In a promotional campaign to help bring awareness of declining honey bee populations, General Mills has stocked stores shelves across Canada and the United States with boxes of their well known brand, Honey Nut Cheerios, with its bee mascot missing. But now, not only is Buzz the bee gone on the lam but the company has run out of the wildflower seeds it was giving away as part of its campaign to save the bees.
“In one week, the campaign not only reached its goal but surpassed it by an un-bee-lievable amount,” says the company in a statement. “We’re out of seeds in the US and we’re also close to running out it Canada.”
General Mills partnered with Vesey’s Seeds of York, PEI, for the campaign, giving out over 10 million packages of wildflower seeds in the US and Canada and building on the success of last year’s campaign which saw seeds being made available just in Canada.
“It started well over a year and a half ago when myself and their marketing people were talking about what we might be able to do together in order to draw attention to the plight of the bees because bees’ health is coming under pressure from a variety of reasons, environmental, development (and) dangerous sprays,’’ says John Barrett, director of sales for marketing and development for Vesey’s, to the PEI Guardian.
The PEI company sees the venture as a no-brainer, as it promotes the importance of bee conservation as well as providing valuable exposure for Vesey’s. “For us to see that many packages being distributed with our name and our website, our address and our phone number and to have the presence and visibility with our logo and everything on that many boxes of cereal, it’s all good,” says Barrett. “The kind of exposure is worth into hundreds of thousands of dollars. You could never afford to buy it.’’
Last year, General Mills Canada won a Canadian marketing award for its bee campaign, created by the ad agency Cossette. The company said that along with the missing-bee-on-the-box feature and the seed giveaway, the campaign had more than four million views of its online video and millions of social media responses.
As part of this year’s Bring Back the Bees campaign, the company is hosting pop-up grocery stores in Toronto and Chicago showing what the “Grocery Store of the Future” would look like in a world without bees. The interactive display features near-empty shelves, with all products involving foods pollinated by bees removed and contains the message that “One in three bites” of the food we eat is available because of bees and other pollinators.
“As a General Mills cereal built around nutrition, helping pollinators get the key nutrition they need through fun, family-friendly activities like planting wildflowers is a natural fit,” said Susanne Prucha, director of marketing for Cheerios.
Honey bee populations the world over have declined over the past decade due to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon attributed to factors such as the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides, infestations of varroa mites and habitat loss.