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Why aren't there "cereal bars" in supermarkets?

You know ... rows and rows of bins filled with cereal where you can mix and match any combo that you want and then pay by the pound? The way you might do with with things like bulk rice, beans, grains, etc.?

How nice would it be to indulge once in a while in a nice mix of Honey Bunches of Oats, with some Cocoa Puffs, topped with some Cap'n Crunch, and then sprinkled with a bit of Cinnamon Life? All shaken, not stirred, of course.

If I wanted that combo I'd have to buy, like, four boxes of cereal.

And, yes, I know there are cereal restaurants where they can mix and match for you, but why not at a supermarket -- where they could have bins and bins of cereals and you could mix and match to create your own "cereation" (cereal+creation) while picking up some kale, a bottle of Stag Leap's Chardonnay (2008), and some Fuji Apples?

Is there such a setup in a grocery store where you live?

I have yet to find one where I am ... sadly, enough.

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  1. Hmmm, my guess is sanitation. How many kids do you think would just about dive into one of those huge bins filled with cocoa puffs?

    Might get a nice surprise in your next 'custom' bowl of cereal. I can see it now:

    "Blue moons, green clovers, red ballons...and a band-aid?!?!?!?"

    6 Replies
    1. re: Novelli

      There could also be an issue with the cereal going stale quickly.

      1. re: Novelli

        There are bins with granola, mixed nuts, yogurt pretzels in the markets in my neighborhood. The problems you point out would apply to those items as well.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          It could...but probably less likely as those bins aren't real big 'child' attracters.

          Granola, mixed nuts, and yogurt covered pretzels just don't have the same appeal as say marshmellow bits, chocolate chip cookies, or other brightly colored, sugar coated cartoon characters...which 9 times out of 10 come with toys!

          and as stated above by Fromageball...I'm sure there would be a 'freshness' issue as well.

          1. re: Novelli

            The bins that contain those items are air-tight where you open a latch to release the contents and it automatically closes when you release the latch. I'm not sure that granola or trailix or mueslix is any more stale-proof than regular cereal.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              "The bins that contain those items are air-tight where you open a latch to release the contents and it automatically closes when you release the latch."
              not all of them, nor even a majority, for that matter. most stores don't have the wall space to accommodate only gravity-assisted dispensers, so they use the lidded bins with scoops, which are highly unsanitary and also offer little protection against staling/spoilage as customers leave them open half the time.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                I hardly see the lidded containers anymore, except for things like rice and beans.

                Whole Foods, for example, have those auto shut containers that dispense via Newtonian laws of physics.

      2. One of my local health food stores does have several varieties of cereal in bulk bins. Though it's the heartier stuff; mostly granola. And of course no Cocoa Puffs. I can't imagine corn flakes doing too well in a bin.

        What's wrong with buying four boxes of cereal?

        Oh, and have you seen this?: http://www.chow.com/food-news/66621/d...

        1. I don't think it would be a big draw. Salad bars are popular because it's a healthy alternative, cold cereal isn't. If I'm going to eat cold cereal I'll eat it at home.
          Whole Foods has a breakfast bar and the traffic seems a bit spotty.

          Maybe a bit off topic, but a couple Asian girls opened a cereal and grilled cheese place in S. Pasadena called Mix N' Match. I see their problem being they don't open until 9:00am five days a week, 10:00 on Mondays and 11:00 on Thursday, Half the breakfast business is gone by 9am. ....what they don't want to get up early?

          4 Replies
          1. re: monku

            I would be buying the cereal to eat at home, not in the store.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Maybe major brand cereal companies don't want to sell their cereal in bulk?

              1. re: monku

                Ok, I'll take the bait.

                Why wouldn't the major cereal companies want to sell their cereal via the bulk containers?

                Is it because the cereal box is inherently part and parcel of what the actual cereal is about? Maybe even more so?

                In other words, we identify as much with Tony the Tiger as we do with Frost Flakes? So, that if we started selling Frost Flakes without also selling the smiling pearly whites of Tony the Tiger, consumers might then realize that generic store brand sugar flakes are as good as Frosted Flakes.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  They probably make the most profit selling it the way they do in boxes...why do something that's going to jeopardize that profit margin.

                  The only "bulk" cereal I've seen outside a box are larger bags of "off brand" (clones of major brands) cereals at Walmart.
                  Why not sell cereal in a bag?

                  Speaking of Tony the Tiger...
                  I noticed my wife has a package of Frosted Flakes in a cup.
                  6/ 2.1 ounce cups of Frosted Flakes in a plastic cups(you remove the paper top, pour milk into it and eat it). I'm sure she got it at Costco for about $5. Compare that to a box of Frosted Flakes and Kellogg figured out how to maximize their profit on the cereal, not by going bulk, but individual servings.

          2. I think there would be a conflict with the "cereal bar" in the supermarket idea and the manufacturers that pay for shelf space to sell their cereal in the store.

