Product Spotlight: Nearly fresh fruit in your bowl

Kellogg’s Fruit Harvest Cereal uses the best freeze-drying technology to deliver taste, health, convenience and variety.

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By Hollis Ashman and Jacqueline Beckley, Consumer Understanding Editors


Breakfast in this country once was a substantial meal, heavy on meats and very low in fiber. As a consequence, many people suffered painful gastric disorders. Then Will Keith Kellogg and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg invented the original Kellogg’s corn flake in 1894 at the Western Health Reform Institute. The hospital stressed healthful living and kept its patients on a diet that eliminated caffeine, meat, alcohol and tobacco.

In 1906, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes became available to the general public. From that point on, breakfast cereal has been a part of American culture. It has been one of the key promoters of give-aways, comic characters, radio programs and TV cartoons.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, cereal was very big. Kellogg, General Mills, Post and Quaker were big companies with big budgets. As more and more choice became available in the marketplace, breakfast cereals tried to keep a following by changing shapes, grains and sugar levels. In 2004, Kellogg saw an opportunity to deliver to the consumer the great crunch of cereal with the great taste of fruit and a healthy halo, conveniently all in one box. The result: Kellogg’s Fruit Harvest Cereal.

Understanding the marketplace

A focus on natural has created an issue for most breakfast cereal producers. Many of their products are high in sugar (upwards of 56 percent sugar for products like Sugar Smacks) and far from natural. Those that come close to natural may not appeal to a lot of average consumers due to the flavor and texture impacts from high fiber. Some, like Grape-Nuts, are just plain difficult to eat.

The addition of fruits adds a healthy halo and can improve taste appeal. However, fruit in a box has always been a difficult balance between the moisture of the grain and the fruit. Lower moisture fruits like raisins, dates, and dried cranberries were used to give some fruity punch to breakfast cereals in the past. Strawberries, raspberries and bananas have never been considered low moisture. Thorough reconstitution to the original texture from a dried form used to take a long time.

In 1963, the first breakfast cereal with freeze-dried fruit came to market. Add some liquid and voila: the fruit’s texture is similar to fresh. Freeze-dried fruit can reconstitute quite rapidly and permits more natural fresh fruit flavor and natural color.

Government and health professionals are telling consumers they are not getting enough fruit. Most consumers perceive they are eating between 2 to 2.5 servings of fruit a day not the 3 to 4 recommended. The majority are actually consuming less than one serving per day, according to USDA data. Fruit in cereal leads consumers to believe they are adding one more serving of fruit a day to their diet.

The cold breakfast cereal market was estimated at $6.84 billion in 2002 (not including Wal-Mart), with unit sales down 2.2 percent, according to Information Resources Inc. Kellogg, General Mills, Post and Quaker have about 84 percent of the market. Kellogg, with 31 percent market share, now has about 15-20 percent of its sales coming from new products, according to IRI. New growth areas are expected to be in the areas of health, women's, organic/natural and licensed products.

Kellogg is leveraging the technology of freeze-dried fruit to deliver a compelling story about fresh fruit with a crunchy cereal texture that is a good-tasting, sweet, healthy breakfast food for the mainstream consumer. Despite being a packaged food manufacturer, Kellogg is inching closer to fresh.

Insights

Our It!s Convenient, Crave It! and Healthy You! studies integrated up to 35 categories of linked conjoint studies to generate a database that can be used to understand the experience of foods. When consumers are asked to trade off what was important for breakfast cereal, we find that convenience for breakfast cereals is about tradition, crispy, crunchy freshness, sensory experiences, resealability for freshness and protein content. Healthfulness in cereal is about classic flavors, indulgent sweet flavors, crunchy and all natural.

Kellogg maintained the importance of flavor and textural differences between the flake, the fruit (when exposed to liquid) and the added liquid (milk) along with price to create a healthy haloed product that enhances the experience of freshness and healthiness with real fruits that have not recently been used in a breakfast cereal.

Trends

Key trends in breakfast cereals are value, taste and healthiness. Convenience is an expected norm for breakfast cereals.

Value: Private label or store brands have improved their delivery of quality and sensory attributes. This leads to an expectation that store brands are good enough, driving manufactured brands to even higher levels of creativity and delivery to justify the price difference. Kellogg’s market share has declined due to the imitation of several of their products by private label. But the company now is utilizing technology to deliver a product that is novel to most consumers.

