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Quaker Oats Co. and General Mills will be making a lot of advertising noise over the government's approval of limited health claims for oat bran. Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods' Post and Nabisco will be silent, at least for now.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration last week OK'd Quaker's application-first made in 1995-to claim that soluble fiber when consumed as part of a low-fat diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Anticipating the decision, Quaker and General Mills had ads ready to roll, though Quaker was the first out of the gate with newspaper ads on Jan. 22. Plans were being formulated for a page ad in USA Today and a TV schedule that will begin as soon as possible.


Bruce Poole, director of marketing for oatmeal at Quaker, said the company would increase its ad budget for oatmeal 10%, to an estimated $20 million-to-$25 million, to support the new claim.

The TV spots resurrect a theme run briefly in January 1995, showing its legendary Quaker man cracking a grin. "Why is this man smiling?" the spot asks, explaining that a husband and wife eating Quaker oats are happy because of the brand's healthy profile. The new ads, Mr. Poole said, will run simultaneously with the current "Oh, what those oats can do" advertising, also from agency Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York.


The FDA-approved claim can apply to all Quaker oatmeals and ready-to-eat brand Quaker Toasted Oatmeal, although no campaign for that cold cereal is imminent, said Mr. Poole.

In addition to the TV and newspaper ads, Quaker will run print ads in magazines and tout the claim on its packaging and its Web site (www.quakeroatmeal.com).

Aware that Big G was right on its heels with a health-oriented ad campaign for Cheerios, Quaker went to great lengths at a press conference last week to demonstrate that the soluble fiber in a single bowl of Quaker oatmeal equals the fiber in 31/2 bowls of Cheerios. But a Quaker spokesman said the company had no plans for ads comparing the two products "at this time."

General Mills' TV spot, from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, will feature a husband and wife discussing the news about the health claim. The spot initially will air on news programming.

Cheerios' box will change to reflect the claim, said Ann Simonds, Cheerios marketing manager, but that won't happen for about two months. Ms. Simonds declined to say whether Big G will increase spending beyond Cheerios' estimated $25 million ad budget.

She also declined to say what Cheerios extensions, if any, carry the claim and would not disclose plans for other General Mills products. But a Big G executive said Oatmeal Raisin Crisp, Oatmeal Raisin Crisp 'n Apples and Nature Valley granola bars also qualify for the claim.


Cereal-market leader Kellogg remains interested in health claims but is sitting out the oat bran craze, even though its Common Sense Oat Bran fits the FDA profile.

Kellogg, however, has applied for FDA approval for a claim that soluble fiber from psyllium-a major ingedient in its Bran Buds-can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Nabisco's only entry that may fit the profile, Banana Nut Crunch, has already spent millions on a campaign pointing out the indulgence of the brand and as a result is expected to stay away from health claims. Foote, Cone & Belding, New York, handles the brand.

Kraft's Post cereals currently follow a strategy of "down-home" commercials from Grey Advertising, and has a history of avoiding health claims except in the most general terms.

Contributing: Laura Petrecca.

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