Retail & Innovation

Gen Z eats the most cereal—so we put our new owned brand line to the test

They came, they poured and they ate a lot of cereal. Find out what happens when a group of kids samples Walgreens new owned brand breakfast line.

By Steve Rausch

On what may have been his third or fifth serving of Nice! Marshmallow Treasures cereal of the morning (I lost count), my 11-year-old nodded approvingly and forced out, “These are really good,” through a half-full mouth before pouring another bowl. He’s a cereal snob, so having him acknowledge any product outside his rotation of national brands is certainly notable. And we discovered that the more Nice! cereals he tried, the more he liked. The breakfast world as we know it has been turned on its head.

Nice! brand cereals, instant oatmeal, granola and oats represent Walgreens first-ever entry into the breakfast category, offering high-quality products at low price points that make getting a good start to your day delicious, nutritious and affordable.

Most nutritionists say eating breakfast is important to jump start your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day, and cereal remains a popular breakfast choice, with approximately 70% of American households consuming it, according to recent data from Civic Science, with Gen Z consuming the most at 67%.

Keeping prices low was a key driver in the development of the products, according to Emily Cowan, Walgreens associate manager of owned brand commercialization for grocery & pet. But it was equally important to create great-tasting products, so customers aren’t forced to choose between price and quality.

With six flavors of cold cereal—Marshmallow Treasures, Cinnamon Squares, Toasted Honey O’s, Fruit Circles, Toasted O’s and Frosted Wheats—each priced at $1.99; two flavors of granola—Oats and Honey Granola and Protein Oats and Honey Granola—each priced at $3.99; three flavors of instant oatmeal—Cinnamon Apple, Maple & Brown Sugar and a 10-pouch Variety Pack that also includes Cinnamon Spice—for $3.49 each (or 2 for $6), and two types of oats—Quick Oats and Old Fashioned Oats—for $4.49 each (or 2 for $8), Cowan is confident the breakfast line delivers both.

“We have the sharpest price point for private label cereal on the market,” Cowan says. “And when you compare the taste and quality of our Nice! cereals and oatmeal to national brand equivalents that can retail for $6 or more, customers will quickly realize how much value they’re getting from our products, especially at this time when people are being smarter with their spending to stretch their budgets.”

With a vibrant owned brand line of products across categories in grocery, beauty, household, and health and wellness, why is Walgreens just introducing breakfast products now? According to Cowan, the timing hadn’t been right before.

“Breakfast has been a white space that’s been missing in our owned brand portfolio for some time,” she says. “And especially now with people being more cost conscious, this was a big area for us to get into. With grocery as a whole, we're looking to focus on making sure we have all the core staples a customer would need. And the breakfast category definitely fits that.”

Bringing breakfast to life

Creating a new line of breakfast products can be as much art as science. The process started with the commercialization team analyzing customer needs and products in the category to better understand top products, flavor profiles and pricing. Once the desired products were chosen, the team met in the Walgreens Product Evaluation Center where they conducted multiple rounds of taste tests to ensure the best quality.
The taste-testing team was a tough group to please, asking, were the samples too crunchy? Not crunchy enough? Do they hold up well in milk? Do they taste as good as the national brands? But through it all, the mission was to create the perfect products for our customers that tasted great, all at an unbeatable price.

The ultimate taste test

Did they succeed? A panel of hungry kids was enlisted for a taste test to get their opinions on how Walgreens Nice! cereals and instant oatmeal (the granola and oats weren’t tested) stack up to equivalent national brands. The group was between ages 10 and 16 and ranged from self-described cereal lovers to those who barely make time to eat breakfast. Some were traditionalists who ate the cereal with milk and a spoon, while others were neo-cerealists who tried it plain, using their fingers. Would they think the new brand on the block was as good as the national brands? Or would they call it out as an imitator that fell short?

Although there wasn’t consensus on a favorite flavor, all agreed on one thing: they were enthusiastic about the cereals and would eat them again. Every reviewer noted the Marshmallow Treasures, Fruit Circles, Cinnamon Squares and Frosted Wheats, in particular, were exact matches to their national brand counterparts.

“These taste exactly alike,” one said about the Fruit Circles. “I can’t tell any difference between these and the famous cereals,” said another taster after trying multiple samples.

My high school sophomore, whose daily lament that “There’s nothing for breakfast!”, has even taken to enthusiastically grabbing a box and wolfing down several bowls before heading out the door to school or baseball.

The group had a similar reaction to the three instant oatmeal flavors. Although most on the panel prefer to eat cold cereal over oatmeal, they did enjoy the taste of each, with a preference for the hominess of Maple & Brown Sugar, and appreciated the taste flexibility offered by the Variety Pack.

Cowan says the introduction of the cereals, instant oatmeal and oats is just the beginning of the Nice! brand’s foray into breakfast. Refrigerated products are on the way, with plans to introduce egg bites later this summer. After that? Decisions will be influenced by hungry breakfast eaters everywhere.
Nice! brand cereals and oatmeal can be found in the grocery section next to the national brands so shoppers can easily compare products and prices. All come with Walgreens 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.

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