If you’ve grown up gorging on Honey Nut Cheerios, as I did, you’re likely familiar with Buzz, the character whose visage adorns every box of the General Mills product. He’s a spritely, jolly mascot with mustard-yellow skin and a striped shirt, usually cradling a stick of honey as he circumnavigates your cereal bowl.
But he’s gone missing. As of this month, Honey Nut Cheerios boxes are no longer emblazoned with his likeness, but, in its place, a pale, white silhouette.
This gimmick is part of an awareness campaign that General Mills has launched, called #BringBacktheBees, meant to bring attention to the problem of the deterioration of bee colonies and the damage it's had upon the American food system. On the campaign’s website, General Mills notes that these beloved Honey Nut Cheerios, along with 30% of General Mills’ ingredients across all brands and products, rely on honeybee pollination.
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The company’s Canadian arm mounted a similar campaign last year, and this year, it's expanded to the States. (Burt's Bees has also engaged in its own #BringBackTheBees campaign, while Häagen-Dazs has joined in with a similar one, too.)
The site allows visitors to request free wildflower seeds from General Mills partner Vesey's Seeds that’ll arrive within four to six weeks. When planted, the flowers have the pollen and nectar with essential nutrients that bees, and their co-pollinators, need in order to survive.
General Mills has outlined a lofty goal of planting 100 million wildflowers by the end of its campaign, and Buzz is likely to return to boxes once spring is over. Since launching the campaign late last week, General Mills has met 70% of its goal in America; it's currently at 47% in Canada.
As far as awareness campaigns go, I’ll budge: This one’s pretty smart. It's easy to treat news of declining bee population rates with apathy and inaction. If this campaign compels people to know more and to act, I’m all for it. Whatever it takes.
What are your thoughts on this new General Mills campaign? Let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.