It's a good question: "Why are there 10 different varieties of Kellogg's® Mini-Wheats cereal?" ipsedixit wondered. "No deep thoughts here. Just something that intrigues me. In a weird sort of unsettling way."
Many strong theories emerged. "Because it's cheaper and easier to do a 'brand extension' of an already established and pre-sold concept than to come up with a new product and establish it in the marketplace in order to build market share for the company," suggests acgold7. "Agree," says bushwickgirl. "I call it 'a flavor for every taste' syndrome; doesn't hold a candle to the 40 varieties of Pop-Tarts, though. That's unsettling."
Others thought it had to do with the race for supermarket real estate. "A huge number of products in a single, popular line must be an attempt at securing plenty of shelf space," says Tripeler. "This goes for both the Mini-Wheats and the Pop-Tarts." ferret also believes that it’s all about "shelf space, shelf space, shelf space. ... You might as well ask why we have Diet Coke, Diet Coke with Lime, Diet Cherry Coke, Coke Zero, Diet Coke with Splenda...."
But there's an unintended consequence: All of those options can lead to choice overload, where consumers become overwhelmed and then discouraged from making a purchase. This phenomenon is "basically what I go through when in a large overstocked market, although since I'm marginally mentally aware of the debilitating effect that choosing from multiple products causes, I try to get through shopping best I can without throwing up and leaving the store empty-handed," says bushwickgirl.
The myriad Mini-Wheats, however, seem to leave ipsedixit feeling quite the opposite: "I'm tempted to buy all 10 varieties, dump them in one big large plastic garbage bag, shake, and then have myself *the* Mother-Lode of Mini-Wheats."