Marriage made in chocolate heaven?

Mazie and Ron Baalman, owners of the local Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory franchises, are excited about the Kellogg’s connection.

Mazie and Ron Baalman, owners of the local Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory franchises, are excited about the Kellogg’s connection.

The chocolate in Kellogg’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Chocolatey Almond brand breakfast cereal, now available at local Target stores, does not come from the Durango-based Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

In fact, it does not contain the ingredient required for the legal definition of chocolate: Cocoa butter.

The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory logo is featured prominently on the front of the box of the limited-edition Kellogg’s cereal, and the story of the chocolate company’s quaint and humble history is explained on the back.

Mazie Baalman, co-owner of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory franchise stores in El Paso County and Castle Rock with her husband Ron since March 2002, is fine with the fact that the chocolate company’s product is not in the Kellogg’s cereal.

The cereal’s chocolate is formulated using Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory chocolate “as a basis in flavor,” Mazie Baalman said. “I don’t want people to think that’s the same type of chocolate they get in here.

“That’s the biggest obstacle as an owner.”

“The actual quality of the product, or how it’s made or where it’s made, it was all within their purview and control,” said Ron Baalman of Kellogg’s.

“It’s my understanding that that’s something they didn’t want our opinions on and didn’t ask,” Ron Baalman said.

He added that he’s heard feedback from people who love the cereal and from people who don’t much care for it.

“If it was sold in King Soopers or Safeway or Albertson’s, I’d hear more feedback,” Mazie Baalman said.

The cereal is sold only at Target and is priced at $3.49 for the 11.5-ounce box at the Target on North Academy Boulevard.

Of the people Mazie Baalman said she spoke with about the cereal, all said they liked it. And she likes it.

“There’s the right amount of chocolate in it for me,” she said.

Ron Baalman has no sense of smell, and therefore no sense of taste, so as a result, he has formed no opinion on the product, he said.

He added he considers it beneficial to have a national brand affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory brand.

Joe Hodas, executive vice president of the Colorado Springs advertising agency Vladimir Jones, agreed.

“The reward is huge for Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and pretty good for Kellogg’s,” Hodas said when asked specifically about this marketing union. “A lot of people won’t look that deeply into it,” to read the box and discover that the company is not using Rocky Mountain chocolate. (Neither Hodas nor Vladimir Jones participated in marketing the product.)

The cereal’s chocolate has a higher wax content than Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s so the product will survive warmer climates, Mazie Baalman said.

“They can’t use identical chocolate,” she added. “It would melt. If they did, it would become a melted blob. They had to use something they could ship.”

Also, the box says “Product of Mexico.”

“That’s not our choice,” Mazie Baalman said. “With the conscientiousness of Americans, I’m surprised they went that route.

“It’s probably out of control of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. It’s probably a Kellogg’s choice.”

Mazie Baalman said the Colorado Springs franchise uses the product as a coating on the company’s signature caramel apples.

Bottom line: “It’s a nice way to get our name on the shelf,” she said.

No one from the Kellogg Company, headquartered in Battle Creek, Mich., was available to comment, said employee Stephanie Singerland in an email.

“We’re pleased to have partnered with Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to bring Target consumers an exclusive, limited-edition cereal to enjoy for breakfast, or any time of day,” said the email, which Singerland attributed to Kris Charles, Kellogg’s spokesperson.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s Chief Operating Officer Bryan Merryman did not respond to requests for comment.

“This is a true milestone and demonstrates the strength of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory brand,” Merryman said in a May 26 story in the Durango Herald. “All indications are it’s off to a very good start.”

Rocky Mountain Chocolate’s Facebook page touts the product, and several “fans” have commented how delicious the product is.

As of this week, 73 people have “liked” the cereal on Facebook, and all of the online comments were positive.

That was not mirrored by Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer Al Sicherman.

In a May 29 blog entry, Sicherman wrote, “The ‘chocolatey pieces’ in Kellogg’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory cereal aren’t even that good. Not only do they have a downright unpleasant texture, leaving a waxy coating in the mouth, but they also have no flavor. At all.”

The Minneapolis paper received an email from Kellogg’s Charles, who said, “The cereal is created in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, but they do not provide ingredients,” according to the Star-Tribune’s website.

This information was provided to the franchise owners as the cereal was introduced.

“Not using any of their ingredients is a key point,” Vladimir Jones’ Hodas said. But it’s also possible, he added, that no one cares whether the Rocky Mountain chocolate is actually in the cereal.

“Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is getting great exposure, great distribution,” Hodas said. “The only risk they run is if someone doesn’t like the cereal, do they associate it with the chocolate?

“My sense is it’s a marketing bait and switch. They lure you in with this heritage and good product but not give you the product. People who are fans will probably not stop eating this product.”

Hodas suspected Kellogg’s approached the Chocolate Factory, a move he called “fascinating.” Typically, a smaller company will seek alliance with a larger, more established company.

“It’s truly a marketing partnership,” Hodas said. It’s also a way for the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to become aligned with another international company, Target.

The benefits far outweigh the risks, Hodas concluded, saying that whether the move challenges truth-in-advertising is probably not an issue.

“I guarantee you, they have scores of legal teams reviewing this to maintain truth-in-advertising laws,” Hodas said. He advises his clients to be as “true and transparent” as possible.

Kellogg’s did approach the Chocolate Factory, said Ron Baalman, who extolled the marketing partnership as brilliant.

“It’s a great cross-marketing, as a regional brand being recognized by an international brand,” Ron Baalman said.

“We’ve got something people want.”

2 Responses to Marriage made in chocolate heaven?

  1. This is downright appalling. It confirms what I had always thought: that Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory sells a very mediocre product. And now, it is “ethically-challenged” as well. If I owned a franchise with RMCF, I would be so ticked off that they agreed to stick their name on a inferior product that doesn’t even use real chocolate. The use of “chocolatey” in the name is a dead giveaway that it isn’t real.

    It is ironic that Ron Baalman has so sense of smell/taste. If he had, he might have franchised a better brand of chocolate.

    What we could really use here is a Lindt outlet or, dare I hope, a Teuscher’s outlet.

    June 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm

  2. Truth in advertising IS the issue, so far as I’m concerned. This type of approach just plants in people’s minds that companies are devious. Most companies do not behave that way. However, it only takes a handful of companies that do behave poorly to taint industry as a whole. I’ve spent decades in my career working to assure that my clients are not only appearing truthful, but are also being truthful. Incidents such as this one make my work much harder. In the final analysis, all I can say is, “Wax in chocolate? Yech!” I understand there is such a thing as food-grade wax, but I don’t particularly think it falls anywhere on the food pyramid.

    June 25, 2013 at 10:04 am