Not Your Dad's Breakfast Cereal: Cheerios Debuts 'Ancient Grains'

New Line Extension Is Made With Quinoa, Puffed Spelt, Kamut Wheat

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Maybe this will seal the case that quinoa is going mainstream: Cheerios, the nation's largest cereal brand, is putting it in a new variety called Cheerios "Ancient Grains," which also includes puffed spelt and kamut wheat.

The product, which adds yet another line extension to the rapidly expanding Cheerios franchise, is one of 50 new products that General Mills will begin rolling out in January and says are meant to "meet increasing consumer demand for better-for-you snacks, products with simple ingredients, protein, gluten-free and bold flavors."

Also coming is Yoplait "Greek 100 Whips!" that General Mills describes as "a Greek yogurt mousse with 9 grams of protein per serving in a light and airy whipped texture." As previously announced, General Mills will also bring back French Toast Crunch cereal, which was discontinued in 2006. The marketer also plans to continue seizing on the gluten-free trend with its Chex brand, which will launch Chex Gluten Free Granola Mix.

The new products come as General Mills and other large consumer packaged goods brands continue to battle smaller organic and natural foods brands that have made inroads in grocery aisles. In the four weeks ending Nov. 22, General Mills posted a 1% sales decline, underperforming the broader packaged food industry, according to a recent report by Sanford C. Berinstein that uses Nielsen data to track 10 food companies.

General Mills, which will report its quarterly earnings on Wednesday, said that that Cheerios is the first brand to "bring ancient grains to the mainstream cereal aisle." That might be true, but quinoa has been inching into the mainstream for a while. For instance, in late 2013 Kellogg Co. began marketing Special K Nourish Hot Cereal, which it describes as a multi-grain blend of "superfoods" like quinoa, oats, wheat and barley topped with dried fruit and nuts.

So, just what is an "ancient grain?" Here is how the Whole Grains Council defines it:

Traditionally hailing from South and Central America, Asia, and Africa, an "ancient grain" refers to grains or seeds that are just that: ancient. These seeds haven't been modified over time by plant science. Most 'modern grains' have been extensively cross-bred to make them easier to grow and ultimately process, while ancient grains remain closer to their original form.

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