            1. I saw a similar concept in the groceries here several months ago, done a little differently. I'm sorry I don't remember the brand, but they were selling sleeves of cereal in different flavors, and maybe even in different shapes. (I didn't look that closely.) There were mix "recipes" on the plastic bag packaging. Each variety was priced less than a dollar, so you could mix and match, was the idea, I'm sure, for the same price as a regular sized box of cereal.

              1. there are cereal restaurants that allow you to mix & match - perhaps they'd let you buy containers to go?

                the one in Westwood closed (it was called Juju Cereal Bar), but Flake in Venice offers the option on their breakfast menu...

                BTW, i think monku is onto something - by offering their products in bulk, manufacturers would miss out on profit from packaging markups, and on branding opportunities like logo recognition. plus, kids make up a majority of the cereal marketing audience and you can't fit all those cartoon mascots, puzzles and games from a cereal box on a tiny bulk bin label, so how would you get their attention? ;)

                7 Replies
                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Yeah, I think it definitely has to be a marketing/packaging issue.

                  Most foods we buy -- except for things like milk, eggs (except Eggland), vegetables (heirlooms notwithstanding), etc. -- are really dependent on packaging and marketing. Coke versus Pepsi, anyone?

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    "packaging and marketing. Coke versus Pepsi, anyone?"

                    Do I see another post for you to start on the horizon?.

                    1. re: monku

                      I think this is one reason why Tab never maintained mainstream popularity. Reddish pink is eyecatching, but not very appetite pleasing in a "eye-candy" kind of way.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I think it was the ban on cyclamates then the saccharin warnings and the introduction of Diet Coke that killed Tab.

                        1. re: monku

                          No reason that Tab couldn't switch to Aspartame, just like Diet Coke.

                          In fact, I believe the current iteration of Tab is a blend of saccharin and Aspartame.

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          Quick Google on TaB says that Royal Crown Diet RIte Cola was the only diet soft drink on the market until Coke introduced TaB in 1963..."in "hot-pink cans that suited the era."

                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      In the end you'd probably save money if you buy the four boxes of cereal and mix and match your own rather than mix and match at one of those "cereal bars" to go.

                      ........and you'd miss out on those neat things that are in the cereal boxes. (do they still do that?)

                    3. Guys, it's not JUST the packaging.

                      The grocery stores don't want to go to a bulk bin because they get a slotting allowance for every box of everything that sits on their shelves. That's right -- the manufacturers pay the grocery chains to rent their shelf space.

                      A supermarket usually makes less than 5% profit on fast-moving items...but they get an advertising co-op , a volume discount, a volume rebate on yearly business, buy-backs, new store allowance, and remodel allowance...plus returns for damaged packaging.

                      Why would the supermarket offer up the golden goose for the sacrifice?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Well, that presumes the manufacturer wouldn't compensate the supermarkets accordingly (i.e. more) for having their items in bulk item containers.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          but why would they settle for having just one manufacturer pay them for bin space when they could have THREE pay them for different brands of the same cereal?

                          Bulk manufacturers don't pay shelf space premiums, and it would be a pretty hard sell to have four brands of corn flakes lined up in bins.

                          (If it were a good deal for the supermarkets, I guarantee they'd have already done it.)

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Bulk manufacturers don't pay shelf space premiums, and it would be a pretty hard sell to have four brands of corn flakes lined up in bins.


                            Exactly. Which is an indirect way of saying it *is* about marketing and packaging.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              but the marketing and packaging creates an income stream for the stores...so it's part of it, but it's not the whole ball of wax.

                      2. Sure they do. Not the commercial brands you named, but we have grocery stores with bulk bins of cereal. Maybe Whole Foods have them too.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: PeterL

                          the only types of cereal i've seen in bulk bins are grnola, muesli, and plain/basic varieties like puffed rice (and maybe bran or corn flakes) that people often use for baking. do your grocery stores sell types other than those in bulk bins? particularly the sugar-laden, brightly colored and novelty-shaped ones? i think that's what ipse was getting at.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              well gee, ipse, that's the nicest thing anyone's said to me all day! ;)

                            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              The Whole Foods in my area only have granola and the like in bins. The other grocery store that has bulk bins (Winco), though, has about a dozen more mainstream (though not name brand) choices, like frosted flakes, cocoa puffs, cereal-O's, etc., alongside a dozen or so granola options.

                              1. re: mattwarner

                                interesting! i've shopped in Whole Paycheck stores all over the country, and never seen mainstream cereal in the bulk bins. they don't have them in any other bulk-heavy chains like Sprouts or Henry's here in SoCal either.

                                i stand corrected ;)

                          1. Bulk cereal bins do exist; nowadays you are most likely to find them in food co-ops. In my area (DC), some supermarkets tried the idea quite a few years ago. But they don't do it anymore.

                            I can only make a guess as to the reasons: not popular enough, messy, manufacturers don't pay for shelf space, etc. SInce the bulk bins didn't replace the shelf items, maybe it was additional floor space without additional sales. Anyway, I guess it was a failed experiment.