Faced with the falling popularity and sales of its flagship cereal products, Kellogg has launched a campaign to revitalize the image of dried cereal, particularly with younger consumers. As part of that effort, on July 4 the company will open a restaurant called Kellogg's NYC.
The restaurant will sell bowls of cereal and cereal-topped ice cream sundaes, all available with trendy add-ons like thyme, coffee grinds or chai tea powder.
"You want to add a fresh taste to cereal, and you want it to be relevant to food culture and what is happening in people's lives," said Noel Geoffroy, the company's senior vice president of morning foods marketing and innovation. "Kellogg's NYC does that."
"Reimagining" cereal ... for $7.50 a bowl
The restaurant is located in Times Square, where it is positioned to take advantage of a high volume of both tourists and foot traffic. It is designed with the look of a trendy, quiet cafe with minimal seating.
Restaurant designer Anthony Rudolf said he wanted the cafe to be the "antithesis of Times Square." It is decorated with chalk drawings by a local artist, as well as Kellogg's memorabilia.
Customers order their food at the counter, selecting from one of six cereal bowl options, served with either whole or skim milk. A small bowl costs $6.50, while a large costs $7.50. The bowls consist of one of Kellogg's mass market brands, plus a variety of add-ons. For example, The Chai Line is just Crispix plus peaches and Chai Tea Powder. The Circus is Raisin Bran plus toasted peanuts and banana chips.
"We see this idea of helping reimagine what a bowl of cereal can be," Geoffroy said. "[Menu designer] Christina [Tosi] was very purposeful about pairing things that were interesting, but also truly using things that people could envision having in their own kitchen."
Also available are sundaes ($8.50/$9.50), consisting simply of soft serve ice cream topped with cereal and add-ons. Thus, the Honey Buzz sundae is topped with Honey Smacks, honey toasted pecans and banana chips.
Customers can also build their own cereal bowl, choosing from a list of fourteen cereals, several types of fruits and nuts, and "boosts" such as marshmallows or passion fruit jam.
Ordering is fast-food style, at the counter. Customers are then given a buzzer that notifies them when to pick up their order, directing them to a numbered cabinet meant to be reminiscent of a home kitchen. Inside, the order is packaged in a paper bag.
That's not a healthy breakfast
So will anyone actually pay $7 to buy a glorified bowl of cereal in a paper bag from a tiny fast-food restaurant? Kellogg's is certainly hoping so.
"It's so easy to open up a can of beer, and you still go to a pub," Rudolf said.
A preliminary review by Business Insider was mixed. Many of the combinations were panned as uninspired or, worse, weird -- like the Berry Me in Green Tea, where the green tea powder adds an odd flavor that overpowers but does not enhance the Rice Krispies.
It remains to be seen whether the restaurant gimmick will be enough to save a brand tarnished by falling sales and a boycott over its refusal to remove genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from its products. But if nothing else, the company is consistent -- it has a long history of portraying its products as family friendly, wholesome, and healthy, even as it is the worst offender at marketing sugary cereals to children and fills its products with pesticides and GMOs.
Ultimately, packaged, mass-produced products are simply not the best place to find healthy, nutritious foods -- no matter how many vitamins and minerals those products are artificially fortified with.
Instead, nutrition best comes from whole foods. Engaging in practices like sprouting your own seeds can increase your access to nutritious foods. Gardening and growing your own food is a great hobby that is also very rewarding.