General Mills Cereal Boxes Go Retro

General Mills is evoking childhood nostalgia by launching five of its best-selling cereals in retro boxes.

The cereals—which are part of General Mills’ “Big G” moniker—include Trix, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms. The limited edition versions will start appearing on shelves at Target stores this weekend as part of a monthlong promotion. This marks the third year the food maker has partnered with Target to strengthen the manufacturer-retailer relationship.

General Mills is selling the cereals for a suggested retail price of $2.75 a box. They feature “fun, ‘retro’ package designs and premium offers from the 60s and 80s,” said David Oehler, Big G promotion marketing rep. A retro box of Lucky Charms, for instance, shows an older, more storybook-like version of Lucky the Leprechaun, the brand’s mascot.

Last year, General Mills rewarded consumers who submitted proof-of-purchase labels from five retro cereal boxes with T-shirts sporting similar designs. This year, however, the promotion includes games and prizes that evoke childhood memories, such as an Atari Flashback 2 game console.

“Retro is so in right now—whether it’s clothing, cars, apparel [or] packaging. Many folks remember some of the fun prizes and games as a child growing up,” Oehler said of how General Mills selected the prizes.

Matt Britton, CEO and founder of Mr. Youth, a New York-based social marketing agency, said General Mills’ promotion with Target is just one example of how packaged goods companies are trying to cozy up to their retail partners. In choosing Target as its sole sponsor for the launch, General Mills is aiming to “show its point of differentiation and value to its key merchants,” Britton said, and therefore, the retailer “is able to offer something to consumers that no one else can.”

The retro trend is not exclusive to cereals. Pepsi, for example, launched “throwback” versions of its Mtn Dew and flagship, Pepsi cola products. It also used social networks like Facebook to spread the “throwback” concept. “If you look on Facebook, there’s a trend where people are posting their throwback and nostalgic pictures . . . Retro is something that will continue to evolve. It won’t go away,” said Britton.

Similar to Pepsi, consumers who manage to snag the limited edition General Mills cereals will likely post pictures on Facebook and will spread the word among friends, Britton added.

General Mills spent $262 million advertising its Big G cereals in 2008, and $279 million through the first 11 months of last year, excluding online, per the Nielsen Co.