Kellogg and Special K Hope to Gain Profits by Losing the Weight Loss Message

special-k-cerealsWe’re all accustomed to the Special K ads that traditionally hit the airwaves during the fall and winter, urging us to stave off seasonal weight gain by eating cereal instead of huge meals or sweets, with taglines like: “What will you gain when you lose?”

Well, it seems Kellogg is about to answer its own question, but from a marketing standpoint.

Kellogg Co. CEO John Bryant said during an earnings call last Thursday that reduced-calorie messaging no longer resonates with consumers, referencing weaknesses with other similar food categories like diet sodas and reduced-calorie frozen meals. “I think consumers are changing their views on weight management from ‘reduce calories’ to ‘nutritious foods’,” he said. Special K can “absolutely meet that criteria…It’s a very nutrient-dense food form. But we haven’t been communicating it that way. So we are increasing our communication more down that path as opposed to reduce calories.”

This shift comes after Kellogg’s U.S. morning-foods division posted a net sales decline of 4.9% in the second quarter. Special K was the biggest loser, with dollar sales of the main variety falling by 22.3% in the 52 weeks ending June 15 to $175 million. Meanwhile, Special K with red berries dropped by 13.2% to $134 million.

And while Special K is clearly the brand most in need of a revamp, this change is part of a larger branding shift for Kellogg, which is also adjusting strategies for its other cereal brands. For instance, the company has begun marketing cereal as a night time snack to increase consumption, is increasingly targeting adults with cereals traditionally aimed at kids, and also plans to revive the damaged Kashi name by, as Bryant puts it, “returning the brand to the leading-edge of the natural and organic food world.”

In order to make these adjustments successfully, Bryant feels “this business requires an entrepreneurial approach, shorter development periods and a more agile decision-making process.”