General Mills said Monday that Michael Phelps will again adorn its Wheaties cereal box, continuing its decades-old tradition of highlighting an athlete following the Olympic Games.
This is the third time, first in 2004 and again in 2012, General Mills has put Phelps on its Wheaties box.
The American swimmer is so decorated, with 23 gold medals and scores of records, that the Golden Valley-based foodmaker created a special “Lifetime Achievement Box” for Phelps, who recently won five more gold medals at the summer games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Wheaties, which General Mills has called “The Breakfast of Champions” since the late 1920s, has long been synonymous with sports excellence. It first featured an athlete on the box, baseball slugger Lou Gehrig, in 1934 and has depicted many legendary figures since, including Jesse Owens, Muhammed Ali, Mary Lou Retton and Dale Earnhardt.
Originally called Washburn’s Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes, Wheaties was General Mills’ first ready-to-eat cereal in 1924. Consumers’ breakfast preferences have changed over the years, veering away from cereal in favor of grab-and-go convenience options or classic eggs. Wheaties is no longer among General Mills’ top cereal brands, but maintains strong name recognition in the breakfast aisle.
Wheaties U.S. retail sales last year, ending July 10, surpassed $33.7 million compared to the nation’s top selling ready-to-eat cereal — Honey Nut Cheerios, which is also made by General Mills — totaled more than $514 million, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.
Phelps’ Lifetime Achievement box should appear on store shelves within a few weeks.
“I am honored to receive the first Lifetime Achievement box from Wheaties. For me it’s another achievement that I’ve been able to accomplish that is still so wild to think of,” Phelps said in a statement. “Every day I kind of pinch myself to see if this is real life. It’s been amazing to be able to know that I’ve put my mind to these goals and been able to achieve them. This all started with a dream, and with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.”
Michael Jordan and other athletes appeared on the Wheaties box multiple times, but this is the first Lifetime Achievement edition in the brand’s 94-year history.
“It was special to watch someone who had experienced so much over the last four years come out of retirement and accomplish something so incredible,” said Dana McNabb, vice president of marketing for Wheaties. “Michael proved that resilience, discipline and performance pay off and we are honored to feature him for the third time, and for a Wheaties Lifetime Achievement box.”