Cereal manufacturers are striving to improve their image with lower sugar and salt versions

Cereal manufacturers have worked hard in the past year trying to improve the image of their products as a response to media and government attacks on the salt and sugar content of cereals.
And, in stark contrast to just a few years ago, consumers increasingly know what they are talking about when it comes to healthy products.
Cereal Partners’ marketing director Dez Timmiss says: “One of the key drivers of breakfast consumption is health and this has been reflected in the ways brands have been launched or advertised in recent years.
“Seven of the top 10 fastest-
growing brands over the past 10 years have a health message. From the perspective of consumers, 29% of breakfasts are consumed because they are healthy, compared with 20% for all foods.”
A number of big players have
been focusing on promoting the benefits of wholegrain as consumer and media interest has grown in this area, as well as reducing the sugar and salt content of products perceived as less good for you.
Quaker, for one, reduced sugar in its popular children’s brand, Sugar Puffs, by 25% in April, a move which the company says has resulted in stabilising sales.
Elsewhere, Weetabix redesigned its packaging to reinforce the wholegrain message by highlighting both wholegrain and the nutritional benefits of the individual brands.
According to CEO Ken Wood, the changes have proved a “great hit with core consumers as well as helping to drive trial of our brands”.
Weetabix also launched two new health-oriented products, Weetaflakes and Alpen No Added Sugar with apricots, dates and pistachios.
Although it is still early days for Weetaflakes, it has had a warm welcome from buyers. “It is a little early to comment on this product, but I do believe the newcomer will fit nicely into Weetabix’s portfolio,” says Nisa-Today’s category controller Clifford Frazher.
Kellogg has also kept health on its radar with two newcomers, Kashi and Tiger Power, launched last year. While Kashi takes a more grown up approach to health, Kellogg hopes its use of Tony the Tiger will prove a hit among kids.
Frazher does voice some doubts, however, about the latter. “I think the name is confusing and does not reflect what the product is.”
Meanwhile, companies that claim their offerings to be genuinely healthy have in many cases spent time promoting the goodness of their products more actively.
As a joint effort, the cereal industry last year responded to negative media coverage by forming the Breakfast Cereal Information Service, which provides information on the category as well as engaging with the media to inform and educate about the many benefits and the important role breakfast plays in a balanced diet.
With the total cereals category in healthy growth, it would appear that manufacturers are slowly succeeding in improving the image of cereals.
“Consumers know that manufacturers are taking the issue seriously and are reassured that products on shelf can help them meet government health guidelines,” says Praveen Vijh, co-founder of Eat Natural.
On the organic side, Whole Earth Foods recently announced that it is supporting its cereals with a £1m marketing spend this year - its biggest ever. The activity will include a raft of new product launches, including porridge oats, Red Fruit Crunch and Perfect Balance cereals in March, and the introduction of new contemporary packaging across its range.
“Organic cereals are enjoying almost 20% value growth, driven by the increasing consumer trend to eat natural and healthy alternatives,” says Whole Earth Foods senior brand manager Melanie Dean.