Friday, July 19, 2013

Lucky Charms are one very lucky foodstuff.

It’s not as if I didn’t like ultra-sugary cereals as a kid.,

In my cereal-eating prime my favorites were Sugar Pops (sugar-coated Corn Pops), Frosted Flakes (sugar-coated Corn Flakes), Sugar Crisps (sugar-coated puffed wheat, just not Quaker Puffed Wheat), and an abomination called Sugar Jets, pellets that, in my recall, we coated with puce-colored glop.

It’s REAL FOOD. Sure it is…

You will note that the operative word for all of these healthy breakfast items is “sugar.” Given my mother’s fatwa on candy and soda in the house – one of my brothers, desperately seeking candy, once ate the better part of a box of Ex-Lax – it’s amazing that she actually bought sugar-jazzed cereals. Perhaps they fell in the cookies-cakes-pies-ice cream category, all items we had in plentitude in our house. Go figure.

Anyway, I confess to my childhood affection for the sugariest of the sugared cereals. But I draw the line in the sugar in a couple of places. Despite the fact that the cereal came in the form of letters, which I did like, and were sugar-coated, and thus worthy of a place in my Melmac bowl, I didn’t particularly like Alpha-Bits. And perhaps because they weren’t introduced until I was older, and beyond the full lure of candy masquerading as cereal, I despised Lucky Charms. Even the appeal of the fake-brogued leprechaun left me cold, if not gagging.

So I was surprised to see that Lucky Charms, fifty-years in, remains a top-selling cereal: number ten on the list of best selling U.S. cereals.

1. Cheerios (General Mills)
2. Post (Ralcorp Holdings)
3. Kellogg’s Special K (Kellogg)
4. Kashi  (Kellogg)
5. Quaker Instant Oatmeal (Pepsico)
6. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes (Kellogg)
7. Cinnamon Toast Crunch (General Mills)
8. Quaker Oats (PepsiCo)
9. Kellogg’s Mini Wheats (Kellogg)
10. Lucky Charms (General Mills)

Cheerios I get. While I don’t usually buy the General Mills brand – not sold at Whole Foods, which, even if I weren’t a grocery store snob, is the closest grocery store to where I live – Cheerios is one of my favorite cereals. Although it can’t hold a spoon to Shredded Wheat – unfrosted!

Speaking of Shredded Wheat, what is “Post” cereal?

It can be anything from Shredded Wheat – yea! – to Raisin Bran, which is okay other than for the ball-bearing raisins (why not just buy bran and add your own soft and moist raisins?), to AlphaBits (gag), to Fruity Pebbles (which has something to do with Fred Flintstone and sounds ghastly to me).

Meanwhile, I’m too lazy to read through all the stuff on Post and Ralcorp to figure out who’s doing what to whom – especially after I saw the name ConAgra in there -  other than to find that – as I suspected – Ralcorp has some relationship to Ralston-Purina of Puppy Chow fame.

Of the remaining items on the list, I buy Kashi cereals, but did not know they were part of Kellogg. So much for cereal snobbery.

I also buy Quaker Oats, mostly to make apple cobbler topping once a year.

But where’s Quaker Puffed Rice on the list? How can Lucky Charms be more popular than a cereal that’s shot from guns, rather than gunked up with stale pieces of marshmallow?

But Lucky Charms it is:

Earlier this week, General Mills said the colorful, marshmallow-heavy cereal has been one of the strongest contributors to U.S. sales growth. (Source: Business Week)

As it turns out, the folks who are gobbling up Lucky Charms are grown-ups responding to an ad campaign, which I apparently missed, aimed at adults. LC’s growth in the last fiscal year was double digit, and General Mills estimates that more than 40 percent of its eaters are old enough to vote, drink, and marry.

“We know that adults have always loved Lucky Charms and by reconnecting them with the brand, we have reignited their love of one of their favorite things from childhood,” says Carla Vernon, General Mills’ marketing director for Lucky Charms.

There are plenty of favorite things from my childhood that I have reconnected with, and I have to say that many of them turn out to be disappointing. (Ask me about watching a couple of episodes of  Spin and Marty.) And the thought of reconnecting with Sugar Jets makes my teeth ache. Not exactly a craving for a madeleine.

But, hey, I’m all for Lucky Charms fans reconnecting with their brand. To each his own.

To make the most of this enthusiasm, General Mills is promoting lesser-known chocolate Lucky Charms, which first debuted in 2005, and will add three new rainbow marshmallows for a limited time to its already dizzying signature array: “Hearts, Stars, and Horseshoes. Clovers and Blue Moons. Hourglasses, Rainbows, and Tasty Red Balloons.”

Perhaps because I didn’t like Lucky Charms to begin with, none of the above makes them any more appealing to me, not even the chocolate or the tasty red balloons. I’m always suspect when a foodstuff is described as “tasty”. Taste is in the cereal bowl of the beholder, and mine tells me that combining colored marshmallows with cereal is not something I’m going to find very tasty at all.

But there are plenty folks out there who feel and eat differently, and they’re making Lucky Charms one charmed cereal.

1 comment:

trixie said...

Oh you and your refined palate! Lucky Charms aren't just delicious, they're "magically delicious". And, they are even better than they used to be because there are more marshmallows in there than when I was a kid. I don't think I've seen the ads targeting adults, but every once in a while as a treat I pick up a box for M and me. The chocolate ones don't appeal at all, but the original? - yum! They're really more of a dessert in our house than a breakfast food - I doubt there's much nutritional value there at all!