Canadians who eschew gluten can soon dig into a bowl of Cheerios.
Following the introduction of gluten-free Cheerios in the U.S. last summer, General Mills is launching the cereals in Canada. Five Cheerios products will carry the gluten-free label: Original, Honey Nut, Multi-Grain, Apple Cinnamon and Chocolate Cheerios.
The company said Cheerios are made with whole grain oats, which are inherently gluten-free, but its supply of oats contained small amounts of wheat, rye and barley that were inadvertently introduced at farms or during transportation.
General Mills said it developed a process—years in the making—to remove the wheat, rye and barley from its supply of whole oats. Multi-Grain Cheerios was the only product that needed to be reformulated because the product contains wheat and barley.
According to the Canadian Celiac Association, approximately one in 133 Canadians suffer from celiac disease.
“We know the gluten-free market is definitely growing and it’s here to stay,” said Emma Eriksson, director of marketing for General Mills Canada.
“When you look at who is the target market, obviously people with celiac disease is the first and most important,” said Eriksson. “Of course, that means that a gluten-free diet is the only option for these individuals. But, there are also consumers who are seeking gluten-free foods for other reasons… Our goal is to be inclusive of these individuals who are seeking alternatives.”
In the U.S. and Canada, sales of ready-to-eat cereals have been sluggish for the past few years, as consumers turn to options like yogurt or fast-food breakfast. General Mill is trying to reverse the trend with its new gluten-free options and by removing artificial colours and ingredients from its cereals.
In the U.S., General Mills reported sales of gluten-free Cheerios had risen 5% in the second half of fiscal 2016. In fiscal 2015, sales of Cheerios declined 8%.
“In the U.S., they saw tremendous upside and they feel like it’s been one of the reasons why the cereal category in the U.S. has started to do better as a whole because this type of innovation is very meaningful to consumers,” said Eriksson.
To promote the introduction of gluten-free Cheerios in Canada, General Mills is launching a campaign in mid-August. The company is adapting U.S.-created TV spots (see below), as well as launching an in-store and social media campaign. Consumers can also get information about the products on Cheerios’ Canadian website.