Can Wheaties Leverage Their Brand Equity from Cereal to Beer?

Wheaties HefeWheatiesCan a brand name best known as “Breakfast of Champions” now be translated to beer? General Mills Wheaties thinks so and has teamed up with a nearby craft brewery in Minneapolis to create a limited-edition Hefeweizen beer, called HefeWheaties.

This is a pure brand equity play for General Mills, extending its Wheaties brand into a new and growing category of craft beers even if it is for a limited time. This should help Fulton, General Mills craft beer partner, since industry experts note that while the craft beer category is exploding with an anticipated +17.6% CAGR over the next 5 years, lack of awareness about craft beer among consumers could pose a challenge to the growth of this market. A well established brand name like Wheaties could lend awareness and strong brand equity which could just be a win for this Minneapolis-based craft brewery.HefeWheaties

So just how far can you stretch a brand name? In the brand history archives there have been some epic failures along with some BIG wins. For example, Bic had success with disposable pens but not disposable underwear and McDonald’s had success with McCafe but not McPizza. And Cosmopolitan magazine can easily sell news to women and teens but failed miserably when it tried extending their brand into the yogurt category, lasting only 18 months on the shelves.

Reality Check: There are some fundamental reasons for both wins and losses. One of which is having a strong consumer benefit and reason for being. For the new brand HefeWheaties while not actually containing any “wheaties” in the beer, the products do share a common ingredient of wheat, which is a trademark of Hefeweizen brews. The south German-style of wheat beer is typically brewed with over 50% malted wheat. Using the Wheaties brand name easily translates to a strong wheat beer. Also the smart move of making this a limited edition helps to endorse the novelty effect, key for craft and artisan products.

So for those who grew up with Wheaties as a breakfast staple, this could just be a natural brand extension and a win for Fulton. We think so! But as with all brand extensions, consumer sales is the ultimate judge and jury. “Beer of Champions” anyone?


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