The Cheerios + Ancient Grains product took around a year to develop and will launch nationwide across the US in January, 2015. The cereal contains oat and quinoa clusters and two wheat grains – Kamut Khorosan and spelt.
Alan Cunningham, marketing manager for innovation in General Mills’ cereal division, said the product took a previously niche cereal trend into the mainstream aisle.
“While ancient grains are primarily in natural and organic cereals, Cheerios will be the first large cereal brand to bring it mainstream,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
While it may be the first cold ready-to-eat cereal from a large brand to contain a blend of ancient grains, other cereal majors have products containing ancient grains. Kellogg, for example, launched Special K Nourish hot cereal in June last year with quinoa among other grains and Post Foods’ Great Grains brand contains wheat, barley and millet flour.
Asked if ancient grains had a place in the mainstream cereal aisle, Cunningham said: “Absolutely. All of our research shows that consumers are eating more ancient grains and there is not a brand better positioned to launch this product than Cheerios.”
General Mills has invested heavily in its best-selling flagship brand over the past year, chasing several trends in the food space.
In June this year it launched Cheerios Protein made from soy in two varieties – a move it said made a high-quality protein available for the entire family – and in January it removed GMO ingredients from its original brand to play into what it described as a growing consumer preference for non-GMO food.
Less fiber, more sugar
Cunningham said use of ancient grains across the food sector had increased by 50% over the prior year.
However, the Cheerios + Ancient Grains product contains less fiber per serving than its flagship counterpart (2 gram per 28 g serving rather than 3 g in regular Cheerios) and more sugar (5 g per serving instead of 1 g).
Asked if such a nutritional difference would concern consumers, Cunningham said the cereal would be accepted because it met taste needs.
“Our new product was created to provide consumers with a great tasting cereal that contains ancient grains. We are confident that the nutrition panel will be accepted by consumers. Cheerios + Ancient Grains contains 17 g of wholegrain, 12 vitamins and minerals and only 5 g of sugar per serving,” he said.