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Cheerios Goes Retro

Aug. 11, 2021

When are Cheerios not Cheerios? When they're "Cheerioats."

Did you ever watch an NFL game when one of the teams is wearing retro jerseys, and you have no idea who’s playing?

That’s a little how I felt on my last grocery shopping trip. I was looking to pick up a fresh carton of my favorite cereal, when I encountered, right below the Cheerios, a carton of “Cheerioats.”

At first I thought this it be some private-label product. But no, not with that General Mills logo in the upper left and the distinctive canary yellow trade dress.

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Is someone ripping off General Mills? But if so, why in the world would they change the product name? Plus, my supermarket isn’t exactly Balducci’s, but it’s not so downscale that it would buy cheesy knockoffs from the back of someone’s truck.

Finally it hit me: This is a retro version of Cheerios. I looked on the back of the package, and yup, under the headline “80 Years” there is this explanation:

Before Cheerios there was Cheerioats. Introduced in 1941, Cheerioats was one of the first oat-based ready-to-eat cereals.

I checked the General Mills website, and there was a press release explaining that “The retro, limited-edition box will be hitting store shelves nationally in July.”

Well, it’s a nice idea, I guess. When a product has been this successful for 80 years, why not celebrate it?

But I’m just wondering how many consumers are going to be confused, as I was. It took me half a minute to realize these were actually regular Cheerios, and I cover the food industry for a living. Won’t average consumers be even more confounded?

GM’s only hope is that either average consumers are more sophisticated than I thought, or I’m less so. The safer bet is probably the latter.

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