Kellogg redesigns its cereal boxes in Europe to reflect 'naturalness' of food

Cereal-maker Kellogg has announced it will revamp its packaging design in Europe in a move intended to push its natural qualities and heritage.

Kellogg, known for the "snap, crackle and pop" of its Rice Krispies cereal and for characters such as Tony the Tiger, who appears on boxes of Frosties (Frosted Flakes in the U.S.), said it was the largest redesign of its cereal boxes in the company's 113-year history. The redesign includes products such as Crunchy Nut and Corn Flakes, but not Special K or its newer W.K. Kellogg upscale range.

The company researched the new designs and found that nearly 70 percent of consumers were able to find the boxes on supermarket shelves more easily, according to a release emailed to CNBC on Thursday. "The new artwork reflects the naturalness of the food and the heritage of the Kellogg story," the company said in the release.

Kellogg in Europe redesigned its cereal boxes in February 2019
Kellogg | Landor
Kellogg in Europe redesigned its cereal boxes in February 2019

Characters such as Tony the Tiger and Coco the Monkey, who appears on Kellogg's chocolate rice cereal Coco Pops, are still present on the new designs, but appear to no longer be holding the bowls or spoons themselves. Bowls of cereal no longer appear overflowing and instead are photographed from above. The Kellogg logo has been made larger and appears across the top of each box, while the name of the cereal itself has been made smaller (the Instagram post below shows the previous packaging).

Cartoon characters used in advertising and on packaging for children's food have come under scrutiny in the U.K. In January, Tom Watson, deputy leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, suggested that it would ban cartoons on cereal boxes if Labour came into power. "[We are] a nation overweight, unhealthy and addicted to sugar — thanks in large part to the efforts of the advertising industry … As politicians and policymakers, we are saying, get that monkey off your back. If the industry won't reform itself, we will do it for you," he told an Advertising Association conference in January this year.

Chris Ambridge, head of brand and design at agency Geometry U.K., said Kellogg's redesign is a "strategic evolution" and said the cartoon characters could even be dropped eventually.

"A cynic could argue the designs are a direct response to societal and legislative pressures. But pack redesigns don't happen overnight — I suspect Kellogg's revamp was informed by a proactive approach to responsible design. They've clearly identified the key brand assets on pack - which for many still include cartoon characters. However, the way those characters have been minimized implies a gradual migration plan — potentially with a long-term view of removing the characters altogether," he said in an email to CNBC.

The obesity problem in the U.K. has meant that Kellogg and other food manufacturers are under pressure to reduce sugar in processed food. Public Health England (PHE) wants the food industry to remove 20 percent of the sugar from products that contribute the most to children's intakes by 2020. In May 2018, PHE said breakfast cereals were among the food types that had met an ambition to reduce sugar by 5 percent by August 2017, the first year of its sugar reduction program.

Kellogg said the new design "reflects a changing business, evolving to keep pace with consumer trends." In November, the company announced it would include "traffic light" labelling for most of its cereal boxes, a voluntary scheme used in the U.K. to show the proportion of fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt as well as the number of calories in food. All of its new packing appears to have these labels.

Paul Humphries, VP of marketing at Kellogg's Europe said in an official statement Thursday: "The Kellogg's brand is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and our cereal boxes are present in over 90 percent of UK homes. We know people love, connect and engage with our brand and we wanted to make it easier for them to do that, which is why we've updated the entire portfolio at once."

Luc Speisser, president of Europe at Landor, which designed the new packs, said the boxes renewed Kellogg's brand identity, as well as its "commitment to the wellbeing of customers."

In February, Kellogg, which has its headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, posted a loss of $84 million for the fourth quarter, compared with a profit of $417 million a year earlier. It said, however, that it had grown its share of the cereal market in the U.K. and France across 2018.