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What Would You Advise the President of Cereal?

April 15, 2015   49 Comments

Some influential people get to visit the White House to meet the president as part of their job. I get to visit Minneapolis.

Ask the President of Cereal

Why Minneapolis? The headquarters of General Mills is there and I have a meeting with the head cereal honcho – and, no, I am not making this up.

Ordinarily, they don’t allow me inside places such as corporate headquarters because I have been known to stand outside of them with a sign of some sort (once I was photographed outside of a Gristedes protesting juice boxes) but General Mills thinks Snack Girl can behave. I believe they think I might actually be helpful.

General Mills produces Cheerios, Chex, Kix, Fiber One, Lucky Charms, Total, Trix, Wheaties, among others.

When I shared on Facebook that I had this meeting with the cereal boss, my buddies all started telling me what I should convey for them. It occurred to me that my readers here on Snack Girl might also have something to say.

Breakfast cereal is on the decline here in the United States as we have begun eating all sorts of things for breakfast (quinoa, anyone?). When I was growing up, it was either Corn Flakes or Cheerios for breakfast. In 2015, my kids eat all sorts of things to start their day and, yes, sometimes they eat cereal.

What do I have to say to the cereal chief? I have not thrown packaged cereal under the bus like many of the “real food” bloggers with whom I hang. I think that you can find good ones if you follow my Healthy or Crappy Cereal Test.

I would, of course, like to see more cereal that passes the test (less sugar, whole grains, high fiber).

I am not going to Minneapolis until May so I have plenty of time to collect opinions.

Please share your respectful comments, questions, advice, and thoughts below and I will print them out and bring them to share with Jim Murphy, President Big G Cereals.

I am happy to convey your disapproval as long as it is shared respectfully. Since they let me inside, I am going to engage in productive discourse and, hopefully, affect change.


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49 Comments:

Congratulations Snack Girl on this opportunity and giving us a chance to have a voice too. As a mom and RD as soon as Cheerioes came out with chocolate flavored I was livid. Cheerios is one of the fewest sugar laided cereals on the market. They're the icon of starter foods for toddlers. Now even at church I see the mom pull out the chocolate Cheerios. I'm sure she doesn't realize the sugar content jumped 9 fold! Children get enough sugar throughout the day, they don't need to start with it. Encourage them to market low sugar cereals as cool! Come on Big G you have a great opportunity to brand yourself different and be a trend setter! Good luck!!!

on April 15, 2015

Cereal costs fifty cents a box to make (including ALL costs), yet sells for nearly ten times that. Ask them to explain that. Ask how they can sell a box of sugar and flour and call it nutritious.

Most of the cereal is eaten by children, and the obesity rate for children in this country is of epidemic proportions. Ask them how much money they have put into researching the role of cereal manufacturers in this tragic attack on the health of children

Children and adults should be eating dinner for breakfast, and breakfast for dinner. It would solve the obesity problem and increase the productivity of students and workers.

Starting the day with a bowl of sugar, corn and flour does not help anyone, except those cereal manufacturers you plan to visit.

on April 15, 2015

Cheerios and Corn Flakes were pretty goood choices. No wonder you are healthy! Didn't you ever get Rice Krispies? You are lucky your parents did not buy all those junky sugared cereals that keep kids quiet. So my advice to the big boys. Keep it simple - good grains, no sugar.

on April 15, 2015

As an avid Snack Girl follower and healthy conscious person, I'm just simply wondering why can't some of the healthier cereals that are available in the U.S. be found in Canada?

on April 15, 2015

My family loves cereals. We went gluten free and Chex is our favorite. I love the chocolate, whereas my husband loves the honey nut. So what's the catch? We only eat cereal as an occational DESSERT; never at breakfast.

on April 15, 2015

Give me a "transparent" cereal with limited ingredients (like 5, max) and honest labeling, so ALL of us ~ from moms with young families, teenagers, college students, young professionals just starting out in their own apartment to baby boomers and seniors ~ can go into the grocery store, reach for your box, read the label and nutrition information with no hidden ingredients, no double-talk and no lies. Oh, how I wish I could just run into the store and grab that awesome cereal and know it was 100% healthy + good tasting, without having to pull out my laptop and research everything. Thank you, Snack Girl, for going to bat for us on this! You're awesome!

