by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Cereals

Jun 23 2014

Annals of marketing: Protein cereals

Hoping to cash in on the current protein craze, General Mills has come up with this (thanks to Kasandra Griffin of  Upstream Public Health in Portland, OR,  for sending):

Cheerios1

 

Cheerios Protein has 7 grams of protein per serving.  But it also has 17 grams of sugars.

I use sugars, plural, for good reason.  Here’s the ingredient list:

Cheerios3

In case you can’t read this: Whole grain oats, cluster (whole grain oats, brown sugarsoy protein, lentils, sugar, corn syrupnatural flavor, molassesrice starch, caramel (sugar, caramelized sugar syrup), salt, calcium carbonate, baking soda, color added, BHT added to preserve freshness), sugarcorn starch, honeysalt, refiner’s syruptripotassium phosphate, rice bran and/or canola oil, color added, natural flabor, brown sugarvitamin E (mixed tocopherols) and BHT added to preserve freshness.

A trip to the supermarket also turned up these:

This one has 16 grams of sugars.

And here’s another.  This one only has 7 grams of sugar per serving.  How come?  Sucralose!

Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

And just a reminder about protein: American consume roughly twice as much as needed.  Protein is not an issue in U.S. diets.

This is about marketing, not health.

I guess Cheerios SUGARS, Fiber One SUGARS, or Special K SUGARS PLUS ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS wouldn’t go over nearly as well.

Mar 24 2014

Some musings on non-GMO Cheerios to start the week

I read about General Mills’s introduction of non-GMO Cheerios back in January, but didn’t get around to looking for them until this weekend.

I was expecting to see something like this (thanks Fooducate):

Instead, the information is tucked into a side panel. 

New PictureNew-non-GMO-Label-Original-CheeriosWMSmThis may explain why General Mills is complaining that the non-GMO is not doing a thing to boost sales of Cheerios.  If anything, sales are “down somewhat.”

And here’s a good one: According to one professor, the non-GMO Grape Nuts and Cheerios are going to be less nutritious than the GMO versions.

Post Foods’ new non-GMO Grape Nuts (click here ) no longer include Vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12 or vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)*, while the new non-GMO Original Cheerios no longer have Riboflavin on the ingredients list (the old version has 25% of the daily value in a 28 g serving while the new version has 2% of the DV).

How come?  It’s hard to find non-GMO vitamins (who knew?).  Vitamins, it seems are often produced from genetically engineered microorganisms, or from microbes growing in fermentation tanks that are fed a nutrient mix that contains ingredients from GM sugar beets or corn.

Should we be worried about nutritional deprivation among Cheerios eaters?

Cheerios are essentially a vitamin pill wrapped in rapidly absorbable starch.

The ingredients: whole grain oats, corn starch, sugar, salt, tripotassium phosphate, wheat starch.

Everything else is added vitamins.

Personally, I prefer my cereals with no added vitamins (they taste bad).  And I doubt they make much difference to health.

Whether non-GMO will have a noticeable effect on sales of Cheerios remains to be seen.

If General Mills doesn’t advertise the change, it can’t expect non-GMO to boost sales.

Curious, no?

 

Jul 30 2013

Breakfast cereals: hefty money-makers (especially those with sugar)

Food Navigator just did a report on cereal “blockbusters,” the top best-selling brands.

Numbers like these are so hard to come by that they inspired me to make a table.

I looked up some figures on advertising expenditures for specific cereals from Advertising Age, 100 leading advertisers (June 24, 2013).

Top selling cereal brands, July 2012-June 2013

RANK CEREAL COMPANY REVENUE,$ MILLIONS * ADVERTISING.$ MILLIONS *
1 Honey Nut Cheerios General Mills 556 **
2 Frosted Flakes Kellogg 446  50
3 Honey Bunches of Oats Post 380  –
4 Cheerios General Mills 364 **
5 Cinnamon Toast Crunch General Mills 292 36
6 Special K Kellogg 284 141
7 Frosted Mini Wheat Kellogg 281 67
8 Lucky Charms Kellogg 259 15
9 Froot Loops Kellogg 176 13
10 Raisin Bran Kellogg 170 13

*All numbers rounded off.  **All forms of Cheerios: $167 million

My conclusions:

  • At least 8 of the top 10 are sugary cereals.
  • At least 5 are targeted to children.
  • Six of the top 10 are made by Kellogg.
  • Advertising expenditures are roughly proportional to sales (Special K is an exception: not sure why).

