Would you change your cereal purchasing habits because of the box? General Mills is hoping the answer is “yes”.  Earlier this year, General Mills announced it would launch retro packages for five of its Big G cereals. The cereals include Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Reese’s Puffs. General Mills has previously launched cereals with retro packaging; however, this time each cereal’s packaging reflects the year it was first introduced—Cheerios in 1945, Lucky Charms in 1964, Honey Nut Cheerios in 1979, Cinnamon Toast Crunch in 1984, and Reese’s Puffs in 1994. The retro packaging is meant to impart a sense of nostalgia among shoppers, and allow them to “be transported back to the time when these five cereals were first introduced,” according to a company blog post.

While cold cereal has a high household penetration, the category has struggled to increase sales in recent years, while the hot cereal segment has grown. The cold cereal segment still suffers from concerns about high sugar content and satiety, whereas oatmeal is praised for its ability to keep one full, and for its fiber, whole grains, and “superfood” mix-ins like chia and flax seeds. Increasing competition from portable items such as yogurt and snack bars, as well as expanding foodservice breakfast options that cater to on-the-go lifestyles also are impacting the segment.

Adults are becoming a larger audience for the cold cereal segment as the US birth rate declines and their consumption of cold cereal remains high. According to Mintel’s recent Breakfast Cereals US 2013 report, nearly half of adults (49%) indicate they currently eat cold cereal every day or a few times per week, while practically all US households (91%) indicate someone in their household eats cold breakfast cereals.

Marketing tactics for the cereal category, such as this latest campaign from General Mills, are targeting adult audiences in particular, especially as brands have historically been criticized for promoting less-than-healthy cereal directly to children. These campaigns count on the presumed brand loyalty among adults who grew up eating these cereals as kids.

Other leading cereal brands have also used retro packaging in this same manner, including brands of Kellogg’s cereal. These types of campaigns allow for brand engagement, especially across social media platforms where adults are sharing stories of their childhood. While this campaign may not be enough to drive sales on its own, it addresses adult audiences directly and recognizes them as an important consumer group. This is a marketing strategy that appears to be tweaked slightly from campaign to campaign, but always relates back to a theme of nostalgia and influences adults to remember what they love about these brands.

Amanda Topper is an analyst specializing in the food industry. She is responsible for writing monthly analysis reports providing strategic insight and consultancy across several categories from gluten-free foods and cheese to cereal and snacks.

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