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By Hollis Ashman and Jacqueline Beckley, Consumer Understanding Editors | 09/06/2006
Taste: Sweetness and taste novelty are ways to drive sales of breakfast foods. Consumers have different interpretations of what is good flavor in a breakfast cereal. Better packaging films have helped freshness. Nature’s Path uses a variety of textures (grains, fruit, etc.) and unexpected flavors (banana, almond and green tea) to deliver a unique flavor and texture experience.
Healthiness: Breakfast cereals have focused on reducing the amounts of fat and calories. In the 1950s through the ’70s, a great deal of cereal fortification occurred, allowing breakfast cereals to deliver as many goods as multivitamins. There has not been strong attention toward providing healthiness via naturally occurring positive additions of ingredients except for calcium in the milk. The additions of fruit may provide the opportunity. Nature’s Path takes this a step further with protein and fiber. The whole package delivers satiety, promises muscle recovery and still tastes good.
Nature’s Path Organic Optimum cereals are available in a variety of “flavors” that are linked to benefits. Optimum Zen (inner harmony) uses ginger, cranberry and inulin to deliver gut health benefits. Optimum Power has soy, flax and blueberries. Optimum Slim is for weight control.
Optimum ReBound relies on a power foursome of banana, flax, almond and green tea to deliver a natural nutrient cocktail. The package is green with a burst of the word organic across the top. The photo shows the texture and variety of grain flakes, nuts and fruits in the cereal mix. High Fiber, No Trans Fats, Low Sodium are spelled out at the top; also apparent are 400 mg omega-3, 10g protein, 6g fiber. The USDA Organic and Whole Grain badges are proudly displayed.
The box also suggests “enjoy within 60 minutes of workout,” clearly linking the benefit of the protein to the activity. Turn the box over and there is a science lesson in muscle recovery, leveraging the fact that most consumers read the cereal box while eating the cereal.
The product has a number of different pieces with flakes: flattened grains, clusters and fruit. So it was interesting to look at. Aroma was slightly sweet. The bananas have a strong natural banana flavor.
Most of our testers keyed into the health benefits but began to worry how the product would taste. Optimum ReBound had some interesting reactions while being tasted. The chalky bitter notes of many high protein/wholesome cereals is missing. The crunch and chew of the piece variety mixed with nuts generates a low sweet flavor that helps the cereal taste good. Almost not healthy tasting. We thought: Is this the new taste of organic cereal?
The cereal held its crispy, crunchy texture under milk for quite a while. You leave the meal with a strong feel of satiety. You’ve really eaten something, not just milk and airy pieces of cereal.
This product had 190 calories per serving and 50 calories from fat, along with the usual multivitamins. The fats are considered to be “good” fats, so the testers felt the fat content was acceptable. The fiber content at 6g delivers 24 percent of the recommended daily amount.
The box lists only five servings. It is very dense and does not fill the entire box. This density could create a problem if the whole family sat down to eat breakfast together and ate the whole box at one meal.
Nature’s Path Optimum ReBound is about healthy eating that delivers benefits. The food is healthy; the concern is whether the consumer can measure the protein benefit in a short enough amount of time to stay with the cereal. The product delivers a healthy product that tastes better than expected. And the brand is about taking care of the Earth through sustainable organic farming.
How to make the idea bigger: We picked the Optimum brand because we felt it was doing a lot to make the organic idea bigger. Most tasters, while nervous about the initial idea of Optimum ReBound, felt this was something they could stick with for better eating.
Healthy benefits that make sense at breakfast delivered through whole natural foods – this was a great win with all the testers. Getting trial is based on credibility and belief that the benefits will be delivered. It takes more than a science lesson on the back of the box to get to belief.
Not everyone is going to go for all the billboarding Optimum does on its cereal box. But it does attract attention and it did educate a few of us.
Rating: This product delivers on the promises.
Market Potential: Good.
Hollis Ashman is chief strategist and Jacqueline Beckley is president of the Understanding & Insight Group, a strategy, business and product development firm that connects with consumers using qualitative and quantitative approaches. See www.theuandigroup.com.
Jacqueline Beckley was named an IFT Fellow at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and expo in June. “IFT Fellow is a unique professional distinction which shall be conferred only on a living person with outstanding and extraordinary qualifications and experience for his or her overall contributions in the field of food science and technology,” states the nominating form. We congratulate her and are proud to have her on the Food Processing team.
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