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Superbrands case studies: Kellogg's Corn Flakes

Originally published in Consumer Superbrands Volume IV, May 2001. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by the independent Superbrands Council.

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Case study provided by the Superbrands organisation.

Market

Many people view breakfast as the most important meal of the day. Research shows that 96% of the UK population eat or drink something for breakfast and 49% start the day with ready-to-eat cereals.

This signifies a huge change in UK breakfast eating habits over the last twenty years. In 1968 approximately half the population tucked into a cooked breakfast on a regular basis, but, by 1990 this had dropped to an estimated 10%.

This change can be attributed to increasingly busy lifestyles and an awareness of the importance of healthy eating. However, hectic lifestyles can mean breakfast is often sacrificed to keeping to a tight timetable. The major challenge facing cereal companies today is to persuade consumers that eating cereals is both convenient and beneficial at breakfast time or at any time of the day.

In terms of volume, the UK is the largest consumer of cereals in Europe. In 1999, the market was valued at £944 million. Per capita consumption has risen in the last decade by almost 10% and currently stands at 5.9 kilos, with the over 35s being the greatest consumers.

Achievements

Kellogg's Corn Flakes is the UK's and Europe's number one breakfast cereal. In 1999 alone, more than 100 million packets of Kellogg's Corn Flakes were consumed, while over 40% of all UK households are likely to have Kellogg's Corn Flakes in their home.

Kellogg's Corn Flakes is the biggest brand in the UK ready-to-eat cereal market. With sales for 2000 valued at around £110 million in the UK, Kellogg's Corn Flakes holds an 11% volume share of the market. Its closest contender, Weetabix, has a 9% market share. Within the UK cereal market as a whole, the Kellogg Company has eleven out of the top twenty brands and holds a 39% volume market share. Kellogg's now enjoys international renown and Kellogg's Corn Flakes can be bought in more than 100 countries.

History

Kellogg's Corn Flakes were discovered by a quirk of fate. Back in 1884, Dr John Harvey Kellogg, superintendent of the internationally famous Battle Creek sanatorium, in collaboration with his business manager brother, Will Keith (WK) Kellogg, developed a nutritious cereal food for his patients.

However, a freak laboratory accident exposed cooked wheat to the open air for over a day. The Kellogg brothers then processed the wheat through rollers, ensuring an even distribution of moisture -- resulting in wheat flakes.

The patients loved this new flaky cereal product and demanded supplies even after leaving the sanatorium.

Building upon this opportunity, the Kellogg brothers formed a company in partnership with The Sanitas Nut Company, with WK Kellogg as general manager.

From wheat flakes to corn flakes was a simple process. WK added malt to his flake product and used only the heart of the corn in manufacture. He was so impressed with his corn flakes that he started up his own company to market them.

However, his business plans were put on hold when a fire swept through his brother's sanatorium, which WK volunteered to help reconstruct and re-establish. It took until 1906 to kickstart his business activities. The company he formed was called The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company.

By now, the sanatorium's success with its flake products had spawned up to 42 imitations from local rivals. To counter this, WK had his name and signature scripted on each individual package of Kellogg's Corn Flakes.

WK quickly realised the benefits of advertising and demand was soon exceeding expectations. By 1909, more than a million cases of Kellogg's Corn Flakes had been sold across the US. A variant, Kellogg's Bran Flakes, was introduced in 1915. Coco Pops, Frosties and Special K are amongst many others that have been added to Kellogg's repertoire in subsequent years.

With the introduction of other brands, international expansion became inevitable. Kellogg's Corn Flakes was first introduced into the UK in 1924 and in 1938 a new factory was opened in Trafford Park, Manchester.

Manufacturing plants were also built in Canada and Australia. Today, Kellogg's operates plants around the globe, marketing its products in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Product

Nutritionists recommend that a good breakfast should supply about one quarter to a third of our daily nutritional needs and Kellogg's Corn Flakes do just that, providing up to 25% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of essential vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and iron. Added to this, they are 99% fat free.

The size of the brand is reflected in the variety of pack sizes and formats which are available. This ranges from 1kg to 35g serving size packs, as well as special ambient 'To Go' formats that come complete with their own serving of milk, designed to be eaten at work or on the move.

