In case you’re wondering what rabbit videos have to do with ingredient removals: It’s a word play. Trix is the eponymous popular mascot rabbit of one of General Mills’ cereal brands— of course, Trix is a cartoon. The opposite of “cartoon” is, in this case, “real.”
“Real” also happens to be the opposite of “artificial.” “The goal was to spark real competition with real rabbits to celebrate the real progress General Mills has made in removing artificial flavors and colors,” Briana Falk, marketing manager for General Mills’ cereal division, told FoodNavigator-USA.
It isn’t the first time the company used the campaign. The Honorary Real Trix Rabbit was first crowned in January 2016 after a competition was held in October 2015, also to create buzz around the removal of artificial colors and ingredients.
Back then, General Mills’ campaign was to celebrate a milestone—the percentage of cereals with no artificial colors and flavors in the company had reached 75%, which included the brands Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Frosted Cheerios, Fruity Cheerios, Chocolate Cheerios, Golden Grahams, and Reese’s Puffs
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This time around, the company said it has reached 90% of cereals without artificial colors and flavors. Additional cereals without these ingredients today include Basic 4, Cookie Crisp, Raisin Nut Bran, French Toast Crunch and Fiber One Honey Clusters.
“Our greatest challenge to get to 100% is with cereals like Lucky Charms and others that contain marshmallows. Our goal is for all of the remaining cereals to be completed by the end of 2017, but we want to take our time to ensure that our cereals will be just as good as they are today,” Falk added.
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General Mills’ reformulation of a dozen of its cereal brands joins the ranks of numerous other Big Food name brands that have had their ingredients list adjusted to meet consumer demands.
The fanfare surrounding the reformulation announcement comes at a time when the company reported improved cereals performance, which it attributed to multiple reformulation activities. It’s a different approach to that of competitor Kellogg’s, which went down the stealth route for sugar reduction. The category overall is still sluggish, and is criticized by consumer advocacy and health groups for its high sugar content.
So can this #RabbitShowdown win back buyers? A study by CivicScience suggested that changing consumer attitudes means manufacturers can shout instead of go stealth without fear that a reformulation would damage sales.
And, well, it’s the 2010s—cute animal videos and pictures are one of the most prominent cultural trends of the decade, so much so that late night show host John Oliver used it to paint clickbait culture with the punchline “all the puppies fit to print” (referencing former Tribune owner Sam Zell’s infamous “puppies and Iraq” quote from back in 2008).
According to Falk, the initiative’s awareness campaign is getting some attention. “Reception so far has been positive and adorable,” Falk said. Because the competition is still open (it closes today), there isn’t a final count yet, she said.
Looking up #RabbitShowdown and #RabbitShowdownContest brought up 146 videos on Instagram and a handful of videos on YouTube. Submissions can also be made through Vimeo and Vine. For reference, the Honorary #RealTrixRabbit winner back in January beat out 7,600 other rabbits, according to a General Mills blog post.
“Social media and media outlets have both shown some great interaction with this contest of cuteness,” Falk added.
The Honorary #RealTrixRabbit was featured on a limited batch of Trix cereal boxes sold at the winner’s hometown, as well as a feature on advertising campaigns. The current #RabbitShowdown competition's winner will have to settle with bragging rights and some General Mills swag. "We are always looking for fun and engaging ways to connect with our fans. We hope to host additional contests in the future!" Falk added. If a new rabbit is picked, currently crowned Cinnabun of Houston will have to step down.