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Rte Cereal Case Summary

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Executive Summary: Ready-to-Eat Breakfast Cereal Industry in 1994

From 1950s to the 1980s, the ready-to-eat (RTE) cereal industry was concentrated with three companies dominating the volume market share: Kellogg, General Mills, and General Foods (acquired by Philip Morris in 1985 – makers of post), with volume market share that hovered around the 30s, 20s, and 10s, respectively. Quaker, Nabisco, and Ralston held single digit volume market share throughout this time. The industry was characterized by stability and above average profitability. Sales were steady at a compound annual volume growth rate of three percent between 1950 and 1993 due to new offerings such as vitamin fortification (during WWII), presweetening (1950s), and interested in granola and natural cereals in 1970s to 1980s. The largest cereal manufacturers were extremely profitable, routinely posting Return on Assets in the 15-30 % range. Some industry observers claimed that the Big Three (Kellogg, General Mills, and Post) had effective unwritten agreements to limit in-pack premiums to one brand at a time for each company, to refrain from trade dealing (offering discounts to retailers for special treatment or special promotions), and withhold from widespread vitamin fortification. These tools, if employed, would temporarily increase a firm’s market share at the expense of its competitors. Because the Big Three avoided these practices for many years, they prevented a cycle of escalating costs that would ruin the RTE industry profitability.

However, technology advancement, increase in price by big brand, emergence of new channels and coupon complexity of big brands allowed private label to gain share from 1990 to 1994.
Private labels avoided using high cost ingredients but focused on producing quality level near to that of branded products. These private labels used clear plastic bags for…...

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