Consistent quality checks and testing ensure Kellogg's Corn Flakes are always in top condition. Since 1914, Kellogg's has used a sealed inner liner as well as an outer carton to ensure fresh and high quality products.

Recent developments

For Kellogg's Corn Flakes, there has been a need to deliver to consumers a clear and relevant message, that not only drives reappraisal of the brand but also encourages consumption. The launch of the 'Wake Up' campaign in 1999 has done just that. Initiated in early 1999 it has used a deep understanding of morning habits as well as the brand's strengths to communicate a meaningful and salient message.

Extending beyond television, the brand's traditional medium, to morning radio and press, the campaign has maximised its impact at the most relevant time of day.

The performance of Kellogg's Corn Flakes since the campaign's inception is testament to its success.

Promotion

Kellogg's Corn Flakes has always been a well-supported brand. Even from the outset, WK Kellogg realised that promotion was vital to growing his first brand. In 1906, he invested in a full-page advertisement in The Ladies Home Journal with astounding results. Sales grew from just 33 cases a day to 2,900.

Spurred on by this success, WK Kellogg's embarked on a series of sales promotions offering free samples of 'The Original and Best' Kellogg's Corn Flakes, including the 'Give the Grocer a Wink' campaign and a book in 1910, 'The Jungleland Funny Moving Pictures'. One of Kellogg's early promotions in 1938 was a realistic gliding model aeroplane offered free to Kellogg's customers.

By 1911, Kellogg's had spent $1m on advertising -- a huge sum in those days. This was capped by a 160ft wide and 80ft tall electric sign, bearing a 60ft 'K', positioned on the roof of the Mecca building in Times Square, New York.

The support for Kellogg's Corn Flakes has continued year on year, including the remarkably effective reminder campaign -- 'Have you forgotten how good they taste?'-- from the late 1980s. The campaign was designed to drive retrial of the brand and people who had strayed to new cereals returned to the 'original and best' in droves.

Launched in 1999, the 'Wake Up' campaign for Kellogg's Corn Flakes established the product as the best way to wake up. It is based on the universal truth that many people find it hard to get started in the morning. Research has highlighted that this clear brand benefit is reinforcing the relevance of the brand in people's lives.

The campaign has not, however, remained solely in the realms of advertising. Given the brand's substantial consumer loyalty, the Kellogg's Corn Flakes Wake Up Collection was launched in 1999: an on-pack collector scheme for branded breakfast and early morning items such as crockery, radios and alarm clocks. This on-pack promotion has been remarkably effective and the collection offer has now been added to the Kellogg's corporate website to reach the growing number of e-consumers.

Brand values

Kellogg's Corn Flakes have enjoyed a long history of popularity based on offering a quality product with appetising taste and high nutritional value. The brand has been driven by a belief first perpetuated by its founder, WK Kellogg, that cereals can provide an integral part of our diet as a high carbohydrate, low fat food. This approach holds special appeal for today's increasingly health-conscious consumer.

Kellogg's Corn Flakes continue to be the original and best, a position they have held for 80 years, bringing 'sunshine' to breakfast time and helping people 'wake up' in the morning.

Things you didn't know

  • A Nottinghamshire housewife, Mrs Florence Millward, opened Kellogg's Trafford Park factory, home of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, in 1938. She attended all subsequent Kellogg's events.

  • It takes 140 days of sunshine to grow the corn that makes Kellogg's Corn Flakes.

  • The official mascot is Cornelius Cockerel, who features on the front of all packaging.

  • An early advertising campaign for Kellogg's Corn Flakes coined the slogan 'the sweetheart of the corn' to describe the corn grit main ingredient used in the product's manufacture.

  • The Kellogg Company founder, WK Kellogg, was an interesting character whose destiny appears to have been linked with the number seven. He was the seventh son of John Preston and Ann Janette Kellogg, born on the seventh day of the month. His father was also a seventh child and the family surname Kellogg, has, of course, seven letters. WK Kellogg first started work at the age of seven. He spent the rest of his life indulging a superstitious liking for the number - opting for seventh floor hotel rooms with numbers always ending in seven.

    © 2002 Superbrands Ltd

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