MILLENNIAL ME-TOOISM STRIKES IN CEREAL WARS: KELLOGG LIKES BIG G'S Y2K ANGLE; POST FALLS IN LINE AND ADDS CALCIUM

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News reports from the cereal aisle appear to travel in pairs these days, as the country's top breakfast marketers attempt to spark sales in a slow-growth category.

Kellogg Co. this month adds a numeral to its Marshmallow Blasted Froot Loops, allowing consumers to put digits together to form the year 2000. The product will hit stores at about the same time as rival General Mills' Millenios, a twist on its Cheerios that also adds numeral 2's to the O-shaped cereal.

Later in the year, Kraft Foods' Post division will introduce a calcium-enriched version of its Alpha-Bits brand. Just last month Kellogg debuted its own calcium-fortified blend -- Special K Plus -- in a box shaped like a milk carton.

TRENDY MOVES

Although the millennium and calcium are disparate subjects, both are currently en vogue with consumers, and the cereal giants hope to extend that popularity to their aisle of the supermarket.

Overall, sales of cereal have been flat to declining for several years; the category grew a mere 1% for the year ended July 18, according to Information Resources Inc.

Cereal marketers are "scrambling to find growth of any kind in any way, shape or form," said Dave Nelson, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston. Competitors mimic each other at the first sign of one's success, he said.

GENERAL MILLS' ENCROACHMENT

Kellogg's Y2K me-too, Marshmallow Blasted Froot Loops With Millennium 2's, is a reaction to General Mills' encroachment on its long-held status as top cereal maker, said Ken Harris, a partner at consultancy Cannondale Associates.

No. 2 General Mills grew 3.2% to $2.39 billion in sales for the year ended July 18, compared with Kellogg's gain of just 0.4% to $2.4 billion, according to IRI. Kellogg's share for the year ended was 31.8%; General Mills had a 31.5% share.

Kid-targeted TV advertising for the new Froot Loops, from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, will begin in early October, portraying the cereal as "An extreme start to the new millennium."

Kellogg spent $5.2 million on Marshmallow Blasted Froot Loops last year, with an additional $7.7 million devoted to regular Froot Loops, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The spots will feature the Toucan Sam spokes-character in computer-generated, 3-D images showing how kids can celebrate the year 2000 with the colorful cereal.

ADS BEGIN IN JANUARY

Advertising for Post's Alpha-Bits will begin in January via Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York.

Eric Greifenberger, senior brand manager for Post's kids cereals, said creative will focus on the cereal's ability to spark kids' imaginations, as well as added calcium.

A first-quarter promotion will extend Alpha-Bits' tie-in to the PBS kids program "Arthur" with an on-pack purchase offer for an "Arthur" book.

Last year, Post spent less than $1 million on Alpha-Bits advertising, according

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