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Chris Neugent of Malt-O-Meal

In this Brand Innovator Spotlight, Chris Neugent, Chairman & CEO at Malt-O-Meal explains how the CPG brand is increasing market share by not just being lower priced but via green packaging that goes social.

Brandon Gutman: Your competitors have always referred to the Malt-O-Meal Company as a “deep discounter” and a “price led” brand. Is that your vision for the company’s position in the category?

Chris Neugent: No, that’s an industry-centered focus. Our vision is focused on serving families. Today unemployment is at 9.1%, and over 50 million Americans are struggling with hunger issues. The latest statistics show that over 17 million children in the United States are living in households which are “food insecure.” I don’t pretend to know where this economy is headed, but I do know that there has never been a time in recent history that Americans needed low cost options for food more than they do right now. Our position in the cereal category has never been more relevant than it is now.

When I think about our mission, I believe that we provide families better ways to get better breakfasts at better prices. When a mother buys our products, she is not just getting a great tasting breakfast for the family. Because we offer our products at a lower price than our national brand competitors, we are enabling her to stretch her shopping dollars further. I’m proud of the fact that over the last six years, Malt-O-Meal has saved American families over $1 billion on breakfast cereal. That’s a billion dollars that families can spend on better health care, better education, better housing, or even a family vacation. What we do everyday makes a positive difference to the families that we serve.

Malt-O-Meal bags the box

Most of us have eaten cereal from a box for as long as we can remember. What’s your BagTheBox™ campaign all about?

Malt-O-Meal sells more than 90% of its cereal in resealable bags, without the exterior boxes. I think that’s pretty innovative in a category as established as cereal. But did you know that, every year, the U.S. cereal industry produces 2.3 billion cereal boxes, all with plastic bags inside? We think that’s a lot of unnecessary resource use and waste. As more mainstream consumers try to find ways to make greener purchases at the grocery store, we hope we can get them to question the purpose of a cereal box. Last month we launched a new consumer communications campaign, BagTheBox. The campaign is a fun and informative explanation of the resources that are used to produce cereal box packaging. We’ve embraced PR and social media to jump-start awareness and response from consumers and key opinion leaders has been overwhelmingly positive. The idea that the cereal box is excess packaging is an “aha” moment for most people. Packaging preferences don’t generally change overnight, but in the long run, the better package generally wins. There is no doubt that we would all be better off if traditional cereal boxes became a relic of the past.

Cereal is the third largest dry grocery category, but it’s also been flat for the past decade. How have you been able to grow in this space?

We’re a family owned company in a category dominated by giant global public company competitors. We’ve created a new game plan, driven by our enterprise-wide commitment to low-cost innovation. I’d say we’re different from them in just about every way – except our commitment to great taste and quality. We’ve become expert at taking costs out of every aspect of our business so we can create profitable win/win solutions for our retail partners and save families money. And our strategy is working. Ten of our cereals now rank among the top 50 best-sellers. In the last seven years we’ve started up the two most technically advanced cereal production facilities in the world, and we’ve created over 800 new jobs. We’ve more than doubled our market share in the past decade. And we’re planning for continued growth.

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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