Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fiber One Cereal: Profits, Aspartame, and "Healthy" Cereal?

General Mills' Fiber One cereal has been around for decades, but recently the cereal notorious at kitchen table confabulations for its resemblance to eating cardboard and experiencing gastronomic purgatory has received an inordinate amount of attention. Given the company's $560 million advertising spending so far this year, the venerable Advertising Age recently ran a piece on the product line at the forefront of General Mills' conquest for the supermarket aisles and kitchen pantries across America: "In the past 18 months, Fiber One has expanded from five items in two categories to 20 items in six categories. Fiber One ready-to-eat cereal alone has seen 2008 sales rise 38.2% to $44.1 million for the period ended Oct. 5, according to Information Resources Inc."

Besides the huge advertising budget that General Mills has devoted to establishing the Fiber One brand, they've also aggressively pursued some creative partnerships. One of which is a book deal with the "Hungry Girl" Lisa Lillien, whose self-professed mission is to trim those pesky muffin tops and provide her followers with some convenient calorie discounts. To clarify, she's not a nutritionist, she's just hungry. In her book, she features Fiber One cereal in "17 delicious, guilt-free recipes." This partnership is one example of the brand's creativity and willingness to generate buzz through social media. What is concerning, however, is that Fiber One's creativity doesn't stop with their innovative marketing--they are being creative with your health too.

In a year of soft revenue at the consumer level, Fiber One's strong sales stand out, but driving this juggernaut forward, isn't just their aggressive marketing strategies and pursuit of partnerships, but the fact that their product solves an important need for consumers--providing a healthy alternative to high-calorie sugar cereals that dominate the supermarket aisles.

I purchased Fiber One for the very reason described above: I wanted a cereal high in critical nutrients and low in supplemental sugar, so I weighted the nutritional contents and price of Fiber One against Grape Nuts, Raisin and Kashi cereal. Satisfied with my choice of Fiber One, I purchased the product and enjoyed some the next morning. To my surprise, the cereal had an intense sweetness, so I re-verified the nutritional content and confirmed that the cereal contained zero sugar, a strange fact that befuddled my expectations. Further investigation confirmed that the product contains aspartame, an artificial sweetener used frequently in diet soft drinks and linked to various forms of cancer. Adding aspartame to a supposed healthy cereal is an egregious offense which amounts to intentionally deceiving consumers.

General Mills and the Fiber One’s marketing organization need to fess up. Their cereal isn't healthy and contains chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer in both humans and lab rats. In fact, female rats fed the artificial sweetener developed more lymphomas and leukemia at a statistically significant level compared to rats that received no aspartame in their feed (Soffritti et al. 2005; Soffritti et al. 2006). The prevalence of cancer in rats grew commensurately with the amount of aspartame in their diets. Another study published in 1996 (Olney et al. 1996) suggested that an increase in the number of people with brain tumors between 1975 and 1992 might be associated with the introduction and use of aspartame sweetener in the human diet.

Get with the program Fiber One. Your cereal causes cancer and deceives consumers--I want my money back.

Update 5/16: Looks like General Mills' strategy is paying off--according to General Mills' quarterly statements, snack unit revenue is up 15 percent% largely because of "healthier snacks" like Fiber One leading the top line.


Anonymous said...

You are right on target. I have been looking into the cereal after my sister experienced such debilitating abdominal pain and other symptoms. The Fiber One bars were equally damaging to her gut. I told her to put sugar on saw-dust and call it cereal!
I am like you - I am so sick of being lied to and deceived by companies and governmental agencies who are anti-health.

Anonymous said...

I am the sister of "anonymous". Fiber One was intended to be another step toward better health, not a guaranteed extended stay in the bathroom. The violent bloating, pain, and discomfort I have felt for many months has already begun to subside after 36 hours of AVOIDING FIBER ONE. I'll stick with apples and other natural sources of fiber from now on!

Mary Beth said...

I agree! This stuff tastes OK but is an unnatural source of Fiber. You would get more fiber in an apple than two bowls of Fiber One I'm not a math major ;) but it's close to that.

Anonymous said...

Actually, no Mary Beth, it's not even close to that. Not even remotely. Math major you are not indeed.

Brad Kamanski said...

I am so glad you posted this. I had just put a short article up on this myself and went to the search engines to see if my article got indexed because people NEED this info. I too am deeply saddened that these huge corporations could give a crap about our health. They would NEVER serve this crap to their families if they saw how badly aspartame has affected my mother-in-law! Shame on General Mills!

K. JUten said...

Brad, what did aspartame do to your Mother-in-law? I am having vision problems after eating Fiber one anyone else out there?

Anonymous said...

I used to eat fiber one every morning for breakfast. Then I noticed that it contained aspartame. I have stopped eating it and tell everyone who eats it about it containing aspartame. This cereal is a disappointment to someone trying eat healthy.

Anonymous said...

Dose Kellogs have Aspertain in it please let me know also chickens. Mimi

The Peoples Program said...

Thanks for sharing this information. It's so easy just to believe things at face value until research is done.

I will share this blog to raise awareness with others.

Anonymous said...

Gee, we have been buying this cereal for some years now; especially for the fibre content. Well, I too, started questioning the sweet taste, and then in tiny lettering on the front bottom of the package I read about the aspartame.
I am disgusted, we all know about the shortfalls of this sweetener.
I contacted the company and received a ludicrous answer; We stand behind our product, and make the best possible cereal for our consumers;
This was their answer!!! We have some purchased ahead, but I, for one am not going to partake.
This should be off the market, or at least make people aware that this cereal contains an artificial sweetener.

Anonymous said...

"Health products" shouldn't have aspartame.

Anonymous said...

Prick! Idk Mary Beth, but there was no need in being such an A$$ in ur comment! Go suck an Apple and STFU!