US cereal giant Kellogg has indicated that it will remain focused on innovation in the face of global recession, with product launches expected to drive continued growth in 2009 and beyond. One major launch scheduled for the first half of this year is Kellogg's debut in the UK muesli segment, with the introduction of a new brand - Kellogg's Nature's Pleasure. Katy Humphries caught up with brand manager Helen Giddings to find out more about Kellogg's ambitions for the category.

just-food: What was the rationale behind Kellogg's entry into the muesli market? 

Helen Giddings: Quite simply, we spotted a gap in the market. Kellogg's is famous for breakfast and I think consumers expect us to offer a wide range of breakfast choices - whether it's Special K, Coco Pops or muesli.

We've come into the category to grow it by creating a new differentiated product - a baked muesli - specifically designed to appeal to shoppers turned off by the taste sensation of traditional muesli.
j-f: What trends are driving the launch? Is muesli a growth category? 

Giddings: The muesli category's penetration has actually been flat - at 33% - for the past five years. Our research tells us this shouldn't be the case. Muesli is hugely on-trend, aligned to consumer desire for natural food which tastes great.

New entrants have come into the market but have stolen share from existing brands.  Kellogg's Nature's Pleasure is not about this. It's about growing the category by creating a new format food backed by strong marketing to draw in shoppers.

Our research tells us this brand could increase the penetration of the muesli category by 1.5%, representing a GBP6m (US$8.5m) retail sales value opportunity for the grocery trade.  
j-f: In recent years, the muesli category has become increasingly associated with more upmarket, premium and natural products. Will this be the positioning of Nature's Pleasure? 

Giddings: Kellogg's Nature's Pleasure is all about great tasty food but it's not premium. Our research tells us there is a gap in the market for a mainstream muesli which delivers a tasty breakfast compared with more traditional muesli. 

We are quite clear. We've created a differentiated baked muesli, available in supermarkets, to bring a mainstream shopper into the category. We've not created a niche food that's only available in delicatessens or wholefood shops and which sells for GBP10 a packet. 

Kellogg's Nature's Pleasure is actually sensibly priced (GBP2.49) in the mid-range of the category. We believe price is not a barrier to purchase. This is an on-trend product backed by strong investment in marketing.  

We don't see the current climate as a reason not to innovate. The history of Kellogg's shows us that, and we firmly believe shoppers still want good quality branded grocery goods.
j-f: The UK "good for you" breakfast market has some strong players, including Dorset Cereals and Eat Natural who specialise in muesli breakfast cereals. Who do you see as your main competition?

Giddings: We are not trying to steal share aware from other brands in the category - we want to bring new shoppers to muesli.  

Kellogg's Nature's Pleasure is designed to overcome the category's five years [of] flat penetration thanks to its baking and range of nut and fruit mixes shoppers would be hard placed to get from other brands.

j-f: How else will Nature's Pleasure differentiate itself from the other muesli products out there? Does the Kellogg name help?

Giddings: The Kellogg name is a huge part of our offering. Millions of Britons wake up to Kellogg's each morning and the Kellogg's endorsement tells people they can rely on what's in the packet.  

We think consumers know we don't make cereals for anyone else. So, if they want the great taste difference which Kellogg's Nature's Pleasure offers, they'll need to put Kellogg's in their shopping basket. 
j-f: What consumers are you targeting with the launch? 

Giddings: We call them "everyday foodies" and we estimate around 68% of people in Britain want to buy natural, less processed food. They're not food snobs; they are motivated by tasty, natural food. Our core age range is people [aged] 45 years plus.
j-f: What level of marketing support is being put behind the launch? Will there be a TV push?

Giddings: We've committed GBP3m to this new brand, including print advertising and sampling. We know our target likes to discover new foods and, for this reason, TV is not the right media for Kellogg's Nature's Pleasure.

j-f: When is it set to hit the shelves? What retailers is Nature's Pleasure listed with?

Giddings: Kellogg's Nature's Pleasure will be in store from April in Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Morrisons.

j-f: Is there scope to expand the brand in the future - either with new products or into new markets?

Giddings: This is an on-trend product with strong mainstream appeal. At the moment we're focusing on launching our muesli.

You'll have to wait and see if we launch any new products in the future.