Think about what that money could do if used to promote public health.

Feb 22 2013

Kellogg’s Scooby-Doo: nutritionally groundbreaking?

Can something like this be nutritionally revolutionary?

 

Kellogg has just launched this cereal with just 6 grams of sugars per serving—half of what’s in most other cereals aimed at kids.

It’s also lower in sodium, but everything else about it looks pretty much the same:

http://www.kelloggs.com/content/dam/common/products/nutrition/124171.jpg

Will Kellogg put money behind this cereal and market it with the millions it spends to market Froot Loops?   Will it reduce the sugars in its other cereals?  Will other cereal companies do the same?

Or will Scooby Doo suffer the fate of Post’s no-added-sugar and otherwise unsweetened Alpha Bits introduced in around 2005?

http://www.chewonthatblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/11alphabits.jpg

Post put no money into marketing the cereal and dropped it after just a few months (Alpha Bits now has 6 grams of sugars per serving).

Let’s give Kellogg some credit for giving this a try.   I’ve looked for Scooby Doo in grocery stores but haven’t been able to find it.

I will watch its fate with great interest.

Update: Thanks to Cara for pointing out that with Scooby Doo, Kellogg adds a cereal to its portfolio that meets requirements of the WIC (USDA’s Women, Infants, and Children’s nutritional support program).  As Jessica, a Kellogg rep explains, “The benefit of this cereal is that it’s WIC eligible and boosts several vitamins and minerals, is low in fat, is a good source of fiber and vitamin D and an excellent source of iron.”

And thanks to an anonymous writer for pointing out that Scooby Doo is directly competing with General Mills’ Dora Explorer cereal for the lucrative WIC market, one that should amount to nearly $7 billion in 2013.  WIC specifies what the benefits can be used to buy.  Cereal companies want to be sure they are in that market.

Jul 17 2012

Summer reading: reports on diet and health

It’s the (relatively) quiet season and I’m getting caught up on reports coming in.   Here are two.

1.  The Bipartisan Policy Center, a group founded by former cabinet secretaries, has come up with a plan to improve the health of Americans: Lots to Lose: How America’s Health and Obesity Crisis Threatens our Economic Future.   The Executive Summary is online, but the website is difficult to navigate and you have to log into Facebook to read the entire report.

The report calls on the public and private sectors to collaborate in creating healthy families, schools, workplaces and communities. Some of the recommendations are aimed at the food environment, rather than individuals, which is good.  And they are addressed to families, schools, workplaces, communities, and farm policy.  But like most such reports this one does not explain how any of its recommendations might be achieved.

2.  The Rudd Center at Yale has produced Cereal Facts, a study showing that cereal companies:

Increased media spending on child-targeted cereals by 34% from 2008 to 2011, mainly on the least nutritious products.

  • More than doubled spending in Spanish-language media.
  • Improved overall nutritional quality of 13 of 14 brands advertised to children by 10 percent on average.
  • Sponsor TV ads that typically promote products containing one spoonful of sugar for every three spoonfuls of cereal.

Two more findings of interest:

  • In 2011, the average 6- to 11-year-old saw more than 700 TV ads for cereals.
  • Although General Mills and Kellogg do make nutritious products that are marketed to parents, they do not advertise those products to children.

Watch the video!

Mar 22 2012

New books: cereals and bread

Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis, The Great American Cereal Book, Abrams 2011.

I love cereal boxes, especially ones with egregious health claims, and I have a small collection dating back ten years or so.  I also, courtesy of Kellogg, have facsimiles of the complete set of Rice Krispies, All-Bran, and Froot Loops, dating back to the first year they were produced.   So I’m delighted to find this history of U.S. breakfast cereals, organized alphabetically by era starting in the 1860s, illustrated with pictures of each.  A encyclopedic nostalgia trip!

Aaron Bobrow-Strain, White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf, Beacon Press, 2012.

