Wheaties' announcement today that it is launching a new beer may sound like the prompt to a joke — beer is the new breakfast of champions! — but it is, in fact, profoundly real.
The fact that the brew, a limited-edition Hefeweizen made by the Minneapolis craft brewery Fulton, is called "HefeWheaties" only amplifies the hilarity of a big cereal brand testing its marketability in the booze market.
But there's one, very important caveat for anyone curious if Wheaties can make a decent Hefeweizen.
"Wheaties is not actually in the beer," maker General Mills revealed on its blog. Rather, the link between Wheaties and beer, however loose, is the wheat. "That connection helped both brands try something interesting," according to General Mills.
And there's the fact that Fulton and General Mills are both based in Minneapolis, so, you know, why not? It will be available Aug. 26 in the Twin Cities market only.
The product makes no sense, on many levels, but Wheaties could use a boost in brand awareness, even if it's from slapping its name on beer cans. Sales of the cereal have been declining for more than a decade, reported the Washington Post. The cereal industry overall has been struggling, and General Mills recently decided to reformulate its products to have no artificial colors or flavors to meet changing consumer preference for natural foods. Another route, apparently, is to test their viability in beer form.
Considering there's zero Wheaties in the beer, HefeWheaties appears to be more branding exercise than product innovation. Perhaps the Wheaties brand will help Fulton sell some more beer. Perhaps craft beer will help General Mills get the Wheaties name in front of more millennials. After all, Wheaties cereal can fuel you up before a game, and HefeWheaties can help you kick back after, said General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas.
Tucker Gerrick, Fulton's director of marketing, told BuzzFeed News that this is not a licensing deal and not a cent was exchanged between the two companies. "We're growing already" without Wheaties, he said. General Mills, in fact, had "asked us specifically" to team up on the product. Fulton's co-founder is a former General Mills employee and the brewery remains connected with current and former employees of the cereal company.
The partnership also seems to highlight a softening divide between small, independent craft companies and large manufacturers, who are often vying for the same customers. Fortunately for this partnership, Wheaties and beer have had very little in common, until now.