General Mills doing its part to spark interest in cereal category
by Eric Schroeder
MINNEAPOLIS — Despite competing in a cereal category that has turned in less than stellar results in recent years, General Mills, Inc. is confident that renewed cereal category growth is just around the corner. The Minneapolis-based company’s Big G cereal performance has outpaced the category in recent years, and net sales grew slightly in fiscal 2014.
Heading into fiscal 2015, the company’s growth plan for Big G begins with product news and strong advertising support on several large established brands, Ken Powell, chairman and chief executive officer, told analysts during a June 25 conference call to discuss fiscal 2014 results.
Taste brands, particularly, are doing well.
“We are rolling out some great taste-focused renovations, more cinnamon taste on Cinnamon Toast Crunch, new fruitier tasting Trix, and we will invest behind some strong new advertising on Lucky Charms and Cheerios,” Mr. Powell said.
Protein also is an emerging trend in the category.
“Consumers today are seeking more protein at breakfast, and we are responding,” Mr. Powell said. “The 2014 launch of Nature Valley Protein Granola exceeded our expectations. This year, we will grow distribution and broaden the line with new peanut butter and dark chocolate peanut butter varieties. We recently launched a new line of Cascadian Farm protein granolas. These are certified organic choices for consumers. And we have brought protein to the leading franchise in the category. New Cheerios protein is available in cinnamon almond and oats and honey varieties. Early retailer and consumer response is quite encouraging.”
Another trend that remains on the radar is gluten-free. Mr. Powell said consumer interest in General Mills’ gluten-free offerings remains strong.
“Retail sales for the Chex franchise increased by over 6% last year behind strong consumer messaging and the introduction of Vanilla Chex,” he said. “This year, we are increasing our media spending behind Chex at a double-digit rate. We are also launching a new platform: gluten-free Chex hot oatmeal.”