Originally created 02/23/99

Inn's cereal to be marketed



ST. MARYS, Ga. -- With a little milk and imagination, Peggy Cason hopes to savor her luxurious holiday at Cumberland Island's Greyfield Inn each morning, the memory no farther than the cereal poised on her spoon.

One of the country's biggest cereal makers, Kellogg, and inn managers are unveiling a joint breakfast food venture next month -- a mixture of wheat and rice flakes, honey, maple oak clusters, pecan pralines and dried cranberries. It is named after the opulent mansion inn.

Those staying at the Greyfield last week got a sneak taste of the new cereal, which Kellogg's food specialists and Greyfield head chef, Michael Rosenburg, developed over eight months.

"I loved it," said Ms. Cason, a resident of Nashville, Tenn. "I'm going to relive my experience on Cumberland Island every morning."

The Country Inn Specialties line of three premium cereal brands also includes the Inn at Ormsby Hill in Manchester, Vt., and Green Gables Inn in Monterey, Calif.

Kellogg announced its plans for the premium line in December. The upscale cereals, which cost $4.49 and will be sold in bags, are slated to be in stores in mid-March.

The Battle Creek, Mich., company hopes the cereals will improve profits, which dropped 22 percent last year as it was battered by low-cost competitors and consumers' preference for alternative breakfast foods.

Several top Kellogg officials selected the inn after staying there. The Greyfield was also the site for the wedding reception of John F. Kennedy Jr., when he married Carolyn Bessette in 1996 on Cumberland Island.

Zachary Zoul, manager of the 17-room mansion built by Thomas Carnegie in 1900, said owners of the Greyfield were initially hesitant about the cereal giant's offer.

"We get lots of requests from people wanting to use the Greyfield image," Mr. Zoul said. "The Ferguson family (owners of the inn) have always been protective of their image."

What sold the Greyfield on Country Inn Specialties was Kellogg's plan to market it as a high-quality cereal and the role the inn's staff played in developing the blend, Mr. Zoul said.

Mr. Rosenburg said he was already serving a homemade granola cereal to the inn's guests, but it wasn't until he worked with Kellogg's food specialists that he settled on a final recipe.

"Everything about it screams quality," he said. "This was a product developed without compromise."

Even though the inn is putting its image on the line by placing its name on the new cereal blend, Mr. Zoul says it will ultimately pay off even with the Greyfield not receiving any compensation for the venture.

"Our marketing budget is very modest," Mr. Zoul said. "But now we have tens of millions of dollars devoted to marketing this product."

He hopes cereal boxes on Americans' breakfast tables, along with a Web site with product information and a virtual tour of the Greyfield, will bring more guests to the inn.