General Mills will distribute 10,000 boxes of "Marshmallow Only" Lucky Charms through a special sweepstakes following the success of a 2015 campaign in which only 10 boxes were available, according to the company's blog.
To try and win this limited-edition item, consumers need to buy a specially marked box of Lucky Charms and find a code included on the inside of the package. Users can then enter the 14-digit code at MarshmallowOnly.com to see if they are one of 10,000 winners.
General Mills said it launched this latest campaign after it was overrun with calls, tweets and emails last year from customers asking for a box of Lucky Charms Marshmallows in the wake of its original promotion.
Lucky Charms’ number one ingredient is whole grain oats, and marshmallows — or sugar — come second. According to the company, a lot of consumers would like to see marshmallows at the top of that list. Health advocates may not agree, but promoting its marshmallows has consistently helped boost sales for the brand. General Mills is even working to rid the popular cereal of artificial colors, but the effort has been challenging.
Lucky Charms has a reputation of being one of the least healthy boxed cereals on the market, and this latest campaign embraces that. It may be a more sugary option than breakfast alternatives such as yogurt or bars, but it still sells well. General Mills cereal sales were down slightly last year, but Lucky Charms has regularly held its place as one of the top-selling cereal brands in the U.S. And while adult consumers might be buying healthier food for their children, the company has said that about 40% of Lucky Charms consumers are grown-ups.
This campaign — and the fact that it was spurred by popular consumer demand partly through social media — illustrates the dichotomy of consumer preference. In general, today's consumer is much more health-conscious then the shoppers of several years ago. People are interested in low-processed, nutrient-rich, natural foods, but this hasn't diminished demand for ultra-indulgent products, like an entire box of Lucky Charms marshmallows.
These simultaneous but contradictory demands are difficult for producers to anticipate and deliver on, but General Mills' strategy of pushing the whole grains of its normal product and the sugary sweetness of its novelty product seems to be a savvy strategy.
General Mills has outperformed its rivals, while the cereal industry as a whole is struggling. Last year, unit sales in its cereals category were up 0.2%, while overall U.S. cereal unit sales were down 3.4%. It may be wise for other morning foods makers to use similar tactics to boost brand awareness and consumer engagement, though few cereal brands have the cult following Lucky Charms does.