Breakfast cereals, especially those aimed at children, were subjected to major scrutiny over the past year, as consumer groups, industry leaders and government officials sought ways to decrease childhood obesity rates and encourage better eating habits among the general public.
Not surprisingly, given the implied criticism of the segment, the main “news” in the ready-to-eat category is related to health issues, including increased use of whole grains, reduced sugar content, elimination of trans fat and cutting-edge health positionings like added probiotics.
Other significant “news” particularly related to the children’s market included promotional “in and out” packs touting the latest holiday or movie character. Flavor introduction/innovation also brought renewed interest to the ready-to-eat category.
HealthMedical research continues to demonstrate both the physical and cognitive benefits of eating breakfast, with weight control and improved school or job performance being some of the more notably promoted examples. A study published in the journal Obesity Research noted that respondents who ate whole-grain breakfast cereal were less likely to become overweight than their counterparts, whose breakfast cereal choice was refined grain. Other studies have demonstrated a link between breakfast consumption and enhanced learning performance among children.
General Mills’ cereals are now all made with whole grain and for more than a year, the company has made a concerted effort to educate consumers about the health benefits of eating whole-grain foods. The back panel of some General Mills’ cereals explains, “9 out of 10 Americans aren’t getting enough whole grain…the plant nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber in whole grain work together to help keep you healthy!” The company’s research revealed that most consumers knew that whole grains were healthy, but some of their perceptions were “based on misperceptions,” such as the idea that whole grains tasted bad, or that they are present only in brown goods, not white.
In 2006, General Mills introduced the eleventh variety of its Cheerios cereal, Fruity Cheerios. Each serving contains 16g of whole grain, has 25% less sugar than the leading fruity cereal and is made with only natural fruit flavors and real fruit juice. This product was on display at the 2006 Food Marketing Institute (FMI) trade show in Chicago.
To further its association with healthy food choices, Cheerios recently announced that it is partnering with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and health advocacy group WomenHeart in a campaign to raise awareness and provide education about the risk of heart disease among women.
Kraft Foods Inc. has reformulated its kids’ cereals and resumed advertising in hopes of reversing declining sales. The company stopped advertising kids’ cereals in January 2005 as part of its policy to restrict marketing of products that did not meet certain health criteria. The reformulated kids’ cereals feature less sugar, with sugar content in some cereals lowered by as much as 25%. Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles now have 9g of sugar, instead of 12g, while Honeycombs have gone from 10g to 8g.
Kraft displayed Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats with Cinnamon Clusters at the 2006 FMI show. It carries a “Sensible Solution” designation meaning it is a good source of whole grain (with 9g per serving) and contains nine vitamins and minerals. In keeping with Kraft’s company-wide trans fat reduction efforts, it also has 0g of trans fat.
On the functional food front, Kashi (which was acquired by Kellogg’s in 2000) recently unveiled its Vive Breakfast Cereal, promoted as being the first shelf-stable probiotic food to be launched. Probiotics are referred to as the “good” bacteria, but are usually found in cheeses and yogurt. Each bowl of Kashi Vive contains 46% of the daily value of fiber, 20% of the daily recommended values of calcium and vitamin D, as well as natural broccoli extracts.
Kashi also introduced Kashi Go Lean Crunch Honey Almond Flax, a naturally sweetened multigrain cluster with 500mg of omega-3, 9g of protein and 8g of fiber. It reportedly provides a longer sensation of fullness and is said to be delicious, crunchy and hard to resist. The new cereal contains flaxseed, one of the few plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids that has been shown to lower blood pressure, triglycerides and total cholesterol levels. In addition, the new product contains sliced almonds, which also contribute to the amount of healthy fat per serving.
In and Out Promotional PacksCereal manufacturers have once again returned to incorporating the holidays, movies and popular characters into their promotional packaging vehicles.
Kellogg’s Apple Jacks cereal with three grains, apple and cinnamon was introduced in a special Halloween variety pack featuring eye-popping marshmallows with graphics to match.
Post Iced Berry Pebbles Cereal is sweetened with artificial strawberry flavor and targeted for the winter holiday season. Playing on the word “ice,” Pebbles invites consumers to “enter to win one of 50 snowboards” and to “join the Bedrock Blizzard Bash.”
On the movie front, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes introduced new packaging featuring a picture of The Little Mermaid on the cover, to coincide with the release of the movie on DVD.
Ever heard of a Neopet? Neopets are part of a virtual pet website where visitors may adopt and care for pets, as well as play games and participate in contests. General Mills’ Neopets Islandberry Crunch capitalizes on their popularity with children. Each box contains a free promo Neopets trading card. The cereal is a two-color raspberry-red and boysenberry-purple mix of sweetened corn puffs.
For the younger crowd, General Mills introduced a Dora the Explorer cereal, based on the hit TV character.
Wheaties, the official cereal of Major League Baseball, recently unveiled a new special-edition package honoring Yankees third-baseman and 2005 American League Most Valuable Player Alex Rodriguez.
