Cereal, Court Cases And Sweet Memories

by Kevin Burton

Kellogg’s and other makers of sugary breakfast cereals will be restricted in how they market those products in the United Kingdom starting this October, according to the BBC.

The Royal Courts of Justice last week ruled in favor of the government in a lawsuit filed by Kellogg’s. The American food giant had been seeking to prevent new rules restricting the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar and salt from going into effect, wrote BBC reporter Jennifer Meierhans.

“From October, foods deemed high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from prime spots such as checkouts, store entrances, aisle ends and their online equivalents,” Meierhans wrote.  “The halt on promotions such as buy-one-get-one-free offers has been delayed by the government for 12 months due to the cost of living crisis.”

   “Popular Kellogg’s brands such as Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes and Fruit and Fibre are classified as high sugar in their dry form. But Kellogg’s argued including added milk would change the calculation by reducing the proportion of sugar and salt content relative to the weight of the overall serving,” Meierhans wrote.

   The company argued in court that independent market data showed cereals were eaten with milk or yoghurt in 92 percent of cases.

   “But Judge Thomas Linden said Kellogg’s cereals ‘do not come with instructions for preparation which say that they should be consumed with milk.’” 

   “Linden said there was no dispute that breakfast cereals can be part of a healthy diet.  He added, however, that promoting the nutritional benefits of a particular breakfast cereal, ‘does not affect the point that if it contains excess fat, sugar or salt, that feature of the product is adverse to a child’s health,’” Meierhans wrote. “Nor does mixing a breakfast cereal which is high in, for example, sugar, with milk alter the fact that it is high in sugar.”

   His judgement said he found no unfairness to Kellogg’s and the public health case for the new rules was compelling, proportionate and rational.

   Chris Silcock, managing director of Kellogg’s UK, said the firm would not appeal, but urged the government to rethink the new rules.”

   “By restricting the placement of items in supermarkets, people face less choice and potentially higher prices,” Silcock said.

Kellogg’s agreed in 2019 to pay $20 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in the US over the marketing of sugary cereals. That case argued that Kellogg’s falsely advertised some of its cereals as healthy and nutritious when it contained added sugar, according to Food Navigator.

   The cereal maker also agreed to refrain from using the words “healthy,” “wholesome,” “nutritious” and “benefits” to describe products as a whole.

    The company was forced to remove the words “Heart Health” and “Lightly Sweetened” from boxes of Smart Start, Raisin Bran and Frosted Mini-Wheats.

   But if the courts aren’t loving sugary breakfast cereals these days, many others still have a taste for them. That sweet savor is being reproduced in a wide variety of other products, wrote Hallie Lieberman in Smithsonian Magazine.

   “Cereal has become one of the go-to flavors in both unofficial cereal-adjacent products and official branded items like the scarlet-colored Fruity Pebbles syrup that you can drench your Lucky Charms pancakes in while swigging coffee topped off with Golden Grahams creamer,” Lieberman wrote.

   “No cereal flavor is more ubiquitous than Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which is now available as a cake mix, popcorn, a spice called “Cinnadust,” creamer, protein bar, frosting, oatmeal, milk, and ice cream, among other things,” Lieberman wrote.

   “Before long we will reach a singularity where there is no longer the flavor of cinnamon sugar, no one will know what that flavor is, it is just all Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” joked Justin McElroy co-host of the cereal podcast The Empty Bowl.

   “So why cereal and why now? And are these products merely trying to recreate cereal flavor or the nostalgia that goes along with it?” Lieberman asks.

   “According to the cereal companies themselves, cereal has become the ultimate nostalgia-driven comfort food, reminiscent of childhood and a pre-pandemic time when death and disease weren’t looming around the corner,” Lieberman wrote.

   “Because of the of the stress from the pandemic and everybody being cooped up at home, we saw this resurgence of nostalgia, ‘kidult’ culture, where people are looking back to familiar products, trusted brands that take them to a happier simpler time,” said Claudine Patel, the chief marketing officer at Post Consumer Brands.

   “The trend started before the pandemic, but has accelerated during it,” Lieberman wrote. “Since 2016, sales of cereal have been declining or stagnant, but cereal sales increased 10.4 percent in 2020, and cereal has become cool again, according to CNN Business.

    “The reason cereal had been trending down in the years pre-Covid was…you can’t carry a bowl with milk in it and eat it with two hands while you’re driving,” said Russell J. Zwanka, director of the food marketing program at Western Michigan University. “[During the pandemic] everyone was finally home again, so they returned to eating a slower breakfast.”

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