Can you get a bowl of yogurt on the side at a cereal cafe?

Published 3:09 pm Monday, June 5, 2006

By Staff
Writing a column when you're hungry isn't any better than grocery shopping on an empty stomach. It might end up being about cereal and yogurt, even while thumbing through Time magazine's business section.
Did you know yogurt, contrary to any other food product imaginable, has enjoyed double-digit growth for three decades?
That means consumption doubles every seven years or so.
This shape-shifter now comes in weird flavors, like Boston creme pie, and strange forms, from drinkable to, since 1998, squeezable Go-Gurt.
Yogurt covers the three major food trends - convenience, portion control and health.
The NPD Group, which tracks America's eating habits, predicts yogurt is on a pace to become our No. 1 food, although I'm not sure how they'll know when that day actually arrives.
Kids picked up the yogurt habit from Mom and are taking it with them as they grow up. We baby boomers did that, too, except our questionable contribution was pioneering consumption of soda pop for breakfast.
Yoplait, a French brand whose licensing rights General Mills acquired in 1997 (it first appeared on our shelves in 1977), vaulted from a mere $3 million in sales to $1.1 billion. That gives it a 38-percent share of a $3 billion market instead of 23 percent.
General Mills, based in Minneapolis, relies on cereals such as Cheerios and Cocoa Puffs for 22 percent of $11 billion in sales, but yogurt is growing faster.
Last year, in three out of four U.S. households, an average American consumed five pounds - compared to 40 pounds in France. Among adults, 70 percent of consumers are women, 30 percent men. Boys and girls eat it about equally, which bodes well for continued strong growth.
Three daily servings can help prevent osteoporosis and contribute to weight loss.
Even though there's one in Chicago, I was blissfully ignorant of cereal cafes. My first thought was it sounded like something from “Seinfeld,” like muffin tops or pudding crust.
Cereality founders David Roth (not to be confused with the former Van Halen frontman) and Rick Bacher want to milk 40 varieties of cereal and name-brand candy toppings in Chinese food-style paper cartons served in living-room-style cafes into a national chain. Of the first three cafes, the other two are in Philadelphia and Tempe, Ariz. Cereality opened in 2003 and has 46 employees.
Unrelated to food, but still an interesting business story is Japan's Panasonic preparing to take on the $4.1-billion U.S. battery market and the target painted on the back of the 17-year-old pink Energizer Bunny.
I did a doubletake recently when I saw some Panasonic batteries because I associate it only with consumer electronics.
Duracell (Procter and Gamble owns the well-marketed CopperTop) enjoys a 28.5-percent share of the market, with Energizer at 24.5 percent. Panasonic so far is a distant fifth at 1.8 percent, although it ranks No. 1 in Japan.
The Long Tail: This is another interesting concept, espoused in Chris Anderson's book. He theorizes that the Internet so easily offers an unlimited choice of goods to billions of people that our consumer culture will be transformed from best sellers and blockbusters to more specialized niche products thanks to online distribution. In other words, companies can succeed by selling more products with lower demand than depending on hits, much as Jeff Bezos did with and its virtual inventory of 3.7 million books, compared to 100,000 titles available in a typical Barnes and Noble retail store.
The 3.6 million less popular titles not carried by Amazon's rival account for 25 percent of its total book revenues - and that percentage increases every year.
The leverage of the long tail could give a tiny online music site a way to compete with Wal-Mart's limited selection. Microbrews are the long tails of beer, as blogs are to journalism.
Quips, quotes and qulunkers: “Now I'm a genre writer of a sort. I write literary fiction, which is like spy fiction or chick lit.”
Condoleezza Rice