General Mills to customize cereal on Web

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General mills has become the latest package-goods marketer to try direct-to-consumer sales as it launches a test of a customized online breakfast cereal

For about $1 a serving, the site lets consumers custom-blend breakfast cereals from more than 1 million possible combinations and have their creations shipped from in two to four days.

The move follows Procter & Gamble Co.'s launch last year of customized beauty-care e-tailer and other direct-to-consumer sales for several other brands. These efforts are aimed mainly at building buzz for new products. P&G also plans to test of Culinary Sol, a Cincinnati-based cooking school that will also sell ingredients in the store and online.

rival Kraft Foods, which owns the Post cereal brand, has run Gevalia, a direct-to-consumer mail-order coffee business, since the 1980s, possibly providing Big G some cover against retailers who object to being bypassed.

A spokesman, however, said the company hasn't received and doesn't expect complaints from retailers. "These are all very specialized products that would never be allowed to take up space on retailers' shelves," he said. "I think retailers understand that."

Most other package-goods companies, including Unilever, however, have shied away from direct-to-consumer sales.

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