on April 15, 2015

I'd love to see some grain free options (quinoa, nuts, fruit, coconut...), and if you're going to use grains trying sprouted grains and more whole pieces (not just flours).

on April 15, 2015

No GMO's or BHT.

on April 15, 2015

I was delighted when I was able to buy Gluten Free Chex. It tastes Good!!!! Unlike most GF cereal including GF Rice Krispies. I would love to have the option to buy a good tasting GF Cheerios.

on April 15, 2015

Hello,

I rarely eat breakfast cereal and the main reason is it has too much sugar and not enough fiber!!I would prefer cereal that is whole grain with less sugar. Cereal actually tastes good with less sugar. When I do eat cereal, I like chex, cheerios, Fiber one and shredded wheat(plain). Thank you and I pray that the meeting goes good and the cereal boss's decide to change the way they process cereal.

on April 15, 2015

Good for you! Cereal is a frequent breakfast item around here for my 14 year old son - with about 20 minutes in the morning from waking up to out the door, it is quick and puts something in his stomach. He does like Wheaties (yay!) and we add unsweetened dry cranberries. (I think the marketing with sports players is great and probably influences him!) Unfortunately, he also likes Lucky Charms, and a lot of the sugary cereals too - I will by them on occasion.

Funny story - we had wild turkeys in our yard the other day & my son wanted to keep them around, so he grabbed the first thing handy - a box of Lucky Charms & tossed them on the lawn for the turkeys. Well, they ate the cereal & left all the marshmallows!

on April 15, 2015

No GMOs or BHT...and organic ingredients.....we've basically given up processed cereals and switched to organic rolled or steel cut oats.

on April 15, 2015

Cheerio's, regular & honeynut, are my favorites. of all the department store cereals. I look for least amount of sugar, some fiber and some protein. I also buy Wheaties and fiber one. Most cereals are junk food labeled as breakfast cereal. I never buy those kind.

on April 15, 2015

late spring through late fall I am a cold cereal eater...Post shredded wheat and bran minis, Post raisin bran and wheat chex.....all low or no added sugar, natural fiber and high in fiber....NO HFCS....I am cutting that out as much as possible plus all the other names corn "sugars" goes by....and when I eat these cereals I do not sprinkle on sugar....never have...grew up that way....

keep cereal ingredients simple....leave out the HFCS....unless it's corn flakes, why do we need added corn product....I like the KISS method...;-)

on April 15, 2015

I agree that we need more grain free options, or at least whole, gluten free grains, non-GMO, and less sugar. Also no artificial ingredients like dyes and flavors. But it has to be marketed at a reasonable cost for families. I have found in my quest to eat healthy my grocery bills are enormous. Gluten free, whole foods, organic, free range, grass fed...all these cost triple the alternatives, and packaged trash is cheap and easy, so it's often a go to for busy, cost conscious families. No wonder we not only have an obesity epidemic, but so many people are afflicted with cancer, MS, Parkinson's, ALS, heart disease, diabetes, and dozens of other serious illnesses. Maybe starting with GM, we can have an ally in the mammoth food industry to start making good food (as in tastes good) that's good for you, affordable and readily available in mainstream markets.

on April 15, 2015

I would love more cereals with high protein. I'd eat it much more if that were the case!

on April 15, 2015

I personally don't like cereal. The whole thought of it getting soggy in milk is a huge turn-off for me. My girls do like cereal though and they usually have it for about a week once a month (eggs the other weeks). They eat plain cheerios and milk. They love it. My father in law likes to buy them tons of Lucky Charms. They usually open up a cup and eat some and the rest I throw. In the end, it's up to the parents to make the right choices for their kids, not the cereal companies. Want them to stop making cereal with so much sugar? Stop buying it!

on April 15, 2015

As a dietetic intern in my renal (kidney failure) rotation, I've learned there is a need for more cereal made without phosphate for those who need to restrict phosphorus intake. More options without phosphates would be great for this population.

on April 15, 2015

My husband has a gluten sensitivity so he was thrilled to learn that Cheerios is going gluten free. My hope is that in removing the glutenous content - that it is not replaced with sugar. I certainly respect that consumers should have choices but cereal boxes should be labeled with information to help the consumer make an informed choice. Simple ratings = A - not quite cardboard but most healthy; B - a bit tastier - still healthy; C - good choice all around and tasty; D - taste great - not so good for you; F - well, you get the idea.