Bobrow-Strain organizes this books by dream categories: dreams of purity and contagion, control and abundance, health and discipline, strength and defense, peace and security, resistance and status.  White bread does all this?  Indeed it does in this story of how “white bread became white trash.”  He begins by asking, “Is this stuff even food?”  He ends with the whole wheat phenomenon and “yuppie bread.”  This is entertaining history and an example of food studies in action: using food to talk about important issues in history and contemporary society.

 

Aaron Bobrow-Strain, White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf, Beacon Press, 2012.

 

 

Dec 21 2011

Keeping up with the cereal news

Sugary breakfast cereals are a hard cell these days, and marketers are getting increasingly creative.

Item: The Cornucopia Institute’s investigative report on “Natural” cereals warns consumers that “natural”—a term with no regulatory meaning—is marketing hype.  “Natural” is not the same as Organic.  “Natural” cereals have all kinds of things not allowed in Organic cereals.  It’s best not to confuse them.

Item: Researchers at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity report in Public Health Nutrition that the households in their study tended to buy cereals advertised directly to children 13 times more frequently than non-advertised products, and that African-American and Hispanic families were most likely to buy cereals advertised directly to children. 

Item: The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) reports that General Mills is using claims about whole grains to distract consumers from the sugar content. 

The company’s claim of “More Whole Grain Than Any Other Ingredient*” comes with an asterisk.  This goes to the disclaimer “*as compared to any other single ingredient.”

PHAI suggests taking a look at the General Mills’ web page about sugar.  This says that “Ready-to-eat cereals account for a relatively small amount of a child’s daily sugar intake.”

General Mills compares plain Cheerios (1 gram of sugar per serving) to Trix (10 grams of sugar per serving ), and asks:

From a calorie and nutrient standpoint, are both products a good breakfast choice?

The answer:  “Yes, they are. In fact, all General Mills cereals are lower calorie, nutrient dense choices.

From a calorie and nutrient standpoint, are both products a good breakfast choice?

Yes, they are. In fact, all General Mills cereals are lower calorie, nutrient dense choices.

From the standpoint of nutritionism (judging a product by its nutrient content), Cheerios is a better-for-you choice.

But both are highly processed cereals, thereby raising that same old philosophical question: is a somewhat better-for-you processed food necessarily a good choice?

A good question to ponder as you wander down the cereal aisle.

Dec 9 2011

EWG says kids’ cereals have too much sugar

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is getting interested in childhood obesity.  It released a report on sugars in kids’ breakfast cereals.

The report shows—no surprise—that kids’ cereals are really cookies in disguise, typically 40% -50% sugars by weight.   Kellogg’s Honey Smacks topped the list at 55%.

Michele Simon’s analysis of the report notes that these levels don’t even meet Kellogg’s commitment to responsible marketing, a pledge to “apply science-based Kellogg Global Nutrient Criteria to all products currently marketed to children.”

I’ve been reading reports like this since the 1970s when Center for Science in the Public Interest published them at regular intervals.  Not much has changed.

Courtesy of Kellogg, I have a collection of copies of Froot Loop boxes dating back to the year in which this cereal was first introduced.  I thought it would be interesting to check the sugar content.

Froot Loops, Sugar content, grams per ounce

YEAR GRAMS SUGARS PER OUNCE LABEL
1963-71 Lists calories: range 110-114
1972-75 Lists carbohydrate, not sugars
1976-78 14 Lists sucrose and other sugars
1979-92 13
1993-95 14 Nutrition Facts: sugars
1996-2006 15
2007 13
2008-11 12

In 2005, Kellogg tried a version with 1/3 the sugar—10 grams—but it didn’t sell and quickly disappeared.

Companies are trying to reduce the sugars by a little, but this seems to be the best they can do.  It’s not enough.

As the EWG press release explains, some cereals are better than others.   It notes that I recommend:

  • Cereals with a short ingredient list (of additives other than vitamins and minerals).
  • Cereals high in fiber.
  • Cereals with little or no added sugars (added sugars are ingredients such as honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, corn sweetener, sucrose, lactose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup and malt syrup).
  • Even better, try fresh fruit and homemade oatmeal.
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