Cheerios Reboots as Weight-Loss Brand

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Who knew you could lose weight eating Cheerios? The oat-cereal brand has been spun a lot of different ways over its six-decade history, from a playful and convenient baby food to a government-certified cholesterol fighter.

Sales of Cheerios boomed a few years ago after General Mills focused on the heart-healthiness of oats. Then the feds fired a shot across GenMills’ bow, instructing the company that Cheerios had gotten a bit too cheerleady in its front-of-package messaging about the cardio benefits of oats.

So now Cheerios has rebooted and re-emerged, this time as a weight-loss brand. A new partnership between Multi Grain Cheerios and Meredith’s Fitness magazine is limited to 7.5 million specially marked boxes of the cereal that are supposed to be available in supermarkets through mid-year.[more]

Purchasers can take an access code from inside the box to access the free Cheerios-Fitness weight-loss program online, a four-week regimen that includes 1,500-calorie meals and snack menus, as well as a calorie-burning plan and motivational tips and techniques.

But no doubt this program is GenMills’ way of attempting to horn in on the position established by arch-rival Kellogg in the weight-loss business with its highly successful Special K Challenge. Launched several years ago as a two-week contest in which dieters could lose weight through a regimen focused on eating Special K twice daily, the Challenge has evolved to a formidable overall weight-management and lifestyle brand.

Kellogg keeps adding product extensions and new twists to its Special K brand property, too: This month, for instance, it began a customized weight-loss program online, under the Special K umbrella.

It isn’t clear how ambitious General Mills plans to be in diet management, now that it has stuck its finger in the cereal bowl. Reports about the Cheerios-Fitness program don’t indicate that it is suggesting a regimen consisting of nothing but downing huge quantities of Multi Grain Cheerios.

But it is the start of yet another chapter in one of the most compelling rivalries in the CPG business.

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