Cheerios is moving beyond its iconic "O" shape.
For the first time in 40 years, General Mills is adding heart shapes to Honey Nut Cheerios and original yellow-box Cheerios in an effort to propel heart health conversations, officials shared exclusively with USA TODAY.
The new limited-edition boxes are already starting to show up on store shelves and will be available nationwide in January, a time when healthy eating returns to the forefront with New Year's resolutions.
But the heart health benefits of the cereal have been on the front of the box for decades, said Liz Mascolo, Cheerios' vice president of marketing.
"We thought that by changing that iconic shape, it would give some new news and freshness for people who don't read the box," Mascolo said. "You can't miss it when you pour out your bowl of cereal."
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This isn't the first time the brand has added different shapes.
In 1993, General Mills introduced "Xs" for the Tic-Tac-Toe fans, making it OK to play with the food. At the turn of the century, they added a few Number 2s to the mix.
Mascolo said the hearts would be available only for a limited time, leading into February, which is Heart Health Month.
“We want to remind people that living a heart-healthy lifestyle can be joyful, easy and delicious, and Honey Nut Cheerios can help to fuel that journey," Mascolo said. "We hope the new heart shapes not only put a smile on people’s faces but inspire them to find new, fun ways to take care of their hearts.”
Along with the limited-time cereal, there will be a new commercial, box design and social campaign. The commercial debuting later this month features Buzz the Bee, who will tout the cereals heart-healthy benefits, which include lowering cholesterol.
General Mills said in a statement that baby boomers are the biggest consumers of cereal and, despite reports that millennials are killing the cereal industry, the consumption of cereal is on the rise.
Research firm Mintel has reported declines. It found U.S. sales of hot and cold cereal were $10.3 billion in 2019, down from $10.5 billion in 2017.
In February, rewards app Shopkick released results of its National Cereal Day survey that found 96% of consumers bought at least one box of cereal on every shopping trip. Nearly half of the more than 43,000 consumers surveyed said flavor was the driving motivator in their cereal choice.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Staying heart-healthy: Cheerios adds hearts to promote heart benefits