In 2016, for Marketing professionals, brand managers, TV stations and the media, it sounded like a smart, strategic promotion and a bold move for  General Mills to promote “no high fructose,” “no artificial colors” and “no artificial flavors,” across their entire cereal product line. But wait there’s more, and a twist with Trix.

In 2016, General Mills went to a naturally flavored sweetened corn puff, without artificial colors, for their Trix. The problem was, the new flavor bombed. Consumers rebelled. They didn’t like the new formulation and stopped buying boxes of Trix. Sales were off.

The brand managers had to admit they made a huge mistake so much so that they had to make a huge turnaround and announce they were wrong. Consumers wanted what they wanted, and it wasn’t “healthy” Trix.

In late 2017 they changed the packaging to say that the artificial flavors and colors were back. Huge reversal for a company to make, since they said their cereals wouldn’t contain any artificial colors or flavors. None, Nada, Zippo.

After Big G announced the switch back, it took months to replace the old with the “classic.” For weeks, Londre went to more than a dozen stores to see if General Mills had replaced the Trix boxes.

At Pepperdine’s Seaver College Communication Division, The 2 Guyz had Integrated Marketing Communications seniors taste test and study the changes at General Mills. It was so much fun involving them in an actual taste test. And even more interesting getting their feedback.

We blindfolded several and we let them all have secretly marked packages to taste.

The “Classic”  (or “old formulation”) of artificial flavors and ingredients won.

Great discussions. We talked in class that the natural colors and flavors were boring. So was the packaging. Students talked about the “after taste” of the new formulation which seemed odd to us since the colors and flavors were supposedly natural.

Big G used a bright starburst on the front of package “We’re Back 6 Fruity Colors.” The art direction and packaging is significantly better to attract selection at the store shelf.

We blind taste tested the old and classic Trix. The new “classic” won but there were a few males who liked the version without the artificial colors and flavors. All the females like the version with artificial colors and flavors.

It was obvious from opening the packages which box had the artificial flavors and colors. By smell and sight. (Think dayglo!)

We talked about the syndicated research of females being the predominate purchaser of Trix. They are purchasing for their kids. We showed the demographics of lower income and education. Also that when purchasing Trix, boxes of Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch were also purchased by the same people.

Londre also related Big G’s solution to the marketing crisis and problems with new Coke versus old Coke when 300K participated in Coca-Cola taste tests. Coke came out with their new Coke and their turnaround. Coke had to go back to their classic version, too.

When in doubt, test. When results seem odd, repeat the test. A lesson truly learned.