Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year - New Health Emphasis

It's that time of year. Holiday excess has us feeling extra full and guilty, and we're resolved to begin the New Year with an emphasis on health and fitness. Marketers of food, exercise equipment, gyms, etc. are quick to take advantage of this momentary blip of sanity that invades our life before we return to the lifestyle patterns that contribute to our demise.

With 2016 now almost here, the cereal companies are poised to take advantage of the New Year's health craze. It can be argued that healthier cereals are already becoming more and more the trend, but to launch these in late December / early January is perfect timing. This year there are at least two notable examples appearing on grocery store shelves.

General Mills is putting its bets on a massive launch of an expanded Nature Valley line of oat cereals. Nature Valley is already a strong brand, but up to this point has been mainly about cereal bars, granola and muesli. Now, they have three new more conventional breakfast cereals: Honey Oat Clusters, Chocolate Oat Clusters, and Baked Oat Bites. The latter looks particularly interesting, and I will review it in the near future.

Kellogg, already having introduced its Origins line earlier this year, is of course placing its emphasis on its Special K brand of cereals and other food products. Previously the company tried to position Special K as a diet food, but came to its senses over a year ago recognizing that a broader health focus is the way to go. For 2016 they have introduced two new cereals under the "Nourish" sub-brand, both of which are multi-grain flakes with trendy quinoa. Flavors are: Apple Raspberry Almond, and Coconut Cranberry Almond.

These new offerings will have to compete with all the other health oriented cereals that are taking over the grocery aisle, but for health conscious consumers they may provide something new and novel to try before going back to their Lucky Charms and Froot Loops in a few weeks.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cereal photos

Over the years I have highlighted certain creatives who have used cereal artistically, either as a medium or as a way to reveal the unique nature of this food and its place in our culture. With the rise of social media, and Instagram in particular, several notable individuals are regularly posting some fascinating photos incorporating cereal.

By far the biggest Instagram account of this genre is @mister_krisp, the work of Jessica Siskin. Almost daily she creates some amazing items in the form of Rice Krispies Treats, molded and colored. Her work is both fun and spectacular.

Another example is @travels_with_cheerios, a less frequent contributor, but nonetheless cerealicious. This is the artistic expression of 15 year-old Emma Wezeman. Mixing the sometimes absurd placement of cheerios with beautiful photography this feed makes for an enjoyable addition to what often ends up as fairly routine from other Instagramers.

Check them out, and let us know of any others that you are aware of.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Misleading the way to sales

As first pointed out on this blog 18 months ago, General Mills is playing some games with consumers when it comes to its relatively new Cheerios Protein cereal. While not really lying, they nonetheless manipulated the serving sizes on the cereal compared to regular Cheerios to make it look like the Protein variety has substantially more protein, when in fact the difference is minor.

Others have noticed as well, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), who recently launched a class action lawsuit against General Mills alleging false marketing. They point out the protein discrepancy, and reveal that Cheerios Protein also has more sugar.

The sad part in all of this is that in an effort to gain market share companies can sometimes resort to trickery to fool consumers (the recent Volkswagen debacle is another great example). General Mills and other cereal companies need to focus on true innovation if they want to increase (or at least hold on to) sales. They can do it, but these kind of shenanigans are not the way to go.