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General Mills: Soy protein Cheerios hold mainstream appeal

By Kacey Culliney+

04-Jun-2014
Last updated on 04-Jun-2014 at 12:32 GMT

Cheerios Protein to hit mainstream: 'Protein is a significant opportunity in cereal,' says marketing head at Big G Cereals
Cheerios Protein to hit mainstream: 'Protein is a significant opportunity in cereal,' says marketing head at Big G Cereals

General Mills has developed a high-protein variant of its flagship cereal brand Cheerios using soy – a product it says will sit comfortably in the mainstream breakfast aisle.

Cheerios Protein rolled out across the US in two varieties – Oats & Honey and Cinnamon Almond – with each serving containing seven grams of protein, 11 g with milk. The line has joined a handful of high-protein cereal brands from General Mills, including Fiber One Protein and Nature Valley High Protein Granola.

Matt McQuinn, senior marketing manager for new products at Big G Cereal for General Mills, said the high-protein product sat comfortably in the mainstream breakfast cereal aisle.

“This is a family cereal that you will see alongside yellow box Cheerios… Parents are looking for breakfast options that will provide long-lasting energy and their kids will enjoy,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.

“The General Mills team saw the opportunity to offer a breakfast option that provided a high-quality source of protein for the entire family."

The protein promise

Protein has picked up a lot of interest over the past few years, a trend Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at Datamonitor Consumer, said was fueled by a ‘healthy halo’.

“Interest in protein has grown faster than interest in almost any other nutrient or ingredient,” he said in a protein seminar presented in April, 2013 .

In particular he said frozen yogurt and breakfast cereals were segments to watch. The number of breakfast cereals making high-protein claims in 2011-12 was up 5.2% compared to 2009-10, Datamonitor Consumer data showed.

McQuinn said it was this increased interest in protein that had prompted General Mills to develop Cheerios Protein. “More people are looking for items that contain protein, and we wanted to offer a breakfast option to meet their needs,” he said.

“Protein is a significant opportunity in cereal and Cheerios Protein delivers a great tasting protein cereal that has all-family appeal.”

Soy for complete taste

General Mills had chosen soy as its protein ingredient because, firstly, it was a complete vegetarian protein, McQuinn said, but secondly, the taste profile worked best in the breakfast cereal.

“The priority was to create a great-tasting product that delivered the protein that consumers want.”

Asked if General Mills had plans to develop more high-protein cereals, he said the company did not want to say for competitive reasons.

However, General Mills previously indicated it would launch two new varieties of its Fiber One protein cereal in the second half of fiscal 2014.  General Mills committed to innovating its way out of struggling cereal sales, with its CFO saying the company would not wait on industry trends to improve. Q2 2014 net sales for the cereal giant dropped 0.1% compared to the previous year.

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