabon Snack Bars.

But this time the cereal could work. Two well-known brands coming together with Kellogg's manufacturing and distribution could make for a winning formula.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

General Mill focuses in on three targets

This is not a new story, but actually one from two months ago that I noted but forgot to post...
Despite its recent growth, General Mills is still looking to bolster its position as a food company. At a recent conference they announced that looking ahead they are planning on targeting their food products (of which cereal is a major component) to Hispanics, Boomers and Millenials. Hispanics are projected to be the main source of population growth in the next five years, and special attention will be devoted to mothers and "savoring nature". Baby Boomers are a large, aging, demographic looking for health benefits. General Mills believes that the children of Boomers, the Millenials, are home and family oriented and as a result will tailor products to them, and connect with them through the latest innovations in technology.

It is always interesting to gain some insight into the marketing plans of a large corporation like General Mills. It is good to see them deliberately focus their marketing efforts, although one could argue that perhaps the chosen categories are much too broad. The key for a company of this size is make this more than just window-dressing; but to truly innovate in order to meet the demands and needs of increasingly fickle consumers.

Source: Advertising Age

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Limited outlook for Kellogg

Commenting on the financial performance of cereal companies is not always a useful endeavor, but in light of the current economy and the shifting cereal marketplace it seems to be more relevant right now. Recently I reported on successes at General Mills. But, the future may not be as bright for Kellogg. An analyst with BMO Capital Markets has downgraded Kellogg's stock, foreseeing limited growth from core brands, fewer new products, limited growth with Wal-Mart, and increased competition from Post. Of course, these are mere projections, but they are indicators of some of the challenges cereal companies are facing right now.

Source: BusinessWeek

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crazy lawsuits

I've highlighted cereal-related lawsuits before, but usually these had more substance to them then this latest nominee for the Ridiculous Hall of Fame.

A California man launched lawsuits against Kellogg and Quaker for alleged deception in marketing Froot Loops and Crunchberries, respectively, as fruit-related cereals. Much to everyone's surprise, apparently neither of these cereals actually contain real fruit. We are all shocked!

The Froot Loops suit was dismissed, but the case against Crunchberries is moving forward. Maybe it will finally end stupidity across our country.

Not likely. We still have frivolous lawsuits.

Source: SFWeekly

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cereal gains in a recession

General Mills announced today third quarter financial results which included increased sales and profits. Of particular interest is the growth of their cereal division:

"Net sales for Big G cereals grew 6 percent in the quarter, led by strong introductory sales of new Chocolate Cheerios and Wheaties Fuel, and gains by several established brands such as Multigrain Cheerios and Lucky Charms."

Obviously something is working for General Mills and confirms that cereal seems to do well in a recession, a point we noted several months back.

(Source: General Mills)

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Targeting Youth

The move is on to narrow the target of cereals. This is evident in Special K to women concerned about weight management, and new Wheaties FUEL for men. Of course, children have been targeted for decades. Kellogg UK is now taking a stab at the youth market, 16-25 with a new cereal called Krave (not to be confused with a Kellogg "Krave" product previously in the U.S.). Their strategy is not just with the chocolate hazelnut taste, but will be marketed with an extensive social media campaign.

That age group is a difficult one to tap into. It will be interesting to see how Kellogg fares in the U.K. and whether a similar niche is attempted elsewhere.

(Source: netimperative)

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

National Cereal Day: March 7th

Today is National Cereal Day.

Celebrate. Enjoy a bowl!

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Wheaties goes for Gold

Coming off the Winter Olympics General Mills has secured three popular gold medal athletes for the covers of upcoming Wheaties boxes: Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, and Seth Wescott. Apart from the obvious benefit of taking advantage of the recent Olympic fever this is significant in other ways as well. First, these are highly popular athletes, especially among the younger crowd. Could this mean a shift of focus to that demographic? And, this is on regular Wheaties boxes, not the new Wheaties FUEL. Obviously General Mills hasn't abandoned the core brand, and may be trying to breathe new life into it. In fact, notice the overall design changes to the box, representing a much bolder look. Will all these enhancements further revive Wheaties?

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Post builds on nostalgia

General Mills is not the only company taking advantage of cereal nostalgia right now. In a store I came across a new line of Post Toasties cereals that are actually being referred to as Post "Classics". (Will there be others?) Toasties was the name of Post's version of Corn Flakes, which was discontinued in 2006. The new Toasties, however, also come in Frosted Flakes, and wheat and barley O's varieties. This is not the first attempt for Post at tapping into nostalgia.

The new Toasties boxes are not truly vintage, but they do have the feel. Nevertheless, they are getting it right by going for the emotional attachment consumers have with cereal. Hopefully they will dig into their recipe archives even more.

By the way, on the topic of vintage cereals, be sure to visit the poll on our main page to indicate which cereals from the past you'd like to see.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cereal - Milk Saturation

Not truly scientific, but check out this graph at Urban Cartography which depicts "Cereal - Milk Saturation Over Time". According to our past poll most people tend to prefer crunchy over soggy, but this fun graph is a good reminder of the quest we all have for the perfect timing. The chart says 3 minutes is ideal, but of course we all know it depends on the cereal!

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Join us on Facebook

Keep up with the latest on cereal, and join in the discussions, by following this blog on our new fan page!

