The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Special K churning out new products as part of shift into a weight management tool

  • Print

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Special K was once just a line of cereals. Today, it's a diet food empire.

The brand first hit shelves in 1955 as a no-frills breakfast alternative but now caters to dieters who see its airy chips and pastries as a way to beat cravings and lose weight. And this summer, Kellogg Co. is building on its biggest moneymaker with a "hot cereal" called Special K Nourish that's made with quinoa and other grains.

The new line, which promises to fill people up with 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, reflects Special K's push to move in step with evolving trends. Until now, Special K products largely gave dieters low-calorie imitations of their fantasy foods. But weight watchers are increasingly looking for added benefits nutritional benefits, rather than just counting calories.

"They're eating better, not just eating less," said Noel Geoffroy, vice-president of marketing for Kellogg Morning Foods.

The Special K Nourish hot cereal will come in individual serving cups; people add water and toppings that come in separate compartments on the lids. The products, which have less than 200 calories, are slated to hit stores in July and will come in Maple Brown Sugar, Cranberry Almond and Cinnamon Raisin Pecan. A line of Nourish bars will come in Dark Chocolate Nut, Cranberry Bliss and Lemon Twist.

Special K's evolution to stay relevant is critical for Kellogg. The company, which also makes Frosted Flakes and Eggo waffles, has been struggling to grow sales at a time when Americans are looking for on-the-go options. Over the past decade, for example, sales of cold cereals in the U.S. have grown just 6 per cent to $8.9 billion, according to the market researcher Euromonitor International.

But Special K has been standout for Kellogg, with the brand's market share increasing to 5 per cent, up from 3.3 per cent a decade ago, according to Euromonitor.

The broader transformation of Special K into a weight management tool is also a reflection of its "Special K Challenge" ad campaign that first aired in 2003. Those ads famously promised that women would be able to lose 6 pounds in two weeks by replacing breakfast and lunch with Special K and having a sensible dinner at night.

"It really hit on the need women had for easy, attainable way to manage their weight," Geoffroy said.

For many looking to shed a few pounds, the Special K brand became a psychological stamp of approval and Kellogg has been churning out spinoff products ever since. Shakes and bars came in 2006, followed by cracker chips in 2009 and popcorn chips last year. Three types of breakfast sandwiches popped up in frozen food sections this past January.

Last year, Kellogg even transformed the Special K website into a more sophisticated weight management site. Visitors can sign up for meal plans that help them reach their diet goal; at least one Special K product is included each day's plan, sometimes two or three. The site now has more than 2 million members.

Weight Watchers, meanwhile, says it doesn't see Special K as a challenger. The company says its approach is more holistic and follows the adage that "teaching a man to fish" is better than giving him a fish to eat for just one meal.

Product-based diet plans are short-term solutions that fall into the latter category, said Karen Miller-Kobach, chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers International, which promotes learning to eat all foods in moderation.

"That approach is like giving a person a cod for breakfast and a mackerel for lunch — but the person still hasn't learned how to fish," she said.

Miller-Kobach also noted that people also get sick of eating the same thing all the time, which is why diet food makers have to roll out so many product extensions. Other healthy eating advocates question the nutritional credentials of such packaged snacks, and whether they have any role in a healthy diet.

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, notes that there's a difference between trying to lose weight and eating better.

So while the Special K cereal bars may only be 90 calories, for example, he notes that they're full of corn syrup and a long list of other ingredients people may not recognize.

"It probably provides 90 calories of a tasty snack but it's not a health food," Jacobson said.

Still, Special K has its loyal followers.

Lindsay Cobb, a 30-year-old who works in finance in New York City, got into the habit of eating Special K with Red Berries for breakfast after trying it at her mother's house four years ago.

"My metabolism was slowing down and it beat having a bagel in the morning," she said.

She still eats it for breakfast on most weekdays, estimating that the generous bowls she pours herself clock in at around 250 calories with skim milk. And Cobb is usually willing to try whatever new Special K products she sees at the supermarket at least once.

Even though she doesn't like to snack often, she trusts that a Special K treat won't crash her diet.

___

Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Architect Antoine Predock speechless after CMHR opening

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two Canadian geese perch themselves for a perfect view looking at the surroundings from the top of a railway bridge near Lombard Ave and Waterfront Drive in downtown Winnipeg- Standup photo- May 01, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Down the Hatch- A pelican swallows a fresh fish that it caught on the Red River near Lockport, Manitoba. Wednesday morning- May 01, 2013   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you plan on attending any of the CMHR opening weekend events? (select all that apply)

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google