Kellogg Co. starts shipping its new Kellogg's Pokemon toasted oats cereal with marshmallow bits in May. Kellogg's licensing agreement with Nintendo of America also will include cross-category promotions later this summer.
The effort follows General Mills' November launch of a line of Pokemon Rolls fruit snacks, Kraft Foods' introduction of Pokemon Macaroni & Cheese in February and H.J. Heinz Co.'s recent placement of the popular characters on its Heinz ketchup bottles as part of a rebate offer for the "Pokemon: The First Movie" video.
Retailers, rather than balking at the clutter of Pikachus on their shelves, plan to welcome the new Pokemon cereal, no questions asked.
"You can't say no to Pokemon," one Midwest grocery executive said. "You've just got to ride the wave. It's here to stay for a while, and we might as well take advantage of it."
JUMP ON IT
Another grocery executive agreed, saying he would "jump on the new Pokemon cereal with both feet" as a result of the early success of the Kraft and General Mills entries.
"I've always been skeptical about this licensing stuff because there are some companies that have a mixed record with it," he said, "but Pokemon fruit snacks have done probably better than any other fruit snack ever, including Rugrats."
The new Pokemon cereal, which features four different Pokemon-shaped marshmallow bits, is the first in a series of efforts Kellogg has planned to leverage what it terms "Pokemania" among kids ages 5 to 10 and bring fun and excitement to its brands, a Kellogg spokeswoman said.
Among such efforts will be a national promotion in the summer that will offer "high-value Pokemon premiums" inside several of Kellogg's top kid-targeted products.
In January, Kellogg partnered with Children's Television Workshop to offer Sesame Street Mini-Bean beanbag toys inside 25 million boxes of its kids' cereals -- among them Apple Jacks, Corn Pops and Rice Krispies -- in a similar attempt to build sales in the lusterless cereal category.
Pokemon cereal in June will be supported with an extensive TV and print campaign, from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, as well as with point-of-purchase materials intended to lure young fans of the franchise, which has grown to include videogames, a No. 1-rated TV series, toys, film and a slew of licensed products.
The ready-to-eat cereal category grew 2.1% to $7.7 billion for the year ended Jan. 30, according to Information Resources Inc., due in part to the surge of marketing support Kellogg has put behind its brands.
Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, which has been the focus of a new ad campaign from Burnett, is up 12.8% to $317.3 million, and Raisin Bran Crunch -- introduced in 1999 and backed by an edgy campaign from J. Walter Thompson USA, New York -- has risen to $69.7 million in sales.