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We’ve written plenty about supermarket competitors on these virtual pages in the past, but none are as intriguing as, well, the virtual competitors. We’re talking about the online merchants who operate home-delivery businesses for just about every category. Organic produce, artisan cheese, free-range beef: You name it, it’s in your mailbox.

cereal_boxes.jpgNow we can add to the mix cereal/snacks. A few companies have emerged as potential threats for those retailers with specialty cereal sets. There’s [me]&goji (gimmicky brackets, huh?); as well as MixMyGranola. Then there’s the specialist of the specialty cereal makers, Custom Choice Cereal, which focuses on gluten-free products. I’m sure I’ve missed a few (feel free to add onto the list in the comments section).

Check these sites out. Customers start with a grain base, and from there add nuts, berries, fruit… even chocolate. What I like is the interactive Nutrition Facts panel that keeps a running tally of the nutritional value of your ingredients.

Sure the finished product is a bit pricey, but have you checked out cereal prices in the stores? They were pretty high over the past year due to huge increases in commodity input costs. But even without that, prices for an ever-shrinking box of cereal have been a big turn-off, at least for this consumer.

What can brick-and-mortar food stores do? The same thing I’ve been doing: I make my own customized mix using my store’s bulk bins. Any retailer with a decent bulk foods selection can promote it as a cereal destination. Just keep it fresh, keep it clean and occasionally have a staffer busy themselves around the bins in case anyone needs help. In fact, get employees involved by posting their favorite mixes as suggestion to novice customers.

For now, I don’t intend on getting my cereal by mail order. But lots of other people are. [me]&goji is already shipping about 1,000 containers a month. These are consumers who used to shop your cereal aisle.

(Photo credit: Brett/bk2000)

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