Café Society: 5 Questions With Aleta Chase About Kellogg’s NYC

The Kellogg’s NYC café is now open, having moved from its Times Square perch all the way downtown to the north end of Union Square on 17th Street in Manhattan.

Reopening in a second floor above an AT&T store, it’s now in bigger space overlooking — one that overlooks a farmers’ market area at the popular New York City park and transit hub. The Midwestern cereal-maker is making a big bet that it can boost the relevance of its brands and products with experiential marketing.

Kellogg's NYC cafe

Quintupling the space that Kellogg devoted to its initial New York brand experience that opened in June 2016, the new cereal café will allow visitors to experience Kellogg products—ranging from Frosted Flakes to Pop-Tarts in infinite numbers of combinations—and invite them to celebrate what they’re eating by taking Instagram-ready photos of their creations.

Bedecked with wall murals painted by local artist Steven Fragale of colorful characters ranging from Toucan Sam of Froot Loops fame to Snap, Crackle and Pop, the three Rice Krispies guys, Kellogg’s NYC Cafe also is being counted on to awaken creative juices across the company.

Aleta Chase - Kellogg“We’re taking in all of the information and we’re really using it as a place to listen to what our consumers are asking us for and to feed back to our communications and innovation teams,” Aleta Chase (right), Kellogg’s marketing director of emerging brands and categories, told us. “We’re providing better visibility to all the great innovations coming out of Kellogg.”

For more insights, we spoke with Chase about Kellogg’s bigger, better new cafe in New York City—a long distance from the Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Company.

Aleta, will the new café provide a testing ground for possible new products, much as Chobani does in its Soho café in New York?

We don’t do a lot of combining of existing Kellogg products. We have a couple of different options for consumers to choose from. We have nine pre-made full recipes that were inspired, for instance, by Lauren Conrad; our chefs here at the café have created many; and we had internal foodies create some in a contest.

We do allow people to choose what they want and there is the opportunity for consumers to mix cereals and to choose from 38 different toppings. That’s really the focus for our café.

As we think about a testing ground, we will be selling all of our new creations here at the café first, before they’re available to the public. We’re paying attention to what consumers are making on their own. That will help inspire our innovations down the road.

How will the café advance the “better-for-you” messaging from Kellogg’s, in addition to what it communicates about, for instance, the versatility of Kellogg products?

It’s a huge priority for Kellogg’s. One reason we chose Union Square as the perfect location is because of the huge farmer’s market that’s located directly outside. Many of our toppings come fresh from the farmer’s market right outside the door, such as fruits. Even the spices we use and macha that we get for our drinks is coming from outside in the farmer’s market.

We also do have the opportunity to focus in on very specific brand messages. Such as for Special K, we don’t really focus on weight loss or “challenges” now. We’re trying to really fuel women’s strengths. So our executions will focus on the International Women’s Day in March and International Day of the Girl later in the year and provide brand-specific messages for those.

What else can you do with this café concept?

We definitely want to take it and push it out from just the experience we’re having here. One of the key components is providing the tools to be social-friendly. We saw in Times Square that as soon as people received their creations, they wanted to take a zillion pictures. So we established a social-friendly station where people can propertly light their photos and put accessories with them.

People also will be aware of how they can be more inspirational and imaginative with their cereal at home. And we’ll be taking that idea of reimagining cereal into the store. That’s been really successful for Meijer and Kroger.

Kellogg's NYC cafe

Eat Chill Create

We just recently executed a cereal food truck with Kroger outside their stores to bring idea of recipes and reimagination to life. It was very successsful for us. It was a great partnership.

With Meijer, we’ve done a lot of in-store signage helping people put together different recipes, particularly within the produce area, and thinking about what they can add to their cereal to inspire them and think differently about it.

Some people might be surprised to see chicken and Eggo waffles on the menu, and the move into savory is a bold departure from the previous cafe. Does this suggest innovative ways to expand your cereals from breakfast to inspiring new recipes at lunch/dinner?

It does. We found—and we’ve done a lot of research on this—that a lot of our cereal is eaten outside the breakfast occasion. We’ve been hosting “brinner” events. The idea of bringing savory to the afternoon in the cafe has been very successful. Also we use a masala snack mix: Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes combined with Indian spices and onions, for a savory snack that’s quite addictive. We made it more accessible to US consumers.

When our cafe [operators] brought this idea to us to being the first outside of Kellogg to be able to eat fresh Eggo waffles right off the griddle with Corn Flakes-encrusted chicken, the brand team made it happen, using the official Eggo brand grid that we actually use in our pilot plants.

Kellogg's NYC cafe - Dec. 2017

The look and feel of the new café is very different from the original one: a little less farmhouse chic and more bright, colorful and focused on characters. Why?

What we had in Times Square was wonderful for Times Square. It set it apart from all the Times Square offerings but it was fairly small. So we knew we needed to go bigger and bolder in our new space.

Tony the Tiger print chair at Kellogg's NYC cafe

So we went with a location that was five times as big and we knew we wanted to actually have the feel that New Yorkers could spend time with us, eat and chill and relax with us and work with us and create new things with us. That called for a very different aesthetic. I think the team nailed it.

Below, check out the menu at Kellogg’s NYC — more details are on its website.

Kellogg's NYC menu - Dec. 2017

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