It seems consumers prefer their toast crunchy rather than tiny — at least in their cereal bowl, General Mills has discovered.
The Golden Valley-based company is forsaking its newest cereal line, Tiny Toast, less than one year after its highly celebrated launch. But the little pieces of blueberry- and strawberry-flavored toast aren't leaving store shelves entirely. The product will be folded into General Mills' popular Cinnamon Toast Crunch family of brands and renamed Blueberry Toast Crunch and Strawberry Toast Crunch.
General Mills will also introduce another variety, Apple Cinnamon Toast Crunch, later this month. These three new varieties join French Toast Crunch, which relaunched in 2014 after a seven-year hiatus, as alternative flavors in the Toast Crunch brand.
It's unclear why General Mills didn't launch the cereals as new variations of Toast Crunch from the beginning. Last June, analysts applauded the innovation saying the cereal industry needed new and exciting products to jump-start squishy sales. Still, building a new brand is often riskier and more costly than adding a new flavor to an existing brand. For Tiny Toast, those challenges proved greater than any amount of buzz created by the new product.
"Same cereal, new name," General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas said in an e-mail. "With the similarities to products in the Toast Crunch family, from a marketing perspective it makes it easier for us to introduce these products to more people and it reaffirms that they taste great."
The company sold more than 4.5 million boxes of Tiny Toast in U.S. retail stores in the last year, according to data ending May 14 and collected by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. During the same period, Americans bought nearly 111 million boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, the nation's fourth favorite ready-to-eat cereal brand.
General Mills has released an array of seasonal and limited-edition cereals over the years, but Tiny Toast was the company's first new cereal line in 15 years intended to be a permanent fixture in the breakfast aisle.
In 2001, the company launched "Harmony" — a low-fat flakes and oat clusters cereal marketed to women — but pulled it two year later. Reese's Puffs, debuting in 1994 and produced under license with Hershey, was the last all-new cereal line from General Mills to achieve longevity.
In the past year and a half, the Minnesota food maker's cereal business has stabilized relative to many of its other units.
General Mills reported in March a 1 percent decline in cereal sales in the U.S., the company's largest region, while U.S. yogurt dropped 20 percent and U.S. meals and baking declined 10 percent last quarter.
The blueberry and strawberry varieties began appearing on store shelves under the new name in recent weeks. Shipping of Apple Cinnamon Toast Crunch began last week and the product will appear on store shelves nationwide later this month.