#4 Tastes of the Region: Flutie Flakes

Today, we present a different Taste of the Region. It's origin as a regional food is not traceable to immigrant groups or to our state's storied history, but to the influence of one man: Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie.

Supermarket reglars and cereal afficianados probably remember Flutie Flakes, the frosted breakfast cereal that made its debut in the region in 1998 and gave countless children early morning sugar highs until 2001. Flutie Flakes were similar in packaging to Wheaties, and in concept to Frosted Flakes. As a cereal conussoir, I found that Flutie Flakes were superior to Frosted Flakes due to their thicker flakes that resisted sogginess longer, and made for a more satisfying crunch.

But it was Flutie Flakes regional appeal and the Flakes charitable mission that set it apart from other cereals. Doug Flutie was a high-profile Bills player with enough celebrity pull to sell cereal, especially in Upstate New York. Proceeds from the sale of Flutie Flakes went to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.* Flutie Flakes were also used in a candy that was sold in the Buffalo area: a chocolate bar filled with Flutie Flakes.

The flakes themselves had no regional ties. The cereal was produced by PLB Sports, a Pittsburgh-based company that
"specializes in combining high profile athletes and their charities with unique and superior quality product lines." The cereal itself in Flutie Flakes was the same as the company packaged as Elway's Comeback Crunch and several other cereals. Flutie Flakes defected from the upstate market when Flutie joined the San Diego Chargers in 2001: the box took on the Chargers color scheme and was called Flutie Flakes Super Charged. However, even though Flutie himself had left Upstate, the company looked into having Wegmans and Tops continue to carry it. Also of regional interest, the company also produced the Melo Bar, a candy bar promoted by former Syracuse University basketball player Carmelo Anthony.

The sucess of Flutie Flakes, in my mind, speaks to the possibilities of regional marketing. While the product itself was regretably not regional, the collective power of Upstate sports/cereal fans not only helped children with autism and their families, but engendered a sense of regional connection that is so missing in the national mass-market consumer culture of today. And if there are any two things that get York Staters up in arms, they are sports and bad weather. Just think of the sucess if they had named it Doug Flutie's Snowstorm Crunch.

* The percentage of the proceeds is unknown. Some sources say "a portion", others say "a large portion"

Posted by Natalie


Juice Newton said...

I still have my box of Flutie Flakes, however I ate the candy bar back in the late 90's. The candy bars were initially released all over the tri-state area I think, at least they were in local Wegman's stores in central and southern NY. That would take some serious investiagtive journalism finding out where the proceeds went. Is Doug still in the NFL because he was able to hoard away flutie flakes profits to purchase bionic appendages?

Anonymous said...

I have an unopened red box of Flutie Flakes and it was signed by Doug when he came to Providence when he played football aginst the Pats > his team stayed at the Weston here in Providence,and he was kind enough to sign it for me at that time. Email rtkells@cox.net

Anonymous said...

I know dozens of people who still have unopened Flutie Flakes boxes here in Buffalo. I don't have an original box, but I bought one for the 10th Anniversary and display it proudly. Flutie was the last good Quarterback the Bills ever had, and everyone wanted him to stay. I remember I was at the dermatologist's the day he was released, and the Doctor was crying as I went to my appointment. Flutie was a special man, and Buffalo still loves him.