Cereal makers hope to charm Millennials, not just kids

Facing soggy sales overall, breakfast cereal makers are hoping Millennials will go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and will find Lucky Charms magically delicious.

They are trying to expand past the usual kids market when it comes to some of their most sugary morning offerings and going after those who grew up on bowls of cereals like Frosted Flakes or Honey Nut Cheerios.

"Millennials are still buying for nostalgia," said Jason Dorsey, the founder of the Austin-based Center for Generational Kinetics. They are saying things like, I am "longing for my youth now that I’m oh so old at 28."

Kellogg's is announcing Thursday that it is launching its first new consumer campaign for  Froot Loops in half century, in part to try to reach Millennials. The new tagline is “Whatever Froots Your Loops." The cereal company will use the pitch in TV commercials, banner ads and social media as well branded products like sunglasses.

Froot Loops launched in 1963 with kids in mind, but Kellogg's officials say the colorful round tidbits have generational staying power

Millennials "eat Froot Loops and they eat it when they want to and we are here to embrace that and tell them that that’s great and that it's an awesome snack," said Chris Stolsky, the Kellogg's associate director who handles Froot Loops.

Frosted Flakes and Krave also are popular among people this age, he added.

Only Baby Boomers, at 23%, eat more breakfast cereal than Millennials, at 17%, according to the research firm NPD Group. And this much-coveted demographic isn't limiting itself to breakfast. Millennials eat cold cereal at other times of the day —18% of the time, compared to 15% of consumers overall.

They are consumers like Eric Perlowitz, 27, of Pleasantville, N.Y.,  a fan of Frosted Mini-Wheats, though he also indulges in Trix, Honey Nut Cheerios and Rice Krispies — the same cereals he devoured as a child. He finds cereal conducive to his jam-packed life. It's quick, filling and slow to go to stale, which means he doesn't have to go grocery-shopping as often.

"If I’ve had an early dinner, I’ll have it as a snack," Perlowitz said. "Or if I’m really busy and don’t have time to go out and get something, I’ll have a super big bowl as my dinner.

Curiously, he said he doesn't eat cereal for breakfast. "I’m an out-the-door-with-a-yogurt-and-granola guy."

General Mills also sees Millennial appeal. Spokesman Mike Siemienas said brands like Honey Nut Cheerios, Golden Grahams, Yellow Box Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms all appeal to Millennials, those roughly in their late teens to early 30s. Some 80% of all Golden Grahams are eaten by Millennials.

Post Consumer Brands — whose line-up includes Alpha-Bitsand Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles — declined to comment

The attempt to woo more Millennials comes at a difficult time for cereals overall. Cereal has ground to morning foods like eggs and pancakes. It now has a 22% share of breakfast compared to 27% in 2012, NPD found.

"Growth for cold cereals over the next few years will maybe just keep pace with the population growth if that much. That’s not even true growth," said Darren Seifer, NPD 's food and beverage industry analyst. "You can't beat the convenience of a bowl of cereal. It takes such little time to prepare. Yes, other options out there are just as quick, but we were brought up on cereal and habits are slow to change."

Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer