John Bryant is a voracious cereal eater. Most mornings, he has a bowl of Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds, a spinoff of the company’s 99-year-old All-Bran, originally marketed as a “natural laxative.” At night he’s likely to snack on Honey Smacks, which is 56 percent sugar by weight. Sometimes he’ll mix it with more nutritious Frosted Mini-Wheats. Bryant also feeds the stuff to his six children. “I can assure you that we go through an enormous amount of cereal,” he says. This makes the Bryant household somewhat of an anachronism at a time when Americans have moved on to granola bars, rediscovered the virtues of hot meals such as oatmeal and eggs, and fallen under the spell of Greek yogurt. But then Bryant would probably feel guilty if he joined them. He’s chief executive officer of Kellogg, the world’s largest cereal maker, whose brands also include Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, Froot Loops, and Apple Jacks. Kellogg needs all the cereal eaters it can muster.
On Feb. 12, Bryant, fortified by his customary helping of All-Bran, arrived at Kellogg headquarters in Battle Creek, Mich., to deliver bad news. He announced the company’s U.S. morning-foods net sales fell 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. It was the division’s seventh quarterly decline in a row. “It’s very frustrating,” Bryant said in a postmortem telephone interview.