Saturday, June 29, 2013

Is the future hot?

The western United States, where I live, is in the midst of an extreme heat wave. So, talking about "hot" may seem appropriate, except when it comes to cereal. Hot cereal is much more suitable topic for the middle of January!

Nevertheless, Kellogg recently announced a new sub-brand within its rapidly expanding Special K line of cereals and weight conscious products. Nourish is a line of hot cereals and bars "specifically designed for people who are seeking positive nutrition to help manage their weight". Although I thought this is what Special K was trying to accomplish all along, it appears that this new offering ramps up the nutrition even more. Of particular interest are the three hot cereal varieties: Cranberry Almond, Cinnamon Raisin, and Maple Brown Sugar. This is the first time in years that Kellogg has attempted a hot cereal.

While there is a niche market for hot cereals, the trend over the years has been away from this. They are generally not as convenient and sometimes, especially in the case of oatmeal, have a reputation of being mushy. Nevertheless, porridge is a perfect comfort food, especially in colder weather.

The question here is: Is there growth potential for hot cereals? Kellogg must think so to a certain degree. Could hot cereals done right be a innovative growth engine for cereal companies?

Let's talk about it more once this heat wave passes!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: General Mills Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme

It's been awhile since I've conducted a review here, mainly because there have been few new significant cereal introductions since the onslaught at the beginning of the year. From what I'm observing, that's about to change.

The latest cereal to catch my eye is General Mills' Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme cereal, a product that taps into the widespread familiarity of the popular U.S. chocolate company, and specifically their Cookies 'n' Creme candy bar. This is not the first time a cereal company has co-branded with a candy. The most notable example is Reeses' Puffs, also a Hershey brand cerealized by General Mills. And, the similarity doesn't end there. Both of these cereals are flavored corn puffs, so in many ways this latest offering is just another variety in a "Hershey chocolate candy line" of cereals. (Could this mean other Hershey cereals in the future, like a Hershey's Milk Chocolate cereal, or even Hershey's Eggs cereal around Easter?)

Chocolate cereals have been one of the major trends in recent years. Who could go wrong making a chocolate cereal? Cookies 'n' Creme cereal definitely contains chocolate, but it's balanced with the "cream" pieces. A nice change from chocolate laden cereals like Cocoa Puffs or Count Chocula. To no one's surprise this new cereal is sweet and enjoyable to eat, even as a snack without milk.

As corn puffs Cookies 'n' Creme are light and airy, and really easy to eat (you probably don't even need teeth!). Put them in milk and even after 10 minutes they retain their shape, but become extraordinarily soft. This is not for those looking for a hearty cereal, but the texture works for what it is.

The real strength with this cereal is its experience. The Hershey branding gives you the feeling that you are eating legitimate candy, but for breakfast. And, if that's what you need to kick-start your day, this marketing position works.

The weakness, of course, is nutrition. Apart from the branding, this is yet another sugared cereal (over 30% of weight) with artificial flavors and low fiber (despite the laughable "made with 100% Whole Grain" badge on the box). You will not be buying this cereal for its powerhouse nutrition qualities.

If you're looking for a fun cereal or snack, Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme is worth trying. At minimum it will make your breakfast a little more decadent!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Controversial Cheerios

Cheerios is one of the most loved and venerated brands of cereal. At least until this week.

Cheerios has come out with a new TV commercial, "Just Checking", that is designed to highlight its heart health characteristics. The commercial is cute and even tugs at you heart a little.

There is one catch, however. The family featured in the commercial is biracial, and that has sparked controversy among a small, but vocal, segment of the population. So much so that comments on the YouTube page had to be shut down because of the nasty responses. The video has had over 3 million views there so far, and the number of thumbs-up exceed the thumbs-down by over 20 times. General Mills is standing by the commercial.

It's hard to believe that in 2013 an ad featuring an interracial family generates that type of reaction since it is a prevalent reality in American society. Nevertheless, it is a bold marketing move, and intended or not, Cheerios is getting tons of publicity.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Kellogg settles lawsuit

Consumers and regulators alike are demanding more honesty from companies, and the latest sign of that is the announcement that Kellogg has agreed to pay $4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over health claims it made for Mini-Wheats. At the time it was stated that the cereal would increase children's attentiveness, among other things. This story actually has its beginnings four years ago when the company settled with the Federal Trade Commission over the same issue. And, Kellogg is not first company to get their hand slapped for inappropriate health claims. For example, General Mills got in trouble with the FDA for its cholesterol claims for Cheerios.

In an ever increasingly competitive cereal market companies are looking for an edge. In recent years it has been over the health benefits of its cereals. The danger is that it is easy to step over the line with claims that are hyped or exaggerated to draw attention.

It was much more fun when cereal companies attracted customers through creativity with cereal recipes, boxes, free toys and special offers!

By the way, customers can submit a claim for refund at

(Source: Huffington Post)