MINNEAPOLIS — Introduced in 1941 as CheeriOats, Cheerios continues to evolve in ways that give General Mills’ executives confidence that the brand will continue to stand the test of time.
Company executives were asked during a Dec. 17 conference call about the marketing direction for Cheerios. David Palmer, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, noted Cheerios has appeared to shift its marketing strategy from one geared toward introducing new flavors to one focused on ingredient quality renovation plus innovation.
“In the past it looked like Cheerios was coming out with new flavors, driving trademark growth with that,” Mr. Palmer said. “The recent innovation looks, with Ancient Grains and the G.M.O.-free yellow box conversion, it looks like from an ingredient quality renovation plus innovation strategy.
“Do you think that’s a fair characterization of what you are going to continue to do? Do you think that is working?”
Jeff Harmening, executive vice-president and chief operating officer, U.S. Retail, General Mills, responded, “As we look at Cheerios what I would tell you is that our base business, which is the non-promoted business, has gotten better quarter to quarter as we look from the first quarter to the second quarter. And certainly part of it is the new product introduction of Cheerios Protein. But also we have seen improvements on our regular core yellow box Cheerios — our original Cheerios — and on Honey Nut Cheerios.”
He said a key for General Mills is making sure the company keeps Cheerios — whether it’s through product renovation or whether it’s through new products — relevant for consumers who are looking for items that are minimally processed.
“Certainly talking about the oats in Cheerios is something we have started to do and we have — we like the way that looks,” he said. “But we think we also have more work to do on Cheerios whether it’s through new products with our renovation that we currently have.”Mr. Harmening said the company will offer more specifics about its plans at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in February.