brand challenges

Wheaties Heading to the Locker Room?

Posted by Mark J. Miller on April 5, 2012 10:01 AM

There was a time, not so long ago, that every athlete in the land dreamed of seeing his or her face on a box of Wheaties, "the Breakfast of Champions." Wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin has been there. Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench has been there. Soccer legend Mia Hamm has been there.

Probably the most famous Wheaties box, though, was the one featuring Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner, who won gold in Montreal in 1976 and of course went on to be the step-patriarch of the Kardashian family. In all, hundreds of athletes have been on a Wheaties box since the practice began in 1934. It’s not looking good for the athletes of tomorrow to get the same pleasure. In fact, most athletes of tomorrow aren’t likely eating Wheaties for breakfast.

General Mills, the maker of Wheaties and a slew of other cereals, may be responsible to 32% of the cereal market domestically, but Wheaties is only bringing in 0.5% of the market these days, according to CNBC’s Darren Rovell. Back in the ’60s, Wheaties was powerhouse as it took care of 6.5% of all cereals, he notes.

"Wheaties had a clear brand identity," stated Lloyd Moritz, the editor of cereal blog The Breakfast Bowl, on CNBC. "The problem was they rested on their laurels."

Rovell points out that Wheaties has made efforts to expand with Honey Frosted Wheaties in the mid-90's, Wheaties Energy Crunch in 2001, and the two-year-old Wheaties Fuel — but none of them caught on.

A particular disappointment, Rovell adds, has been Fuel, which only brought in $5.2 million (outside of Walmart and convenience stores) last year even though its got such big athletes as Albert Pujols, Peyton Manning, and Kevin Garnett endorsing it.

“In total, yearly Wheaties sales have brought in $38.7 million, down 18.6% from a year ago,” the CNBC report commented. “Total boxes sold are under 10 million, down 22.5%, meaning roughly 4,000 fewer orange boxes are being sold in the U.S. per day than were being sold just three years ago.”

Part of the brand’s problem is that it isn’t healthy enough for the healthy crowd and isn’t unhealthy enough for the folks who love sugared cereals. It’s looking like, at least in the cereal world these days, nice guys finish last.

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