Tag Archives: cereal

Foodstuff Marketing – Part 2

Updated follow-up to Part 1 about cereal games: Over the years I have tweeted and posted multiple complaints about the garbage in food that’s advertised as healthy. Cocoa Krispies box nutrition factsPart 1 originally linked to a Kellogg’s Cereal landing page encouraging activity (no longer available). Homepages for Froot Loops and Apple Jacks had pop-up messages urging kids to get outside and move around. The Frosted Flakes website was a big proponent of outdoor activity and sports participation:

Kelloggs-Frosted-Flakes-cereal-website-Are-You-Up Kelloggs Fruit Loops Get Your Move On

You see the same messaging on tons of food products. Hypocrisy rules grocery shelves. This hackneyed pro-exercise/health stance and the call-outs about vitamins and whole grain on boxes is ridiculous at best and criminal at worst considering the processed ingredients, added and artificial sweeteners, and chemical preservatives that these nutritionally devoid “foods” contain. That cereal nutrition facts have a second column for the addition of dairy milk to make it a “complete breakfast” is a problem.

Cocoa Krispies “Immunity” Cereal – 40% Sugar by Weight + Trans Fats
Cocoa Krispies “Immunity” Cereal – 40% Sugar by Weight + Trans Fats

Breakfast health poser brands like Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Post tout nutrients and a healthy start to the day. Aside from government regulation (see FTC response to the Kellogg’s immunity claim), what would it take on a consumer level to make such brands replace their GMO ingredients, partially hydrogenated oils (see Cocoa Krispies ingredients), and modified corn starch with natural ingredients? You can find organic cereal brands like Lydia’s Organics, Farm to Table, Go Raw, etc. who do this, make better products, and still profit. Just not as much. And unfortunately that’s the deciding factor. But despite media exposés, documentaries and books galore about our food problems, the grocery landscape is wrought with more confusing, misleading messaging than ever.

Eat whatever you want. I’m not here on a granola crusade. Actually, I’m more interested in the larger question of selective consumer awareness and empowerment.

Society has spent decades scapegoating, punishing, and regulating the tobacco industry for its seductive marketing of addictive, cancer-causing products. How have agribusiness and food conglomerates escaped anywhere near the widespread, research-backed, trenchant criticism for the role they play in our nation’s health problems? In 2012, more than one-third of U.S. children and adolescents were overweight or obese (CDC). I barely scratched the surface talking about unhealthy cereal that is marketed as healthy. The convoluted mess that is FDA labeling regulation for terms like natural, organic, free range, etc. creates a false advertising field day.

There’s nothing automatically wrong with selling most unhealthy products as long as the consumer is fairly informed. Tobacco, alcohol, fast food, soda pop, hot dogs at baseball games, sugary bubblegum, you name it – we deserve the right to choose to indulge. But food brands and marketers need to take more responsibility when it comes to product positioning. The misinformation about what’s actually healthy is more expensive than consumers understand.

To wrap up:
Part 1: Good: a return to simplicity and creativity – kids cutting out cardboard shapes (see the Lucky Charms game).

Part 2: Bad: food brands that position themselves with health and physical activity but contain nefarious foodstuff (not food) ingredients while making claims about good nutrition.

What will force change? Maybe consumer awareness is already improving. Social helps. See Bettina Siegel’s petition on change.org which helped to remove pink slime (LFTB from Beef Products Inc.) from school lunches across the country.

Our apples are being jacked.

Lucky Charms: Wireless Power to Fly – Part 1

Lucky Charms was a favorite cereal of my childhood. It’s the less spooky vanilla version of Count Chocula, one of General Mills’s monster-themed breakfast cereals which were first released in 1971 with the strawberry-flavored Franken Berry. Count Chocula is more difficult to find these days, especially outside of Halloween season. As for Lucky Charms, which are in no short supply, the last box of sugared oats and marbits that I saw had a wonderfully simple back-of-the-box game:

Lucky Charms cereal box emilybinder.comThe Power to Fly activity (2011):

Here’s How!
Fold the book at line A to make the launch ramp that will send your star marbit on its way. Flicking your star is allowed to see how many times you can follow Lucky through the cloud.

In this digital age, Lucky the Leprechaun believes he can entertain kids by asking them to cut out a piece of cardboard from a cereal box, fold it, and flick it into the hole in the box. Simplicity: scissors, sticky fingers, and adult supervision = breakfast fun.

To gain the Power to Fly, kids do not need their parents’ permission to access a promotional URL or download an app requiring access to Facebook. They need not dig through the lightly sweetened settled contents for a compact disc which must be inserted into a computer (obsolete but memory lane). All they have to do is cut and flick. That’s so refreshing.  (Note: naturally, luckycharms.com does have an online game.)
To that end, enjoy this Count Chocula commercial from 1980:

The ad depicts the joy that kids experience from the activity of applying fake Count Chocula tattoos on their friends (again, no electricity required). Now that I’ve covered the first point about simple pleasures, in Part 2 I discuss the specious health positioning of major cereals and other food products so that this is not an advertisement for empty calories.

Fun cereal facts:

1) In 1963, microbiologist Pamela Low developed the original flavor for Cap’n Crunch by recalling a recipe of brown sugar and butter that her grandmother Luella Low served over rice at her home in Derry, New Hampshire.

2) Apple Jacks cereal was invented by William Thilly, a member of Delta Upsilon Technology Chapter and now a professor at MIT. It was introduced to the U.S. in 1965 as “Apple O’s.” In 1971 advertisers renamed it “Apple Jacks.”
It is considered acceptable to add an apostrophe to a single letter in the case of “Apple O’s.”

Original 3/22/11 post updated 6/25/14

Shining Stars Marketing by Kroger

About a year ago, I discovered a Kroger brand cereal called Shining Stars. This cereal is to the breakfast aisle as Hello Dolly is to WordPress plugins. (The hope of a generation, if you will.) Shining Stars cerealThe mascots of the Lucky Charms-esque cherry vanilla flavored oat cereal are three teenage girls in a band called the Shining Stars. They are dressed pretty conservatively compared to Miley Cyrus. I think they write their own songs.

Singer Star Sparkle is wearing a high plaid turtleneck and braces. The African American drummer, Cherry Berry, has afro pigtails. Awkward but cute guitarist Nilla Crunch has red hair and glasses (she is the emo one).

I was so impressed by the positive, inspirational messages this branding sends to little girls that I had to continue buying Shining Stars and write this blog post commending the cereal. Unlike Bratz, these musical girls are actual role models for kids.Bratz The Shining Stars are confident and independent,  talented enough that they don’t need to objectify themselves and show a lot of skin. If Star Sparkle can get a record contract in that getup, there is hope for meritocracy yet.

Shining Stars cereal box back

The free prize inside the box is Shining Stars temporary tattoos:Shining Stars ankle temporary tattoo

You might say Kroger has won me over as a brand advocate for this product. Apparently Kroger also did a bit of well-executed pink ribbon marketing with bottled water.
“Because the packaging on water cases is so big, it enables long-form stories that also serve to honor the courage of Kroger employees. You couldn’t do the same on a can of soup.” via @SallieBurnett