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Where Have the Wheaties Gone?

By Mary Lou Harris October 26, 2021 Lifestyle

There are products that have been with us since childhood. You know just where to find them on the shelf, in the grocery store, in the pharmacy or wherever you and your family shop. Or, do you?

In grocery shopping over the past months, I would casually browse through the cereal aisle looking for the orange Wheaties box, a cereal I have been eating and enjoying since childhood. Not seeing it on the shelf, I wasn’t particularly alarmed. But shopping at another local grocery, I had the same experience.

What’s to Love About Wheaties

The flavor and crunch of these wheat and bran flakes has appealed to me since childhood. I’m fortunate that my parents didn’t spoil their children with sweet snacks and cereals. That enjoyment of a healthy cereal stayed with me.

The second reason was the appearance of an athlete on every box. While crunching away at the cereal, we read about the latest athlete who was pictured.

Wheaties History

Wheaties, like many great product inventions, was born out of an accidental cooking spill that occurred, oh, about a hundred years ago. Its early marketing included “the breakfast of champions.” As mentioned, an outstanding athlete was featured on every box.

Where Have the Wheaties Gone?

After shopping in vain at my local grocery stores, I began to wonder. Have my Wheaties disappeared from the market?

I took to the internet to find my Wheaties. There were three chains where I don’t usually shop that carry them. I was greatly relieved, but still concerned that my favorite brand isn’t front and center at my local grocery.

Well, I began researching further. In looking around the internet, I saw that other searchers had been asking that same question. Market share may be part of the answer.

 Wikipedia says Wheaties sales fell 78% between 2005 and 2014.

Business Insider reports that Wheaties sales have fallen to .5% of sales for General Mills. In Melanie Hicken’s 2012 article for the publication, she surmises that Wheaties isn’t healthy enough for those looking for only healthy foods, and not sweet enough for the junk food lovers.

It’s not surprising that a product that has been around for 100 years would fluctuate in demand. Plus, the number of cereals available on our shelves is mind-numbing. There are new names of brightly colored boxes of sugary sweet junk food disguised as cereals. There are also, new to the market, scads of ‘healthy’ cereals that are nudging off the shelf the beautiful orange box of crispy wheat and bran.

100-Year Anniversary for Wheaties

But wait, that’s enough of spilled milk from your Wheaties bowl. I’ve also learned that General Mills is celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Wheaties by issuing a series of commemorative boxes throughout the year.

The first box featured a young Muhammed Ali. That box is now sitting on my kitchen counter.

The Wheaties website is also featuring a number of athletic clothing and other products to feature athletes and the Wheaties brand.

In a recent article, Businesswire covers the launch of the anniversary celebration. The quote below from the article explains the historic intertwining of this iconic cereal and the athlete icons it celebrates:

“Wheaties redefined what it means to be a Champion by reserving its cover for trailblazing athletes who use their sports platforms for something greater. Its culture-defining, collectible boxes showcased that greatness could happen on and off the field and boldly gave a national stage to athletes’ causes.”

Perhaps that explains why I and so many other kids devoured the portraits and background information on the athletes featured on Wheaties boxes.

It Isn’t Just About the Wheaties

As we baby boomers age, marketers are seeing a waning group who may have a lot of purchase power, but there are fewer of us than five or ten years ago. Will the products we have enjoyed, benefited from, and supported through our purchases over the years slowly disappear from the market? Is the Wheaties box just the first blow?

Thankfully, General Mills is continuing to carry Wheaties and in fact celebrate its longevity.

So, let’s celebrate with them. Eat your Wheaties!

If your life-long favorite product is beginning to disappear from the market, what do you do? Do you explore where it may still be found? Do you contact the manufacturer and lobby for continued manufacture of your product?

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The Author

Mary Lou Harris is a proponent of active living, community volunteerism and inquisitive travel. After a post age 60 retirement from a career in public service, she expanded those interests to include ultra-trail running, hiking and extended-stay travel. She can be contacted through her website https://stillarunner.com or on Twitter at @stillarunner.

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