Flavor InnovationChocolate, vanilla and berry brought some flavorful introductions to the cereal category. PepsiCo’s Quaker cereal subsidiary announced the release of Life Vanilla Yogurt Crunch, combining, it said, the wholesome goodness of classic Life cereal with the grown-up taste of yogurt. The new release is made with whole-grain Quaker Oats and features oat clusters covered with vanilla-flavored yogurt. New Life Vanilla Yogurt Crunch is low-fat, delivers nine essential vitamins and minerals and provides a good source of calcium and fiber (4g of fiber per serving).
Life Vanilla Yogurt Crunch joins three existing Life Cereal varieties: Life, Cinnamon Life and Honey Graham Life, all of which are made with whole grain oats and recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. Also in the vanilla family, Kellogg’s introduced its Frosted Mini-Wheats in a Vanilla Crème variety.
The push on anything with chocolate as healthy-for-you follows a much hyped and popularly received report last year by the American Heart Association that suggested daily servings of dark chocolate could help combat hypertension and improve insulin resistance.
Capitalizing on these published health benefits of chocolate, two breakfast cereal makers launched new varieties: Life (Quaker Oats) and Special K (Kellogg’s) cereals. The objective is to provide indulgent yet nutritional breakfast fare.
Quaker’s Life Chocolate Oat Crunch provides two servings of whole grains, 3g of fiber and 10 essential vitamins and minerals. Life Chocolate Oat Crunch is added to the four existing Life Cereal varieties: Life, Cinnamon Life, Honey Graham Life and Life Vanilla Yogurt Crunch. Kellogg’s Special K has long captured consumers’ attention as a healthy choice with several varieties and recently unveiled Special K Chocolatey Delight, positioned to fit in with the brand’s popular short-term weight-loss challenge (“lose 6 lbs in 2 weeks”).
Berry Flavor continues to be popular, not only as a flavor, but also as a “real fruit” addition. Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Strawberry Delight cereal uses dark red strawberry-flavored crystals. Kellogg’s also added berry to its Froot Loops Cereal, now available in a “Golden Berry” variety. Quaker Oats’ Cap’n Crunch added a Polar Crunch Breakfast Cereal, a color-changing cereal featuring a “cool berry” flavor. Bear Naked, said to be the fastest growing brand of natural cereals, displayed its “All Natural Low Sugar” Triple Berry Crunch at the Natural Products Expo West trade show.
Grab-and-go BreakfastMost Americans know the benefits of eating breakfast, yet often do not make time to sit down and "prepare" even a bowl of cereal. One way to address the need for a portable breakfast: cereal bars.
The past year has shown a wide range of introductions:
Post's Honey Bunches of Oats Strawberry Cereal Bars have a new taste and are a good source of calcium and whole grains. It is the latest offering in a line of flavored bars that include: Banana Nut, Chocolate, Peanut Butter with Chocolate Drizzle and Cranberry Almond.
Quaker Breakfast Bites in Iced Strawberry flavor have 25% less sugar than the leading regular cereal bar and 0g of trans fat. The cereal bar bites are naturally and artificially flavored, low in fat, an excellent source of calcium and a good source of antioxidant vitamins C and E. The pack features a competition to celebrate the launch of the Superman Returns movie.
Trader Joe’s has a quirky introduction called “this fig walks into a bar...” that it added to its line of cereal bars. Made with organic grains, this low-fat fig bar contains no hydrogenated oils, is a good source of six B vitamins and contains selenium.
Kellogg’s Cran-Vanilla Crunch Cereal Bars are chewy, whole-grain bars made with Cran-Vanilla Crunch cereal, real cranberries and yogurt-coated clusters.
Going GlobalAround the world, breakfast cereals oftentimes are customized by using local language on the packaging or incorporating regional flavors to appeal to the targeted consumers.
In India, for example, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are promoted as being “100% vegetarian” and “containing iron shakti (energy).”
In China, Nestlé introduced several new products this year. Nestlé Fitness & Fruit is a breakfast cereal made from whole wheat and dried fruits. The product is not fried and is naturally rich in minerals and vitamins. The package suggests serving with milk, soy milk or yogurt. Nestlé Strawberry Milk Stars Cereal is designed for children. It is made with corn, wheat and oats, enriched with vitamins and minerals, and star-shaped. The pink stars have a strawberry flavor, and the yellow stars have milk and egg flavor.
In Germany, World Cup 2006 brought Nestlé’s FIFA Knusprige Getreidebälle Mit VollKorn und Vanillegeshmack crunchy cereal balls, made with whole-grain rice and vanilla flavoring. The cereal was a licensed product of the Germany 2006 World Cup, and a large FIFA logo along with a cereal bowl shaped as half of a soccer ball highlighted the association. A similar pack is offered in neighboring France. When milk is added, the rice and corn cereal balls turn into miniature soccer balls. The reverse of the pack shows the soccer balls used in each World Cup since 1970.