US breakfast cereal giant Post has launched a major assault on the UK market pitting itself against the might of Nestlé and Kellogg’s.
Honey Bunches of Oats, one of its biggest sellers in the US, hit the shelves of several supermarkets Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Budgens last weekend, supported by a national press advertising push.
Although another of Post’s brands, Grape-Nuts, is already available in the UK, this was the first of its major brands to cross the pond and the opening salvo in a bigger campaign.
Post, which owns US cereals including Honeycomb and Golden Crisp, hoped to establish itself as a major player in the UK and was looking to introduce other products to the market, confirmed Jimmy Carter, sales director at Brands Direct, the sales, marketing and distribution agency driving the UK push.
“Honey Bunches is the number three brand in the US behind Cheerios and Special K, which are firmly established in the UK so you can see why we’ve chosen it,” he said. “We are already looking at what other Post products could be brought into the UK.”
Four of the eight-strong Honey Bunches of Oats flake and oat clusters range have been launched in the UK: honey-roasted, strawberry, pecan and almond (rsp: £2.49).
The brand was targeting a 2% share of the UK’s £1.5bn cereals market, said Brands Direct, which promised “aggressive” promotional activity later this year. Post has also set aside a £3m marketing budget for the brand.
However, some experts predicted that the lack of brand recognition of either Post or Honey Bunches of Oats in the UK would be a major problem.
“This will be a very tough launch,” said Pete Dewar, founding partner of branding agency The Clearing. “It’s not like Oreo, for example, which was already famous in the UK before it launched here. Honey Bunches of Oats doesn’t have that cachet.”
Alex Waters, North American president of The Value Engineers, added that the breakfast cereals market was very different in the UK to the US. “Its message is about taste and health, but health messages are the norm in the UK it will need to somehow set itself apart from the rest of the pack.”
Nevertheless, the real surprise with Post’s move was that it hadn’t come sooner, he said. “Honey Bunches of Oats is iconic in the US. Everyone knows it kids like it because it is sweeter than Cheerios, and it ticks the health box for parents.”