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Kellogg Fights Corn Flakes Knockoffs in the U.K. -- With Lasers

Cereal Co. Testing System of Branding Individual Flakes With Corporate Logo

By Published on . 14

LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Kellogg Co. is introducing new technology in the U.K. that allows it to burn its famous signature onto individual cereal flakes by using lasers.

Kellogg's Corn Flakes with brandingEnlarge
The technology, which was developed in Britain, is being used in a trial to stamp out imitation cereals -- which Kellogg calls "fake flakes" -- by branding Corn Flakes with the company logo.

The news has caused quite a frenzy among U.K. outlets, with many wondering whether this was just Kellogg having some PR fun. But in a phone call the company confirmed that it possesses the technology to do the laser etching and that it's planning a trial, though it clarified the illustration it supplied was a mock-up.

Kellogg makes 67 million boxes of Corn Flakes every year in the U.K., but the company struggles to get across the message that it doesn't make cereals for anyone else, and it has lost ground to private-label imitations, or generics, in recent years.

Helen Lyons, lead food technologist at Kellogg, said in a statement, "There has been an increase in the number of [private labels] trying to capitalize on the popularity of Kellogg's corn flakes. We want shoppers to be under absolutely no illusion that Kellogg's does not make cereal for anyone else. We're constantly looking at new ways to reaffirm this, and giving our golden flakes of corn an official stamp of approval could be the answer."

Kellogg plans to produce a number of trial batches of the branded flakes to test the system. The company will then consider inserting a proportion of branded flakes into each box to guarantee the cereal's origins and protect against imitation products. If the system is successful, it could be used on Kellogg's other brands, including Frosties, Special K, Crunchy Nut and Bran Flakes.

The laser uses a concentrated beam of light that focuses the energy within the beam down to a very small spot on the corn flake. The energy density of the laser is enough to give the surface of the flake a darker, toasted appearance without changing the taste.

Ms. Lyons added, "We've established that it is possible to apply a logo or image onto food, now we need to see if there is a way of repeating it on large quantities of our cereal. We're looking into it."

The initiative comes despite Kellogg's claim that sales of its Corn Flakes have risen this year, as shoppers with limited budgets opt for recognized, reliable brands. Its factory in Manchester, in the north of England, is the biggest Corn Flake production line in the world, churning out cereals 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Every year, 128 billion bowls of Kellogg's Corn Flakes are eaten worldwide, in countries as far afield as Guatemala, Japan, Argentina and India.

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