on April 15, 2015

More corn free cereals. My son was diagnosed with a corn allergy and so few cereals are corn free. Not a lot of options, especially for a kid.

on April 15, 2015

my fav cereals as a kid were cocoa puffs & lucky charms. I'm 52 and still could eat a box of either at any given time. Because they're sweet. The sugar is an addiction for some people. Please, less sugar in cereals!! And don't replace sugar with other sweeteners. Just make them less sweet.

on April 15, 2015

Ask the manufacturers of the food on our shelves -- would they feed it to their own family; is it made of the best ingredients they can use or is it money driven decisions to make the most profit on the backs of the working poor and they don't really care at all what the food items are doing to the population as long as the profits are there. Lisa; you'll need to reword this so it isn't so blunt. I am a victim of too much "Mad Men" marketing exposure!

on April 15, 2015

I will only buy a few cereals. For myself, I mostly stick with the 10 gram of protein version of Special K; I can't buy any of the other varieties of Special K because they're loaded with sugars. We also buy plain Cheerios with 1 gram of sugar. Sometimes we'll find an organic brand without too much sugar; my daughter enjoys some of these (and would love the ones full of sugar, but I refuse to buy 'dessert' for breakfast! I don't even consider 99% of the cereals on the shelves.

on April 15, 2015

We have many additives in our food that are GRAS yet are not allowed in other countries due to possible side effects. When many of the cereal available to the US consumer is also available in other markets (Canada) yet some of those GRAS additives are not included in the Canada cereals.

Give the US consumer the same cereal available in other markets, it is something already being manufactured so it should be an easy implementation.

on April 15, 2015

Ask them to consider the low carb market of eaters and come up with a low carb option we can enjoy with our almond milk. Something under 10 carbs a serving!

on April 15, 2015

Fabulous Lisa! I'm smiling as I read about your upcoming meeting with Jim Murphy. This is a huge subject, starting with why mainstream cereal sales are down. Mr. Murphy knows why, he has only to see the organics marketshare on the rise. Consumers are reading labels more and more, consulting the internet, changing to alternative brands. There will remain a consumer base who will grab a non-health-promoting box/bag/bar of ''food''. But as evidenced by your readers' comments and a growing food activist movement [thank you internet!], brand-loyalty is out and sales will continue to plummet. Nostalgia over Cheerios, corn flakes, Rice Krispies, etc. is losing. Folks are doing the oatmeal, granola, home-made substitute in all its many forms via a quick google. Also, companies like Nature's Path are filling consumer needs with perfect one for one healthy replacements for the taste, shape AND nostalgic memories of beloved cold cereals Cheerios, Corn Flakes, etc. [that are ALL organic, GMO Verified and many available in eco bags to save$ and environment]. I, for one, order my Nature's Path old-time favorites, processed sugar-free, and free-shipping for a $39 order! Great cereal with fresh fruit! I would ask Mr. Murphy to look at Nature's Path Business Model, use transparent labeling, adopt organic standards and opt for marketing that emphasizes the earth, the endangered species and of course, our health! In the meantime, for those of you who yearn for healthy cold cereal not readily available near you, check out:

http://us.naturespath.com/our-products

Can't wait to hear how your meeting turns out, Lisa!

on April 15, 2015

This is more of a marketing suggestion: I don't like soggy cereal, so I eat mine (usually something high fiber and/or protein like puffins or Kashi, with blueberries and some nuts) with Greek yogurt instead of milk. Now that's a power breakfast that keeps me going all day (if I have it for breakfast) or night (if I have it for dinner)

on April 15, 2015

I still love cereal but wish it was lower in sugar, higher in REAL fiber but still tastes good!

on April 15, 2015

I consult with childcare centers to help them improve their menus and meal environment. In order to improve their menus we advise them to serve more whole grains in the form of brown rice, quinoa, bread, crackers, and cereals. We encourage them to follow best practices which are 1) less than 6 grams of sugar and 2) greater than 50% whole grain. Centers have difficulty selecting cereals because the cereals are not well labeled.

