Feb 15, 2012 • By

The dulce de leche flavor phenomenon

Until recently, a colleague of mine was pretty clueless about dulce de leche. She only knew she loved a dose of it in her latte. Dulce de leche (pronounced “DOOL say day LAY chay”) is a Spanish term for a thick caramel sauce popular in Latin America. You can find it just about everywhere these days.

Even in Cheerios.

Dulce de Leche Cheerios hit grocery store shelves earlier this year. It is the only ready-to-eat cereal of its kind.

“Cheerios chose this hugely popular flavor in order to add some excitement to breakfast tables everywhere, while still providing a wholesome and nutritious breakfast,” says Carina Sarbaugh, associate marketing manager for Cheerios. “The growing size and influence of the Hispanic population in the U.S. means the Hispanic market has influenced all aspects of mainstream American culture, including food.”

Literally translated as “sweetness of milk,” dulce de leche also is featured in the Häagen-Dazs product line.

The flavor has appeared in everything from Girl Scout cookies to Starbucks coffee drinks.

Combining a beloved flavor with a beloved cereal was not easy.

“It was a challenge. We had to deliver on taste, plus on all the nutritional benefits, as well as all the brand requirements,” explains Maria Fernanda Castro, one of our food scientists behind the box. “Besides, the product was designed for the general population, so it had to appeal to all.”

Because dulce de leche flavor has been so popular among both Hispanics and non-Hispanics, Cheerios wanted someone who connects with all consumers to assist in the cereal’s launch. So, popular Food Network chef Marcela Valladolid helped get the word out.

“Dulce de leche has always been a staple at my house, especially when it comes to desserts. It’s a delicious flavor that I’ve always loved, so naturally I was excited to hear that it was moving beyond the traditional dessert plate and onto the breakfast table,” says Valladolid.

The cereal also was included in an online sampling effort to QueRicaVida.com members, in an exclusive try-before-you-can-buy offer in mid-December. For $18, Que Rica Vida shipped a sampling of General Mills products worth $30 and not yet available on the shelf. Another new Cheerios product – MultiGrain Cheerios Peanut Butter – was one of eight new products included in the sampling.

Of course, you don’t have to eat Dulce de Leche Cheerios only for breakfast. Several recipes were developed using the cereal as a main ingredient. You can access some of those recipes at Cheerios.com, QueRicaVida.com and BettyCrocker.com.

Anyone hungry for some “Dulce de Leche No-Bake Snack Bars”, snack mix, apple bread or cheesecake?