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cereal poll update

It's time for our next Breakfast Bowl poll. The last question was: "What do you think of custom cereals?"

Here are the results:

Love the ability to have the cereals I want! - 35%
Passing fad that won't survive - 30%
Store-bought brands are good enough for me - 22%
A good idea that might catch on - 14%

Not much enthusiasm yet for custom cereals, not surprising since most people haven't tried them yet.

Now for the next question. In light of my recent post calling for cereal companies to revive nostalgic brands from the past (even for a limited time), "Which of the following vintage cereals would you like to see and taste again?"

LINK TO POLL (see left column)

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

General Mills nostalgia

For the third year in a row General Mills is selling limited edition vintage cereals through Target. This year's varieties include Trix, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms. This fits in well with other nostalgic marketing being done by other companies, such as Pepsi.

I continue to believe that this is a great marketing strategy, and one that should be expanded beyond just nostalgic boxes. Come on General Mills, Kellogg, and Post: Let's see some actual cereals from the past come back for a special treat. You'd sell tons of them!

(Source: Brandweek)

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Holland America Swiss Muesli

I don't usually comment on matters of taste when it comes to cereal, as we all have our preferences and unique taste buds. But, a recent vacation on a Holland America Line cruise ship brought me into contact with a remarkable breakfast experience. Their Swiss Muesli was a favorite for many, and I even found some buzz about it since on the Internet. If you are looking for something different I'd encourage you to make a batch of this recipe. If you can, it is absolutely amazing with fresh berries.

I am no stranger to muesli, but this knock-off recipe is certainly much different than any packaged muesli you can buy in the store. It is a much more traditional recipe, more in keeping with what I have experienced in Europe.

The lesson in all this is that there are still tremendous surprises and opportunities when it comes to cereal. And, I'm sure there is a way to make money on it in the process.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

From breakfast bowl to Super Bowl

It looks like new Wheaties FUEL could be scoring a touchdown this weekend with one of its endorsers a key figure in the Super Bowl. Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning has been a prominent voice for the new cereal and is featured on one of its boxes. General Mills has been highlighting the big game connection in their social marketing, but I wonder how many of Sunday's fans will be aware of Manning's endorsement.

This would be a great occasion for a Wheaties FUEL TV commercial.

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Kellogg reducing salt in the U.K.

I was gone for a few weeks in January, but the cereal world continues to evolve...

Sugar has been a big culprit in many breakfast cereals, and most companies have been taking steps to reduce it. Now, word comes from the United Kingdom that Kellogg will be reducing salt in many of its cereals there by up to one third. On the one hand, this represents the overall trend toward a stronger nutrition focus in cereal. On the other hand, this particular announcement is also reflective of the evidence that British cereals may be higher in salt than their U.S. counterparts.

Nevertheless, we will watch to see if the reduction of salt expands across the ocean and to other companies.

(Source: Daily Mail)

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wheaties FUEL in stores

I've been watching with interest the recent "evolution" of Wheaties which has resulted in their new formula targeted to men and their quest for athletic performance. Six months after being first announced Wheaties FUEL is now for sale in many grocery stores across the U.S. The cereal comes in three different boxes, featuring some of the new athletic endorsers: Kevin Garnett, Peyton Manning, and Albert Pujols.

What is surprising me is the apparent lack of aggressive advertising. Although to give them credit they have certainly been marketing through less conventional means such as newer media. This includes a revamped website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It will be interesting to see how these approaches work, and how the cereal overall is received, especially by men.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Custom Choice - extreme niche

Right around the time of my head-to-head comparison of the two leading U.S. custom cereal companies another one was in the early phases of launching. But, this one has a definite twist to it. Custom Choice Cereal follows the same basic model: Create your own cereal online and it will be shipped to you, but it is has a very unique aspect to it: All their ingredients are gluten-free, and the cereal is mixed in a dedicated facility.

This is probably good news for celiacs who have trouble finding quality, good-tasting foods. I wonder, however, if this is a much too narrow niche for a cereal company following this model. Is this just another company following the latest fad, or does this represent a growing trend that will truly represent the future of cereal?

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Monday, January 04, 2010

The skinny on Special K

It's January and many people are experiencing guilt from Holiday excess and resolving to remove the extra pounds and inches. Of course, there are many diets and fitness plans vying for our dollars. And, in recent, years Kellogg's Special K cereal and other food spin-offs has become one of those options.

This week a new set of ads are being launched targeting women and their self-identities. Entitled "Be Victorious", the focus has an emotional appeal, not a rational one. In fact, the Special K logo and products are not shown at all in the ads, just a subtle reminder to "take the Special K challenge".

The rebirth of Special K as a dieting system has been a tremendous success for Kellogg. The brand is stronger now than ever. The real question remains, however, with the weight loss market very fickle, how long can this emphasis last? Will women looking to lose weight really get the results they desire, especially over the long-term, or will they move to the next big thing and leave Special K a languishing brand?

Time will tell.

Source: New York Times (Note: I am quoted in the article)

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

What cereal to eat

It's the beginning of another year, and if you're tired of the same old cereal maybe it's time to try something new. If you need help here's a fun flow-chart from Eating the Road: LINK. Hardly scientific, but nevertheless fun!

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