Weetabix is introducing a traffic light system on its packs to bust myths around the sugar levels in breakfast cereal and build trust with consumers by “informing them about what they are putting in their baskets”.
Mintel data shows that 52% of those who eat breakfast cereals say they check the sugar content before choosing a new cereal and 31% say concerns over sugar content have caused them to cutback the amount of cereal they have eaten in that past 12 months.
Speaking at a press briefing at its headquarters in Kettering today (6 September), head of category at Weetabix, Francesca Davies, said: “I want to bust the myth that all cereal is created equal because they are not.”
The brand is rolling out its traffic light system with the new packaging showing Weetabix Original and Protein products to have a green sweep across the four indicators of fat, saturates, sugar and salt, which is something that “not many manufacturers” have a claim to when it comes to cereal packets, according to the brand.
Davies added: “Health is a key driver for people buying cereal and it’s also the biggest barrier to them buying more.”
The brand’s own data shows that seven-in-10 are becoming more concerned about the health benefits of cereal. “That is not a statistic that we like,” said Davies, adding that the brand therefore is looking to move the conversation forward and “do the right thing for British consumers” by “constantly raising our game in nutrition to bust that concern”.
The company also felt a sense of “duty to inform consumers about what they are putting in their shopping baskets” and talked about the process as “holding a mirror up” to its own efforts in helping consumers reduce the amount of sugar in their diets.
“[Consumers] are looking to reduce the sugar intake in their diet – when we hold a mirror up as a cereal manufacturer arguably we have created that problem and shame on us as a manufacturer in the cereal category.”
Francesca Davies, head of category, Weetabix
During the briefing, Davies charted the sugar levels in some competitors’ products not to “point fingers” or make the “competitor set look bad” but to “demonstrate that everybody needs to up their game”.
The data presented is based on Ofcom nutrition standards, charting the percentage of the volume of cereal that is considered healthy. Only 7% of Kellogg’s volume of cereal sold between May 2014 and May 2015 was considered healthy.
Davies said: “I would love to know if Kellogg’s are looking at what they do next. To see that they have a clear plan about how they can do the right thing on sugar within the category because its the right thing to do to get that sugar down.”
The food and drink industry overall is facing pressure, particularly around sugar. In August the Government’s decision not to introduce a blanket ban on advertising unhealthy food and drink to children as part of its ‘childhood obesity strategy’ was welcomed by marketers.
However, while there will be no ban on junk food ads, brands still face a sugar tax and targets to cut 20% of the sugar out of their products by 2020.
Nestlé’s percentage score of ‘healthy’ volume sold is 37%, 42% for Quaker and
private label cereals score 60%. Weetabix stands at 97% of volume.
Davies said: “This isn’t to puff our chest and say, ‘aren’t we amazing’ because if we were that amazing the category wouldn’t be declining per capita.”
Falling sales of breakfast cereals
Mintel data shows that UK sales of breakfast cereals have fallen from 467 million kilograms in 2011 to an estimated 432 million kilograms in 2016.
Data from Nielsen also shows that nine-out-of-10 of the biggest cereal brands are in decline as consumers move toward breakfast alternatives such as eggs, fruits and yoghurt.
Weetabix’s innovation pipeline has aimed to add variety in the choices available to consumers as its own research showed a lack of excitement about cereal.
Weetabix Protein, Alpen Granola and drinks product On The Go have driven “considerable amounts of cash” into the category and Weetabix puts this down to dialling up its nutrition story – something they will focus on in the future.
“Weetabix has a very strong heritage for innovation, in flavoured variant and the drinks business – it’s [about] making sure that we meet the growing dietary needs [of consumers],” said CEO Giles Turrell.
Turrell added: “Everything we do here is anchored to our nutrition strategy. With the sugar and health debate going on in the market place we are in a better position to help consumers start their day healthily.”