General Mills' Milk `n Cereal Bars are marketed to parents buying groceries for the kids back home, but a funny thing has happened since the 2000 product introduction.
Adults now account for half of the product's consumption.
In the highly fragmented snack and granola bars category, Milk 'n Cereal Bars rank fifth behind products from PepsiCo's Quaker, Kellogg Co. and General Mills' own Nature Valley brand. Sales for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 7 totaled almost $73 million, according to Information Resources Inc.
But here's the catch: None of the four larger brands is coming anywhere close to recording the 33% annual sales growth General Mills is seeing with Milk 'n Cereal Bars.
The product's popularity comes as no surprise to Eric Lucas, 40, VP-marketing for Big G Child & Channels. Familiarity with the core product is key, says Mr. Lucas, who favors the Cocoa Puffs bar, just as he liked Cocoa Puffs cereal as a kid. "I think our success is fundamental to the fact people like those cereals," he says of the four bar varieties. "Our message is quite simple. It's everything but the bowl."
Mr. Lucas is well-versed in how to market winning formulas in small packages. As marketing manager for the yogurt business, he was instrumental in developing Go-Gurt.
From the start, the marketing team wanted the message to be motivational and informational, hence advertising that continues to emphasize the bars' calcium and vitamins. "That's a message that consumers want to hear," he says.