Truth in labeling would be great; for example, "less than 6 grams of sugar," "100% whole grain," "50% whole grain." Also, develop more fun low sugar, whole grain cereals that moms and child care staff can trust.

on April 15, 2015

I'm in love with the Fiber One Protein Cereals; it's one of the few "granola-type" cereals that allow a full cup of cereal as a serving and it fills me up with some milk & fruit. I just wish it wasn't so expensive...can't the Big G bring the price down?

on April 15, 2015

Is there any chance they will go to bag-only to save on costs (and to save on trees) associated with boxed cereals. There's some amazing brand out now that are bag only. The best part is they are also made using wind power AND are healthier than the regular cereals. Bag-less is great because you can store the cereal in a glass or plastic container or just go with the bag provided for LESS than other brands.

on April 15, 2015

No BHT! Some of their cereals don't have it, why do others?

on April 15, 2015

So awesome, Snack Girl! I am a cereal addict and I am constantly disappointed lately that even healthy cereals (like Total) have BHT added. I just don't see why we need to have chemical preservatives in our cereal when certain ones (like original Cheerios, our fave) doesn't have it (so clearly doesn't need it). Obviously I'd love for other changes like less sugar and more protein/fiber in cereals, but removing the BHT would at least enable me to buy other things besides plain Cheerios from General Mills. Also, I would like to see less GMO use, especially with regards to the corn used in Kix. We love Kix and it is low sugar which is great for the kids, but the GMO corn leaves me concerned about pesticides. There is also no good "natural" alternative from another brand (there is, but it is loaded with sugar compared with Kix). I have been eating GM cereals since I was a kid and we still rely a lot on Cheerios. I would just like to see cereals move in a "clean" direction!

on April 15, 2015

I agree with the majority of the pots above but I want to add a spin. Since, eating cereal for breakfast is obsolete then they need to be creative and give us consumers the "why" should I buy your cereal and what healthy recipe can I use it in besides a football mix for the game.

on April 15, 2015

As a lot of others have said, healthy, non GMO, non-artificial ingredients. Honest advertising. Environmental responsibility. I've noticed in the past year or so that Genersl a Mills seems to be courting food/healthy living bloggers. They need to realize that many of these bloggers and their readers are smart enough to fact check and not so easy to dupe. So, less pandering and more responsible manufacture and advertising would be a plus.

on April 15, 2015

Until I learn to only have one bowl of cereal, I am not qualified to comment! I love cereal! Its easy, fast and delicious. I do choose cereals that are whole grain and have very little sugar(but I would rather have fruity peebles). :)

on April 15, 2015

I would like low sugar, high fiber cereal that is low in calories. Right now I eat plain Cheerios.

on April 15, 2015

We don't buy cereal unless it is oatmeal or cornflakes for fried chicken. I would suggest they use Agave because all the cereals I am familiar with have too much sugar except for Shredded Wheat. It has the lowest sugar according to the ones I looked at which was quite a few of the most popular cereals. I ate it as a child and never had the sweetened cereals they have now.

on April 15, 2015

I'm big on low sugar, but PLEASE DO NOT replace it with artificial sugars!!! I remember how horrified I was when I found artificial sweeteners in Fiber One which I assumed was a healthy cereal. I threw the box away - I believe artificial sweeteners are poison.

on April 15, 2015

How fun! Hope you have a wonderful time in your meeting. I know you'll have plenty to talk about after reading the comments just here, lol. In our house which consists of two grown women, cereal is a treat maybe eaten once or twice a month. That being the case I don't hold it to the same stringent standards of my regular diet. However, would love fruity, chocolatey, flavorful cereal that is made using natural colors, flavors and ingredients. Give me something that isn't over processed with a bizillion ingredients I can't identify but let me keep my special treat. More protein would be great as carbs do not hold me over til my next meal. Can't wait to hear about your visit!

on April 15, 2015

OK, I've been awake since 330AM thinking about cereal! Thanks to some comments, I've googled away my insomnia :) Now I've got to try Kashi Organic Autumn Wheat or Arrowhead Mills' no-sugar version of shredded wheat bites. I haven't looked for shredded wheat since I committed to organic only cereal so long ago I forgot about it. If I need sweetness I like to add my own, like fruits or 1 tsp coconut sugar. It seems mostly everyone here wants no added sugar!

