The Cereal Company that Ran Out of Excuses Before they Ran out of Business
By: Krystyna Adams, Tara Walton, Suzanne Vander Wekken
Upon request here is our story for your reading pleasure:
- One rainy day in January in the beautiful province of BC, a head representative from Kellogg Food Manufacturing Company, Mr. Glucose, sped along the #1 Hwy in an oversized delivery truck on the way to deliver their sugary cereals to the whole region. Seeing them coming all the way from the bridge, health promotion specialists Suzanne, Krystyna and Tara waved them off to the side of the road as they approached their office at the Ministry of Health Promotion. The three began asking where exactly Mr. Glucose and his driver were going. They explained that they were off to deliver their tasty collection of sweet cereals to the major grocery chains in the lower mainland, where most of the population lives–most especially children, who gobble these products up. “But your products are so full of refined sugars…and they have nearly no protein or fibre! People who eat these products are at much higher risk of becoming overweight or obese and getting diabetes,” exclaimed Krystyna, also a pro athlete, as she read the nutritional label on the side. “We really don‘t care about producing healthy products. We just make something that tastes good,” they explained, and loaded back into their truck and with a spew of black exhaust continued on their delivery route.
- In February, the truck came roaring by again, and once again the health promotion team Tara, Krystyna and Suzanne waved them to the side of the road. Once again they asked Mr. Glucose to consider how much sugar was in the products his company produced, and consider how this was impacting the health of the population. “But these are the products we have always made. Everyone loves Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch. We never really thought of changing what we do.” So the health promotion team explained what happens when there are too many sugar-laden products on the market, and how this is a significant contributing factor to rising rates of childhood obesity.
- In March Mr. Glucose and his driver came driving in on Hwy #1 once again, forgetting that they ought to change their route if they wanted to avoid the tenacious health promotion trio–Suzanne, Tara and Krystyna. Suzanne was ready for them with new market trend research that showed that consumers are starting to recognize their need to eat healthier. “But even if people say they want to eat healthier, they won’t like our product if it has less sugar in it. We have only ever had feedback on how delicious our products are and how much children ask their parents to buy them.” So Suzanne proceeded to explain that pretty soon people will catch onto the health trend and will search for low-sugar options when they read nutritional labelling. She added “Mr. Glucose, you ought to think of reformulating your products before it is too late and your consumer market and reputation begins to erode.” Mr. Glucose took note, and agreed that he would consider it, and that he would like to meet with them the next month to talk more.
- In April, Mr. Glucose returned for the meeting as promised. “I’ve been looking at the consumer trends, and I think you ladies may be onto something with the market shifting as people wake up to diabetes, and are becoming more health conscious. However, even if I wanted to reformulate, the process is too expensive. I don’t know if we could manage the investment in new machinery, formularies and packaging.” Tara pointed out that although it was a bit of an investment, surely the company made sufficient profit and they should consider it to be a long-term investment. More importantly, it would help to show corporate responsibility in response to the public health concern of rising childhood diabetes. Mr. Glucose thought this sounded reasonable, but said he would need to go back to the drawing board and work through the financial kinks.
- In May, Mr. Glucose returned with some thoughts of new ways to reformulate the products to have lower sugar, but he was still uncertain about making the change. “We’ve contacted several of our loyal customers, and asked them about what they would think about us changing the recipes for some of our cereals. They didn’t sound interested. I don’t think it’s worth our efforts to make these changes if people won’t buy it!” Suzanne explained that most people were resistant to the idea of change at first. She suggested it might be helpful to invite some of these people in for a taste test, so that they could actually try the new and improved cereal, and see how much better it was for themselves. Mr. Glucose agreed to run some taste tests over the next month and get back to them about moving forward with the plan.
- In June, Mr. Glucose met with the girls again, this time much more confident in the new and improved healthy cereals. “The taste tests were successful, and the focus groups all agreed that the new products were just as tasty if not better than the old ones. The problem is that they don’t have the same shelf life. If the products don’t last as long there will be a lot of waste. Especially if people aren’t buying the new product right away.” Krystyna reminded him that with enough marketing and planning they could make a quick enough turn around. Especially if they used some of the positive results of the taste testing in their new advertising campaigns. Still apprehensive about investing so much money, Mr. Glucose agreed to go to his marketing team, to find out about costs and benefits.
- In July, after having met with the marketing team, Mr. Glucose brought back some new concerns to the girls. “The marketing team thinks we have some good material to promote the new cereals, but, they are worried about introducing the healthy product line when the competitors won’t change. If customers can get their sugar fix from those other cereals, they’ll just buy from our competition!” Suzanne tried to ease his anxiety by showing him recent consumer research that clearly showed an increasing rise in the desire for healthy products, and a decrease in the sale of over-processed, sugar-laden foods. Happy to see these findings, Mr. Glucose decided it was time to start thinking about production and distribution of the new products.
- One day in August, Mr. Glucose unexpectedly showed up at the ministry, looking panic-stricken. “Even though we have developed a great product, and it seems like people are interested in buying it, I went to several of the convenience stores that typically stock our cereal, and the stores won’t sell it!” Tara shared with Mr. Glucose that she wasn’t overly surprised that the convenience stores didn’t seem interested in selling the new product, since they typically stock pre-packaged foods, that are known to be less healthy. She recommended that he instead turn to some of the other grocery stores in the neighborhood that clearly had a focus on healthy foods. She gave him a list of different places to try, and Mr. Glucose set off to approach these new businesses.
- In September, when all the children were returning to school, a much happier Mr. Glucose met with the girls to share some positive news. “You were right, the stores who had health as a bottom line for their products were all thrilled to carry our new line of cereals, and now we have the competitive edge for cereals! We’ve just launched a big batch of cereals, and the shelves will be fully stocked by theend of the week!” Mr. Glucose thanked the girls and rushed off to get back to his busy factory.
- In October, Mr. Glucose sat in an office at the Ministry of Health Promotion over a cup of green tea talking with the health promotion team. “I never thought I would be convinced that we needed to change. Kelloggs Cereal have a brand new face. Our Fruit Loops actually have real dried fruit in them and our Captain Crunch Cereal has a fraction of the sugar, whole grain and more flavor from spices. We have gained a whole new market audience in addition to maintaining a good number of our old client groups. Plus the media is catching on, and our reputation is starting to be more connected with corporate responsibility and healthier products.” Tara, Suzanne and Krystyna smiled with satisfaction, and asked Mr. Glucose to sit on their Partnership board and advocate for corporate responsibility in combating childhood obesity through improved food environments.