The latest launch from Kellogg’s may seem at odds with the general climate. Two months after the introduction of HFSS restrictions, it has unveiled its seemingly most indulgent product yet: Crunchy Nut Salted Caramel

The “flavour twist” is the first adaptation of the biggest-selling – and most sugary (alongside Frosties) – Kellogg’s cereal brand since its 1980 launch.

Surprisingly, the salted caramel variant does contain less sugar than the original, at 9.6g per 30g, as opposed to 11g. But it’s hardly a health product. And it comes in contrast to the prevailing tactics in the cereals category, which has been home to a spate of health-led innovation as suppliers look to duck HFSS legislation and retain promotional space.

Kellogg’s has also been busy on this front. In the past year, it has reduced the salt content by an average of 19.8% across the Special K range and opened a £500k food innovation centre, aimed at improving the nutrition and sustainability credentials of its products.

Crucially, though, it has chosen not to reformulate its popular Crunchy Nut, Frosties and Krave brands to avoid compromising their taste. 

And, looking at the data on these more indulgent products, the case for a salted caramel variant is only strengthened. Crunchy Nut may have been in need of some pepping up, having lost 1.3% or £1.3m of its value, according to data from The Grocer’s upcoming Top Products Survey. But Krave (up 3.8% to £32.6m) and Frosties (up 12.4% to £31.0m) have been some of the top performers of the past year [NielsenIQ 52 w/e 10 September 2022].

That data doesn’t cover sales in the wake of HFSS restrictions, introduced in October. But it shows that even as retailers prepared for the clampdown, and many pre-emptively changed their displays, shoppers still wanted more indulgent lines.

The launch of Crunchy Nut Salted Caramel plays to the insight that taste remains the largest motivation behind most purchases, regardless of government interventions. Crunchy Nut’s strapline makes clear its selling point: “The trouble is they taste too good…”

As Kellogg’s senior sales director Chris Dallison points out, there is no room for sacrificing that taste in the name of health. “No consumer is going to put up with poor-tasting food and no retailer is going to support a range that doesn’t deliver commercially.”

That point about taste is also backed by Delifrance marketing director Stéphanie Brillouet. “When we asked people what influenced the breakfast choice during the week, the first thing that was mentioned was taste at 46%, the second thing was convenience at 42%, and health was actually third at 30%.” On weekends, health was bumped down further to fourth place, as shoppers chose to treat themselves.

Still, Kellogg’s will have to tread carefully, given that closest rivals are working to offer the best of both worlds: ‘treat’ lines that are also non-HFSS.

Take Weetabix, which teamed up with Lyle’s Golden Syrup to launch a sweetened – but non-HFSS – version of its core breakfast biscuits in May, and debuted a limited-edition HFSS-compliant chocolate orange flavour for its Weetos brand in February. The manufacturer even added a non-HFSS Nutty Crunch cereal under its Oatibix brand in February, as a direct challenge to Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut.

Then there’s Quaker Oats, which in August added a duo of ‘heavenly’ porridge pots in Caramel Fudge and Chocolate Orange flavours – both of which are compliant. They were developed to lure young adults to the brand, says marketing director Corinne Chant.

If these lines can live up to their indulgent-seeming premise, Crunchy Nut Salted Caramel may just have a challenge on its hands.