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Even Brands Like Cocoa Puffs Bend to Nutritional Concerns

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Expanding on its efforts earlier this year to introduce low-sugar varieties of some of its top children's cereals, General Mills announced plans today to convert its entire portfolio of cereals to whole grains.

General Mills, like its counterparts in

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the ailing package-food industry, have come under fire for non-nutritious offerings as concerns over childhood obesity rage on. While a variety of its brands, including Cheerios and Total, are already made with whole grains, the conversion will focus on making the other 40% of its brands such as Trix, Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms far healthier.

Ad, PR efforts planned
The shift will be touted with new labeling on cereal boxes and through advertising and public relations efforts that seek to define General Mills, the first of the big cereal marketers to make the move, as a leader in nutrition.

Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, handle advertising for General Mills' Big G cereal division.

Retail executives, who only learned of the plans when General Mills announced it with a press release today, saw the move as a positive and one that could help General Mills, which has fallen in recent years to the No. 2 position in cereal behind Kellogg Co.

Helping market share
"There is a huge health factor affecting the cereal aisle today and the marketer who can get the message across most easily to consumers regarding health benefits will likely be able to gain share," one Midwest buyer said. While sales for the cereal category overall fell 2% to $6 billion for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 5, according to Information Resources Inc., the natural segment, which includes Kellogg-owned Kashi, has shown double-digit gains.

General Mills has been successful in recent months with the 75% less sugar varieties of its Lucky Charms, Trix and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which followed closely on the heels of 33% less sugar varieties introduced by Kellogg.

While General Mills has said the flavor of its cereals will be unchanged, consumers will be the ultimate judge. The cereal marketer recently was forced to pull a low-carb extension of Total Protein before its launch because of its poor taste, and retailers have said Total Protein itself does not have a great taste profile.

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