Taste: Sweetness and taste novelty has been one way to drive the sales of breakfast foods. Consumers have different interpretations of what is good flavor in a breakfast cereal. Better packaging films have helped freshness, but a food that can be in a box for up to a year has some difficulty explaining fresh. Fundamentally, a fresh cereal (three months of age or younger) is difficult for the breakfast cereal industry to deliver due to the supply chain. Technologies that can move their products closer to the idea of freshness are compelling and differentiating.

Healthiness: Breakfast cereals have focused on reducing their fat and calories. In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, a great deal of fortification occurred with multivitamins. There has not been a strong focus on providing healthiness via naturally occurring positive additions of ingredients except for calcium in the milk. The additions of “real” fruit may provide the opportunity to have naturally occurring health benefits.

Kellogg's Fruit Harvest cereal uses the best freeze-drying technology to deliver tast, health, convenience and variety.
The experience


Kellogg’s Fruit Harvest is available in three varieties (we tried the Banana Berry Mix) in a 12.7-oz box for $3.59-$3.99. The package is a beauty shot of enlarged flakes and fruit slices to show the texture in the bowl; with the sub-brand of Fruit Harvest across the front. Banana Berry is under a second beauty shot of ripe fruits. Most testers keyed in on the fruit beauty shot and were impressed by the texture and color differences between the flakes and the fruits on the package.

The product when eaten produced some interesting reactions. The cereal flakes maintained their crispy, crunchy texture while under milk for quite a while. The strawberries and raspberries required some soaking in milk to reconstitute them. This means that if you like lots of milk, your berries were looking and tasting pretty good. If you did not like lots of milk, you ate freeze dried fruits (overly sweet with a Styrofoam-like texture).

The raspberries were somewhat tart to some consumers. The strawberries were well liked. The biggest issue was with the bananas. They were polarizing. These are banana chips fried in coconut oil. If you were familiar with or liked banana chips, they were good. If not, the strong coconut oil flavoring was the predominant note. The fruit, if reconstituted, provided a great contrast of chewy, somewhat moist fruit texture in contrast to the crispy flake texture. The flavors of all three fruits were close to natural.

This product had 120 calories per serving and 20 calories from fat, along with the usual multivitamins in a flake that most cereals have. We would have expected that with the fruit, the fiber content would have been higher than 1 g. And we would have expected with the luscious picture of multiple fruits, that we would get a fruit exchange. We did not.

Does the product deliver?

Kellogg’s Fruit Harvest is about ripe fruit taste with a mixture of real fruit, blended with a crunchy, lightly sweetened rice and whole-wheat cereal. The brand is all about crunchy cereal and real fruit, fresh taste. The product delivers a fruit taste and texture if the freeze-dried fruits reconstitute or you think of them as healthier versions of marshmallow pieces.

If you are using the cereal as a snack (without milk) it is a very different experience than if you put milk on it. The reconstituted fruit taste is fresher than fruit typically in packaged cereal. If you compare the fruit taste to real fresh fruit, it is not as good.

The fruit pieces are convenient; they are ready and available right when you want them. There is a faint berry aroma that mixes with the bag-in-box aroma. The fresh fruit attributes of juiciness are missing. If not reconstituted, the berries are soft and chewy. If reconstituted in milk the fruit becomes moister. Was this fresh fruit taste? No, but if you do not have fresh fruit, it was good.

How to make the idea bigger

Most tasters liked the overall idea. If they did not like this execution, they considered that other flavor varieties might meet their needs. Linking the fruits to naturally delivered health claims (similar to what has been done with ketchup and lycopene) might be a consideration. The benefit of fruit is the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and fiber that come with them. With a name like Fruit Harvest, it would be a great idea to get the real benefit of fruit -– like some bran and raisin cereals do.

A final consideration was the fiber levels. Could they be improved? This would take Kellogg full circle back to the original reason for breakfast cereal. Imagine if Fruit Harvest gave you good carbs, a serving of fruit and a good dose of fiber?

Rating: OK. This product does deliver on some of its promises. However, this is not really fruit as depicted on the package. We believe the consumer has learned not to expect too much from these kinds of executions, so they are going to be happy with the fruit, even if not real close to fresh.

Market Potential: OK. There will be many variations of this type product in the future.

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