General Mills seems to have it out for your New Year’s resolutions.
The Golden Valley-based company on Thursday made its semiannual announcement of new products that have just hit store shelves — or soon will.
The offerings tilt heavily toward chocolate, peanuts and fruity sweetness: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios. Nature Valley Layered Bar with almond butter and chocolate. Fiber One Cookie Bites in chocolate and lemon.
It has created a new version of Lucky Charms by mixing it with frosted cornflakes instead of toasted oats. The cereal, which came out this week, quickly became a hot topic on food and snack websites.
Students in K-12 schools will see Pillsbury Filled Crescent Rolls in chocolate or grape in the school cafeteria. Even the spiciness of a new Old El Paso fajita sauce is tempered by honey.
“Superfoods like kale and quinoa have emerged in popularity over the years,” company spokeswoman Laura Knutson wrote in a blog post announcing the 32 new items, “but it turns out that people still love classic flavors like chocolate, peanut butter and fruit.”
The company notes that while chocolate seems to be universally loved, peanut butter is distinctly American. Europeans consume an average of one tablespoon a year, while the U.S. average is about 22 tablespoons per person per year.
But with peanut butter’s growing in popularity in Europe, General Mills will roll out a new Häagen-Dazs peanut butter ice cream in pints and stick bars this winter.
The company is sticking to traditional flavors in Asia, with red bean and green tea in a line of mochi-based Häagen-Dazs ice creams. Mochi is a soft, chewy rice cake, sometimes filled with red beans or other pastes and creams.
In its biggest product category, cereals, General Mills is expanding into shredded wheat for the first time. It is taking on rivals Kellogg and Post with Blasted Shreds, which will initially come in two flavors: peanut butter and chocolate, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Its Annie’s Homegrown brand will offer organic Cinnabunnies Cereal that boasts its gluten-free qualities.
The mashup between the nostalgic Lucky Charms marshmallows and sweetened cornflakes goes beyond generating buzz on social media. It’s a strategic update for the leprechaun and a product that dates back to 1964.
“Lucky Charms has been around for a long time, and doesn’t have a great halo as far as how it’s perceived from a category standpoint or for its nutrition,” said Rick Shea, a former Malt-O-Meal executive who now runs a Chanhassen-based food consultancy business. “This is one way they’re directly attacking Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, a franchise and main seller that General Mills doesn’t have a direct competitive alternative.”
The company also is building on new brands.
Oui by Yoplait, the company’s new French yogurt line, will add four new fruit offerings, including key lime and raspberry. Company executives credited strong initial sales of Oui for helping to slow the rate of declining sales of its broader yogurt business.
General Mills for years has tried to balance its product offerings with the competing desires of consumers, who swing between seeking out healthy foods and some that aren’t as healthy but taste good. Executives make no apologies about appealing to the sweeter side of those desires. As Knutson wrote, “Making food people love is our job.”