- General Mills is bringing back its classic recipes for four of its cereals: Cocoa Puffs, Golden Grahams, Cookie Crisp and Trix, according to a release. This reformulation back to retro '80s recipes is permanent and is now available at retailers nationwide.
- In the "new" formulations, Cocoa Puffs will have more of a chocolate taste, Trix will bring back its classic six fruity shapes, Golden Grahams will have honey again and Cookie Crisp will have more of a chocolate chip cookie taste.
- Nostalgia is a growing trend as consumers lean on brands that pull on their heartstrings during the pandemic. This appeal has, in recent years, been especially strong in the cereal category as brands look to appeal to indulgent childhood favorites to reinvigorate sales.
As more Americans eat their breakfast on the go, cereal sales have gone soggy in recent years. From 2009 to 2016, sales decreased 17%. That decline has only continued. Unit sales of ready-to-eat cereal were down 1.5% in 2018, according to Nielsen.
To combat this slide, manufacturers, including General Mills, have unveiled several tactics in an effort to boost revenue. Among them is introducing indulgent flavors and focusing on making cereal an appealing snack food rather than exclusively relegating it to the breakfast table.
In part, this sweetening of the cereal aisle was an appeal to nostalgia to remind millennials why they loved cereal so much as a child. General Mills is further capitalizing on cereal's associations with childhood by releasing these 1980 reformulations with a classic Saturday morning cartoon marathon hosted by '80s teen star Mario Lopez on Oct. 3. The promotional marketing event will feature cartoon classics that General Mills hopes consumers will watch with a bowl of cereal, as they might have as kids more than 30 years ago.
Nostalgic products have gained more attention as the pandemic has sent consumers searching for comfort in familiar products. Nostalgia is effective tactic to appeal to consumers, even when wallets are thin. After the Great Recession, marketers were eager to tap into nostalgia to boost sales, according to The New York Times. To bring back memories of old times, General Mills sold its cereals in throwback boxes in Target stores.
Not only are times of economic downturn an opportunity for companies to capitalize on nostalgia to increase volume sales, but a study conducted by the Journal of Consumer Research found consumers were willing to pay more when they’re nostalgic because it provides an immediate sense of happiness and comfort. Research has shown that consumers have a special preference for flavors they enjoyed before they were 10.
At the same time that sugary cereals may attract consumers back to the cereal segment, there is a good portion of the market that is interested in healthy options. Organic cereal has carved out a bigger share of the market in recent years, according to Grand View Research and consumers have turned away from added sugar, which has led some cereals to reformulate.
The 1980s cereals that are reappearing on modern-day shelves will feature the same tastes they had 40 years ago. If the ingredients are identical, that could pose problems for consumers that are looking to distance themselves from artificial colors and sweeteners. Products in the 1980s had ingredient labels with more chemical-sounding ingredients, which may turn off today's more clean label-conscious consumers. Nutrition Facts labels in the '80s also didn't require manufacturers to disclose added sugars, meaning the exact same formula could look a bit more jarring to consumers.
This isn't the first time General Mills has walked back a cereal reformulation. In 2016, General Mills reformulated its Trix brand to remove artificial colors. After consumer complaints, a year later, the cereal manufacturer brought back its classic colors. Now, the natural colors version is sold alongside the artificially brightened puffed shapes, an approach that allows the cereal brand to appeal to a wider range of people without alienating core consumers.