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Once a breakfast pioneer, Post has morphed into the Jan Brady of atom marketers: ashore in the middle.

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Trapped at No. 3 abaft Kellogg Co.and General Mills but advanced of private-label and amount brands, Post’s cereals portfolio has become a bit of an orphan, tossed from one amassed to the aing and afterwards a adamant strategy. But Post is arresting out on its own, charting a beginning advance as a stand-alone aggregation with new business and retail affairs with the aim of breaking through in the aggressive $6.4 billion ready-to-eat atom category.

The new era started beforehand this ages aback Post—called Post Holdings—completed its aftereffect from ancestor Ralcorp, which had acquired the Post brands from Kraft Foods four years ago. Both companies struggled to abound the brands, which accommodate Honey Bunches of Oats, Grape Nuts, Shredded Wheat and Pebbles. Even with its massive business machine, Kraft gave up on aggressive with Kellogg and Big G, divesting its atom business in the face of burden from activist investors.

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Ralcorp originally hailed the 2008 accretion as a “transforming event.” But beneath the company, Post’s atom dollar bazaar allotment alone to a 11% from about 15%, and Ralcorp absitively to acknowledgment to its private-label roots. No. 1 Kellogg , meanwhile, grew 2.34 allotment credibility to a 33.42% dollar allotment in the year catastrophe Jan. 22 , while General Mills captivated adequately abiding at 30.74%, according to SymphonyIRI, which excludes Walmart Stores.

So how can a stand-alone Post do any better? The company’s new administration says the brands will account from added focus and is planning a multipronged advance to actual what it says Ralcorp did wrong. Affairs accommodate more-aggressive business and promotional spending, accretion amusing and agenda efforts, accession up sales staffing and putting added accent on PR, according to authoritative filings. At the aforementioned time Post has broadcast its bureau roster, hiring absolute Upshot, Chicago, for its better brand, Honey Bunches of Oats. The atom is the second-largest cast in the class abaft General Mills’ Honey Nut Cheerios, but sales aggregate slipped 8.9% in the year catastrophe Jan. 22 , according to SymphonyIRI.

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Absolute boutique Womenkind, New York, is demography on Abundant Grains, Post’s third-largest cereal. The cast commands beneath than 1% of the category, but sales aggregate jumped by 19% in the year catastrophe Jan. 22 , according to SymphonyIRI. New TV campaigns for both brands will breach soon, the agencies told Ad Age . BurnsGroup, New York, which captivated all Post brands beneath Ralcorp, will accumulate Pebbles, which is Post’s additional largest-cereal, according to admiral accustomed with the matter.

The agenda and business changes are apprenticed by new Exec VP-Marketing James Holbrook, above CEO of Emak Worldwide. (Emak is the above ancestor aggregation of four marketing-services agencies, including Upshot, but has now attenuated afterwards arising from defalcation aftermost year, according to Upshot executives.) Post beneath to animadversion for this story, citation rules it said banned it from talking so anon afterwards activity public.

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Assignment cut out for itSome analysts say Post has its assignment cut out for it.

“They don’t accept the amount blueprint [like] Malt-O-Meal or clandestine label, and they don’t absorb from an announcement angle at the levels of Kellogg or General Mills,” said Rick Shea, a food-marketing adviser and a above banker for Kraft and Malt-O-Meal.

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Wall Street analyst accumulation Bernstein Research said in a address that Post is “strategically disadvantaged, as its abate atom brands abridgement the calibration to attempt with beyond brands.”

But Post has the wind at its aback in a few respects. For one, the aggregation has some of the best iconic brands in the category, which accept been propelled by acclaimed announcement over the years. Well-remembered spots accommodate naturalist Euell Gibbons casting Grape Nuts in the 1970s, Fred Flintstone putting his weight abaft Fruity Pebbles, and Raisin Bran ads hyping the actuality that they were not sugared—unlike Kellogg ‘s version. Post’s roots date to 1895, aback C.W. Post fabricated the aboriginal accumulation of Postum, a atom beverage, in a barn in Battle Creek, Mich. Grape Nuts was launched in 1897 as one of the aboriginal ready-to-eat cereals. The Postum Co. after acquired into General Foods, which hatched brands beyond assorted categories afore amalgamation with Kraft in 1989.

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“The Post brands are great,” said David Diamond, a packaged-goods business consultant. They are brands that in the accomplished companies “would never anticipate about selling,” he added. “But one of the accumulated mantras of contempo decades has been you either appetite to be No. 1 or No. 2 or get out of the business.”

At Kraft , Post brands benefited from the calibration and backbone of the marketer’s sales force but “struggled to accept … focus as it competed beyond the all-inclusive Kraft portfolio,” Post’s new administration declared in a letter to shareholders.

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Beneath Ralcorp, Post outsourced sales to brokers, which the new Post said led to a abbreviating retail presence. Even afore the spin-off, Post began advocacy its sales force by 50%, according to the filing. At the aforementioned time, the aggregation appears assertive to addition its ad account from 7% of sales to 9%, according to Wall Street analyst Stifel Nicolaus. Ad and business costs totaled $117 actor in 2011, according to Post.

For Abundant Grains, Post is ditching celebrity chef Curtis Stone as its ad spokesperson, affective to a “user-as-hero approach” in which a changeable customer will acclaim the cereal’s “minimally processed” formula, said Kevin Driscoll, Womenkind’s managing administrator for applicant services. The tagline is “Great Grains. Nutrition you can see.” New ads for Honey Bunches of Oats will portray cast advisers benumbed chicken bikes in a burghal adjacency and overextension the chat about the brand’s new “Fruit Blends” band extension, according to Upshot.

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Some analysts like what they see, including CNBC’s Jim Cramer, who committed an absolute “Mad Money” articulation aftermost anniversary to Post. He compared the brand’s breakdown with Ralcorp with Tina Turner abrogation Ike, “with Post continuing for Tina: Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ up the banal chart.”

And that ‘s appealing blue for No. 3.

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