Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween cereal

Halloween and cereal are a perfect fit, and a number of companies have taken advantage of the marketing opportunities over the years, and none more than General Mills. Again, this year, they released their monster cereals in time for Halloween, but they were largely unchanged in box design from 2010. Several other children's-oriented cereals feature similar seasonal graphics again this year.

But, in my opinion, the award for the best Halloween cereal for 2011 goes to Quaker for the introduction of Halloween [Cap'n] Crunch. This is a unique, limited-edition cereal that should provide the most breakfast fun this year.

And the milk turns green!

Friday, October 28, 2011

How healthy are "Natural" cereals?

Recently, a study from The Cornucopia Institute has stirred considerable discussion because of their claim that many so-called "natural" breakfast cereals are merely marketing hype, and deceptive. Compared to organic cereals, they often contain residues of toxic pesticides and genetically modified ingredients; and sometimes are even more expensive.

The "Cereal Crimes" report is certainly worth reading, even just for its exposure of the marketing of cereal brands. There is no doubt that many companies are jumping on the "natural" bandwagon to entice consumers. It should be pointed out, however, that Cornucopia enters the discussion with its own biases, "promoting economic justice for family scale farming". Obviously, for them large food corporations are a threat on a number of levels.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cereal mascots given reprieve

A long, on-going controversy has been over the use of cartoon characters to market cereal, especially sugared ones targeted to children. The fear for manufacturers has been that the government would step in and regulate this, and ultimately prevent the use of mascots and other enticing images for children.

The industry can sigh a temporary breath of relief, as U.S. government officials recently indicated that they won't tamper with these brand icons at this time. Nevertheless, things could still change down the road, and at minimum there is still the possibility of further restrictions on nutritional composition of foods targeted to children, even if in the form of voluntary guidelines.

In any case, Tony the Tiger, Cap'n Crunch and others are safe, for now at least!

(Source: USA Today)

Monday, October 24, 2011

General Mills and DC Comics

Last week General Mills announced a partnership with DC Comics, and that for a limited time some of their prominent, sweetened cereals would feature custom Justice League comic books. A special website will allow readers to continue their adventure reading. Incorporating books, DVDs, computer games and now comic books, is not a new concept for General Mills. And, this certainly taps into a dedicated niche market of comic fanatics.

A good marketing move.

I am wondering, however, if the execution on this one is enough. This would have been a great opportunity for General Mills to either introduce a new, comic-based cereal, or to feature the comic book heroes more prominently on specially-designed boxes. In my opinion, the simple banner approach lacks vigor, and misses out on an even greater marketing push.

(Thanks to @antonioortegajr for the tip!)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cereal in Europe

Recently I've been traveling in Europe, which explains the lack of blog posts here.

Of course, regardless of where I go I am always interested to discover what I can about cereal in that location. And, Europe is a great place to observe a different take on cereal. It's been a number of years since I've had the opportunity to visit there, and I was pleasantly surprised with the changes I noticed.

First, the interest in cereal is definitely growing. Certainly, breakfast cereal consumption is nowhere near what it is in North American, but it is no longer an ethnic food for ex-pats. Evidence of this abounds in the grocery stores. Whereas at one time on the continent you would have seen very small shelf space devoted to just a handful of cereal brands, now it is possible to enter any supermarket and see a significant section featuring dozens of varieties. I also noticed that at some of the bed and breakfast places we stayed cereal was available, something I never saw before outside of big hotels catering to international travelers.

It was also evident that that there are some differences between cereal in Europe and the U.S. Even those who do consume it tend to eat smaller serving sizes, and as a complement to their traditional breakfast. For this reason the boxes for sale in the stores are much smaller than what we would typically find in North America. Also, muesli is big in Europe influenced by its popularity in Switzerland, where it is often still consumed during the evening meal.

I also noticed some interesting innovations in Europe. Not only are the big cereal companies tweaking their recipes and producing varieties in tune with the local preferences, but there are packaging innovations as well. In Poland, for example, I couldn't find any actual boxes. All the cereal comes in attractive bags. There are other signs of innovation in Europe as well, as is evidenced by the fact that customized cereal has its roots there with such companies as mymuesli and The Cereal Club.

Having said of all this, I must qualify the above statements by pointing out that the United Kingdom stands out in its relationship with cereal. While I wasn't there on this trip, it is a fact that cereal consumption is much higher in Britain than the rest of Europe, and has many more similarities to its U.S. brand counterparts.

I had a great time in Europe, and enjoyed the cereal sleuthing that went along with it!