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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