BIG G EFFORT FINDS TIMES TO ADD CHEERIOS TO DIETS: HEART STUDY BENEFITS FLAGSHIP; EXTENSIONS' SALES SLIDE

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Cheerios isn't just for breakfast anymore.

That's General Mills' approach in a new commercial that broke last week for its top cereal brand. It depicts a dad coming home late from work and having the cereal for dinner; when he's asked why by his young daughter, he says, "They taste just as good at night."

The spot, however, isn't simply suggesting a new eating occasion for cereal. It's capitalizing on a study that found eating Cheerios can reduce cholesterol.

The Big G-financed study, conducted by the University of Minnesota Heart Disease Prevention Clinic, found cholesterol can be lowered by eating two 1 1/2-cup servings of oat-based cereal a day.

$10 MIL EFFORT IN JAN.

Although Big G broke a $10 million campaign around the study in January, none of the advertising suggested ways to eat the recommended amount of cereal daily.

The same father and daughter did appear in one ad, discussing his health over the dinner table.

Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, is the agency.

General Mills spent $35 million advertising its "yellow box" plain Cheerios last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting, with another $13 million spread among line extensions, including Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios and Team USA Cheerios.

The company also restaged its MultiGrain Cheerios earlier this year as MultiGrain Cheerios Plus.

The heart study appears to have given the flagship brand a lift, though its line extensions were down.

Information Resources Inc. figures show Cheerios dollar sales up 4.3% to $302.3 million for the 52 weeks ended March 22.

Honey Nut Cheerios sales fell 5.5% during that time, to $193.3 million; Frosted Cheerios slid 33.1% to $69.5 million; and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios dropped 17.7% to $40.9 million. Team USA Cheerios posted sales of $59.3 million, about flat, while MultiGrain Cheerios declined 0.8% to $55.7 million.

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