The picture of kids' cereal sales couldn't be brighter this summer, thanks to hot movie tie-ins and in-store promotions.
Chains are benefiting from manufacturer programs that tie in with "The Lost World," a sequel to "Jurassic Park," and "Batman and Robin," which follows three other "Batman" movies.
Provigo, a Montreal, Canada-based chain with 165 stores in Quebec, and 105 Loeb stores in Ontario, has had strong success with General Mills' huge promotion campaign for "The Lost World."
"It's done very well so far," said Johanne Choiniere, director of grocery. "Usually, these types of promotions do well, but General Mills went all the way. It's the biggest launch we've seen with this company. They are doing events at store level -- coupons, prizes inside of cereal boxes, a contest for consumers, and so forth."
To promote "The Lost World," General Mills temporarily changed the packaging on many of its products, and even launched a new cereal, "Jurassic Park Crunch."
Bedford Heights, Ohio, tied in Jurassic Park Crunch cereal with an offer for a free ticket to the zoo, said John Ashby, grocery category manager.
"It was a co-promotion with Hershey's, where you bought two boxes of cereal and two 14-ounce bags of candy to get a free pass to the Cleveland Zoo," Ashby said.
Ashby explained that the candy also had packaging related to the dinosaur theme.
"When kids' cereal is tied in with a theme, you get a huge peak in sales," explained Rod Boni, grocery merchandiser for Pay Less Supermarkets, Anderson, Ind. "You take advantage of the theme while it's out there. If you miss that, you miss additional sales."
Bill Metzinger, cereal buyer at Pay Less, said his chain always tries to tie promotions to new movie releases.
Metzinger said General Mills created price reductions on a number of its products hitched to "The Lost World." In addition to cereal, items promoted included instant potatoes, Hamburger Helper, cake mix frosting, fruit rollups and Sweet Rewards candy. "We had two waves of promotion, for one week each; one in May and one in June," Metzinger said.
Laurel Grocery Co., London, Ky., has had tremendous success with the promotion, said Joni Carson, director of replenishment purchasing. "But usually we have pretty good success with tie-ins, because anytime a cereal company does a theme promotion, they put a lot of backing into it," Carson said.
"Some stores use endcaps displays and some still put [such] items on the wall of values or where they promote advertised merchandise," she said.
Manufacturers and the silver screen aren't the only friends of kids' cereal. Retailers, too, heavily support the segment.
"We are a very aggressive cereal promoter," said Ashby of Riser Foods. "In a declining dollar market, we are capturing more than our share of sales."
Riser promotes both kid and adult cereals on endcaps nearly every week, said Ashby. He also uses demos and in-store promotions aimed at children whenever possible. For example, a recent promotion sponsored by General Mills was a drawing with prizes that included a limousine ride to school, a free party and a chance to co-host the local Fox network kids' club.
Choiniere of Provigo also promotes cereal every week. "We try to have one product in each segment -- kids, family and adult/healthy cereal," she said, noting that children's cereal makes up about one-third of the category.
Choiniere also mentioned that she will cross merchandise cereal on occasion, with products such as coffee, jam, or other breakfast-related items.
"It's important to reach a price point that draws some interest," noted Carson of Laurel Grocery Co. "We've had some success with two-for-one or buy-one, get-one-free. The more cereals we promote for kids, the more volume we do."
Carson explained that she often promotes a children's and adult cereal together, though kids' cereal draws shoppers in.
"Generally, [kids' cereals] do better anyway," she continued. "They have more spikes in sales when you promote them. Adults tend to buy what they want, but they'll buy the children's cereal according to what's on sale."