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Corn Flakes vs Weetabix

kelloggs, weetabix, brandIn a region where the breakfast cereals market is still in its infancy, pioneer Kellogg’s - which established an office in Dubai in 1999 - captured major market shares early and is not ready to let go, being present in 12 countries throughout the Arab world. Then again, Weetabix, who never enjoyed any corporate presence in the Middle East, doesn’t do much to enlarge its customer base, apparently being much busier with its promising prospects on the $20 million Indian market, where it launched its wholegrain range of breakfast products last year.

Rise and shine

Marketed in over 180 countries, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes is the American brand’s most famous asset, a product that durably modified consumers’ morning habits worldwide. “Our largest contribution brand is Kellogg’s Corn Flakes which remains the anchor point within the category in the Middle East. Being present in the region for more then four decades, it is affectionately known as ‘Abu Deek’ or ‘Father of the Rooster’ to our local consumers,” said David Clouston, regional sales manager for Kellogg’s Middle East.

In the Arab world, breakfast cereals have been slow to catch on though, but once put in motion, the market is leaping forward at a double-digit pace, due to an ever more Westernized way of eating, a faster rhythm of life, more exposure in numerous supermarkets and media and, obviously, the increasing number of expatriate workers. Significantly, it’s in the UAE that Kellogg’s registered its largest jump in sales, with an almost 30 percent increase in 2007, with iconic Corn Flakes remaining its best seller. Unfortunately, no figures are available as for Weetabix sales in the region.

Crispy vs soggy

Local consumers now represent a prime target of breakfast cereals manufacturers who, for a long time, focused most of their attention towards Western expats. But “In the last two years, we have started to seriously invest in the category, targeting the indigenous population as well as the expat community,” said general manager Kellogg’s Middle East Martin Tomlinson back in 2006. The American brand tripled its marketing budget between 2004 and 2006, and turned away from simply using European campaigns to come up with Middle Eastern designs. Today, 18 of its products are available in dual language packaging.

On the other hand, and despite the fact that it is now owned by American Nabisco, Weetabix remains kind of stuck with its very British image (it has been a key element of British breakfast since 1932) which, tends to have a sobering effect on potential consumers.

Besides, whereas Corn Flakes are famous for their simplicity of use - milk, and maybe sugar, Weetabix actually need instructions and care, as explains one blogger: “the trick is to use the right amount of milk […] too much, and the Weetabix will get soggy; too little, and the biscuits will soak up all the milk and then go hard.”

Health talk

In countries such as Saudi Arabia, where cereals consumption rates remain comparatively low, Kellogg’s has been playing the motherly chord, addressing mothers on cereals’ advantages and stressing on consumers’ education in order to balance out common misconceptions. “Local consumers often consider cereals as fun food for kids, however our strategy is to change that perception,” said Tomlinson who admitted sales had doubled over the past four years. “We are helping people to understand that cereals have added vitamins and nutrients, and are wholesome, healthy product.”

Health is indeed a sensitive issue to which consumers in the region (where obesity and diabetes rates are getting more and more worrisome) react strongly, and in that regard, Weetabix is a step ahead.

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes may have been endorsed by the Arab Centre of Nutrition (ACNU), but Weetabix has been successfully playing out its healthy image for years on. Moreover, a study on 100 breakfast cereals products by the British Consumers’ Association in 2004 showed that one of the only two cereal brands really containing “a little” salt and sugar is Weetabix Ready Brek (original), a test that Kellogg’s didn’t pass successfully, even if its prominent Corn Flakes was not part of the “worst offenders” list (unlike its Coco Pops, Frosties and Rice Crispies products). As another Brit, “hard-wired for Weetabix” blogger Lee Maguire says, “Weetabix provides a one-size-fits-all guilt-free breakfast.” It may not be enough to seduce diet-conscious but also good-food lovin’ Arab consumers.

Did you know?

In the 1970’s Weetabix was advertised with the slogan “Weetabix is unbeatabix”. In 80’s, a series of Weetabix advertisements featured a gang of animated Weetabix biscuits, in Doc Martens, white T-shirts and denims, battling the “titchy breakfasts” (cereals which came in flakes or “crispies”). Their slogan was “Make it neat wheat, if you know what’s good for you.” Some of its other endorsers include Robin Hood, the Disney Power rangers and the Disney Pirates.

Weetabix is also used as a colloquial term in Britain - A person who is athletic, for instance, may be described as ‘having had their Weetabix’.

It is also the title sponsor of the Women’s British Open and makes around 60 million Weetabix per week. The brand’s annual sales exceed $176 million.

Kellogg’s, whose 2007 sales were in excess of $11 billion, also sell branded merchandise including laptop cases, cycle jerseys with Kellogg’s characters for around $66 and even offer you the chance to be on one of their boxes for around $25.

Toucan Sam, the colourful bird on Fruit Loops, had to stop endorsing their product last year, when the cereal failed to meet nutrition guidelines for children. Tony the tiger on Frosted Flakes was luckier and made the cut. Reports say that Kellogg’s spends 27 percent of its advertising budget on the 6- 11 age group.

The company has other celebrity endorsers like Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo and also has a promotional relationship with Cartoon Network.


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