Special K US annual sales slump 9.7%

By Kacey CULLINEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Special K sales slump: 'Obviously there’s a concern… They need to do something to keep people interesting in the brand, says Mintel innovation head
Special K sales slump: 'Obviously there’s a concern… They need to do something to keep people interesting in the brand, says Mintel innovation head
US total sales for Special K dropped $56m for the year; a slump that could be rescued with lifestyle-focused NPD, says the head of innovation at Mintel.

Total sales for the 52 weeks ending August 10, 2014 were $521,636,864 - down 9.7% from the same period in 2013, according to data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI.

While sales for its flagship Special K brand were up 14%, the majority of its portfolio was down.

Red Berries sales dropped 13.57%; Multi Grain was down 58.66% and Cinnamon Pecan sales fell even further (70.59%). Special K Blueberry posted sales drops of close to 100% - 98.15%.

Discussing the total 9.7% slump, David Jago, director of innovation and insight at Mintel, said it was “a reasonable drop off”.

“Obviously there’s a concern… They need to do something to keep people interested in the brand,”​ he told BakeryandSnacks.com.

Packaging innovation versus product change

Over the past few years Kellogg had done little to alter the formulation and product of its Special K cereal line, Jago said, choosing to stick to package redesigns instead – some of which had proved successful.

Kellogg launched night-themed packs this summer, for example, promoting its cereals as a night-time snack, he said. “It’s quite interesting – that’s going to stand out in the Special K line. And the pack re-design is actually a really low-cost way of keeping consumers interested in the brand. You change the pack but there are no formulation costs – it’s just a bit of printing.”

Kellogg launched a night-time pack range this summer
Kellogg launched a night-time pack range this summer

However, Jago said Kellogg would need to do more to spark increased interest in Special K and turnaround waning sales.

“I don’t think they want to do anything too radical, because let’s not forget it’s still a multi-million brand. But they need to think about some of the varieties – maybe editing the range just to keep consumers interested,”​ he said.

Red Berries for example was perhaps not as interesting for consumers as it was a few years ago, he said. “Most flavors in any range have a certain life cycle – that’s not unusual. It might pick up again; it might just be a bit tired.”

Special K Protein posted phenomenal sales of 500+%
Special K Protein posted phenomenal sales of 500+%

Forget dieting, think lifestyle

Kellogg had long positioned its Special K line as more of a good lifestyle choice as consumers lost interest in dieting, and this was a strategy the company should keep, Jago said.

“The number of consumers in any country on a diet has typically been falling, not growing. They don’t have the same believability in those diet plans; Weight Watchers has struggled and you’ve seen Slim Fast fall through the floor. Special K has traditionally been the one that’s survived that, by getting in quite early on with a lifestyle branding.”

US sales of some Special K variants were indicative of the success lifestyle positioning had, he said.

Special K Protein had done exceptionally well with a sales growth of 531% for the period, IRI data indicated, and Special K Oats & Honey also posted a 152% rise in sales.

“Oat is a destination ingredient; consumers are really turned on by oats. Anything with oats and protein is doing really well,”​ he said.

“…For the longer term, focusing on healthy lifestyle is absolutely the right thing to do.”

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