Snacks in the spotlight for Kellogg

by Monica Watrous
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Forty-five per cent of Kellogg's sales come from snacks, such as Cheez-It crackers, Pringles chips and Keebler cookies.

BOSTON — Kellogg Co.’s portfolio has become lighter on cereal and heavier on snacks. Fifteen years ago, ready-to-eat cereal accounted for 70% of Kellogg’s sales. Today, the Battle Creek, Mich.-based company, whose brands include Special K and Froot Loops, said 45% of its business is breakfast foods. Another 45% of sales come from snacks, such as Cheez-It crackers, Pringles chips and Keebler cookies. The remaining 10% is frozen foods, including Eggo waffles.

“So the company has transformed (where we) focused solely on cereal to being a global cereal and global snacks player, and this transformation is continuing,” said John Bryant, chief executive officer of Kellogg, during a Sept. 9 presentation at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston. “We remain very interested in acquisitions in the areas of snacks, emerging markets and natural and organic foods in markets like the U.S. and other developed countries around the world.”

One of Kellogg’s goals in 2016 and beyond is to become a “global snacks powerhouse,” beginning in the United States, where the company said its Cheez-It brand has grown 19 consecutive years.

John Bryant, c.e.o. of Kellogg

“It’s the biggest brand in the cracker category, gained a share point in Q2 and is really leaning into that area of savory snacks and the evolution of crackers from a carrier to a direct snacking occasion,” Mr. Bryant said.

Strong growth for Cheez-It, however, was masked in 2015 by weakness in Special K Cracker Chips, he added.

“As many of you know, Special K Cracker Chips went up very quickly,” Mr. Bryant said. “We lost significant distribution at the end of last year, but velocities have improved with new food, new packaging (and) new positioning. But we’re still working our way through that headwind of the lost distribution. So there is more underlying growth going on in that snacks business as apparent at the consolidated level.”

Leading the pack of snack brands in international markets is Pringles, which Kellogg acquired from Procter & Gamble in 2012 for $2.695 billion. The brand is approaching $2 billion in global sales, according to the company.

“If we move from U.S. snacks to international snacks, Pringles has absolutely transformed our business,” Mr. Bryant said. “So it’s tripled the size of our international snacks business, has doubled the size of the company in some emerging markets, particularly in Southeast Asia and we’ve been growing the business high single digits since the date of acquisition, and we’re still essentially capacity constrained even though we’ve added more capacity along the way.”

Despite an increased focus on snacks, however, Kellogg isn’t turning its back on breakfast. The company has invested savings from its productivity project to improve some of its cereal brands, particularly Special K and Kashi.

“U.S. cereal has been a top category for us (in the) last couple of years,” Mr. Bryant said. “We’re definitely seeing that business improve its performance.”

Kellogg has invested savings from its productivity project to improve some of its cereal brands, particularly Special K and Kashi.

In global markets, the growth potential for cereal is stronger. Kellogg said year-to-date sales volume of cereal was up mid-single digits across Latin America and double digits in Asia, with strong growth in India, Japan, Korea and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“We don’t need to grow that cereal business in the U.S. in order to meet our long-term algorithm, but obviously better improvement from the last years is significantly helping the company get there,” he said.

Kellogg said it plans to accelerate growth across emerging markets both organically and through acquisitions. In January, the company acquired a majority stake in Egyptian biscuit manufacturer Bisco Misr.

“We have the potential to double the size of our emerging market business by 2020,” Mr. Bryant said. “We are very aggressive in the emerging markets and our growth plans, and we believe now is the right time to make those investments.”

A key component of Kellogg’s growth strategy in breakfast, snacks and emerging markets is “winning where the shopper shops,” Mr. Bryant said.

“(We are building our capability in) high frequency stores or small mom-and-pop stores in Asia Pacific and Latin America… particularly as we’ve gone from largely a cereal business sold in large grocery outlets to a snacks company we want to be within arm's reach of desire,” he said.
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