on April 16, 2015

I used to love having cereal with either fresh blueberries or strawberries and 2% milk on most mornings. But I struggled with weight gain, so I did a bit of research and decided to stop eating cereal for breakfast about 6 months ago. Guess what? I no longer have any of the pounds creeping up. No more struggle to maintain my ideal weight! So I eat eggs on most mornings, with an occasional bowl of cereal on rushed mornings. What to tell the cereal folks? Less sugar, less corn, etc. Thank you, Lisa! This is important work you are doing on behalf of the average consumer who just wants a good, quick, cost effective breakfast!

on April 16, 2015

I would love it if more cereals didn't have corn as one of the main ingredients. Even if it might be a whole grain, corn turns to sugar fast when it hits your blood stream, and I try to avoid it. If I'm trying to find a corn-less cereal, I usually have to go to Whole Foods and pay more. Also, more varieties of low-sugar granola would be great.

on April 16, 2015

I've always loved Cheerios, multigrain being my favorite. My new mad obsession is Cheerios with ancient grains. Yum! There's still more sugar than I like, but if I'm having a comforting bowl of cold cereal, Cheerios is it.

on April 16, 2015

I grew up on Cheerios. I even brought them to the hospital when I delivered my first child. I love them! But I was also dissapointed when they started flavoring and adding color to Cheerios. I work with first graders and they eat lunch at 11am. About 10 am they are complaining they are hungry. When I asked if they had breakfast they usually say cereal. I would love to see a cereal with more protein and not with soy! I notice that once they start getting hungry they quickly loose interest in the learning and can only think about lunch.

on April 17, 2015

You might review this review of cereals by Center for Science in the Public Interest to get some ideas:

https://www.cspinet.org/nah/04_06/cereal.pdf

on April 19, 2015

I like cereal. It's easy. It's not (necessarily) terrible for you. Here is what I would say to the cereal boss:

As a Mom, I'm looking for less sugar for every member of the family. I'm looking for more fiber (especially in MY cereal, but it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing in my daughter's cereal, too). I'm also looking for gluten-free cereal (Rice Crispies & Chex are great for that!) to share for snacks at school where allergies are rampant.

That's what I would tell them.

on April 20, 2015

I'm an RD. I eat cereal almost every day. I choose a whole grain flake (Nature's Path Heritage grains) and mix that with either a little of my own homemade granola (for flavor and sweetness) or with another cereal (Often Barbara's Mutligrain spoonfuls). I like Nature's Path and Barbaras (in these 2 options) because they are low sugar, high in fiber and made from whole grains. I like that they are non-GMO, even though I eat mostly conventional in other food as it is more affordable and I do not necessary buy the health and safety risks that some do with GMOS. I do think organic is better for the environment so overall, I think General Mills should consider their environmental impact. I like to buy the Nature's Path flakes at our food co-op in larger bags (not in a box). I feel good about reducing packaging waste and I can get them at a better deal. So I suggest General Mills consider right size packaging or recycled materials. As for their products, they should be using more whole grains and limiting sugar. Cereals should be dye free (many of the food dyes we use are banned in Europe).

I do feed my children Multi-Grain Cheerios because they seem to be made with some whole grains and do not have an excessive sugar level.

And P.S. Stop marketing Lucky Charms to my kids. Stop paying extra for shelf space to place these items at children's eye level. I rarely take my kids to the store and if I do, I avoid the cereal aisle because that is what they want. Actually they want the Mom's Best form of Lucky Charms (which at least doesn't contains artificial dyes). I've bought it for them twice, ever.

on April 28, 2015

What an amazing opportunity for you! I wish you lots of luck!

Anyway, I just found your blog today when I googled "dried cranberries vs raisins" - I was unfortunately fooled into thinking that maybe dried cranberries were similar to raisins, nope. Bad me.

But my struggle with cereal is trying to find ANY brand or flavor that DOESN'T have added sugar. Even Whole Foods and Trader Joe's add it. Why does a rice krispies or oat o's cereal need ANY sugar added!? It is so frustrating.

I usually buy shredded wheat or Natures Path has great puffed cereal, like puffed kamut or rice, but I'd really like other choices.

And get rid of the sneaky sugar like dextrose and other "-ose" ingredients. ALL of them are sugar!!!

Good luck and thank you for your blog. I'm going to be digging deeper into your articles. I like how you think!

on May 12, 2015


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