Cyber-line forming to buy new 10th anniversary Flutie Flakes

John Anderson

When the cereal Flutie Flakes hit Upstate New York 10 years ago, people waited in lines for the cereal. Today, people are waiting in a cyber-line for boxes as the 10th anniversary box of Flutie Flakes has started production.

Ty Ballou, president of PLB Sports Inc., said the new box is going to attempt to accomplish the same goal as the first version — raise money to fight autism and increase awareness through the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.

Like the first round, former Bills quarterback Flutie is donating 100 percent of profits to the foundation.

Based in Pittsburgh, PLB Sports was just venturing into the Internet 10 years ago and launched their current Web site (, but at the time, did not know how to use it.

“I didn’t even know what the Internet was and people were trying to buy boxes that we couldn’t sell,” recalled Ballou. “The next thing I know, I’m being told they were traded on eBay or something and I had no idea what that meant!”

The first version of the box is hard to find.

“Three million boxes of the original Flutie Flakes cereal were sold a decade ago,” said Melissa Heher, vice president of PLB Sports. “Many fans purchased the box as a collectible and did not even eat the cereal inside. It is very difficult today to find the original red box that started the frenzy in Buffalo.”

Ballou explained he had signed then-Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine to do a marinara sauce (it sold around 40,000 jars) and his agent with Woolf and Associates showed them a client list for other potential products. Ballou said he noticed a new client almost hidden on the bottom of the list — Doug Flutie, who had left the Canadian Football League for a long-shot with the Buffalo Bills.

“Doug’s name was hand-written on their client roster — they were not pushing him all that hard and I think that’s why it came together, plus Doug was launching his foundation at the time as well,” said Ballou.

Flutie went on to put the Bills in the playoffs and became a cult hero in Buffalo.

“It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since we launched the foundation named after our son,” said Flutie. “The foundation, along with PLB Sports, are very excited to launch the 10-year anniversary edition of Flutie Flakes. Our goal with this new box is to create even more awareness and give hope to more families who are living with autism and struggling each day.”

Flutie’s son Dougie, now 16, was diagnosed at age 3 with childhood disintegrative disorder, a rare form of autism. The complex developmental disability typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects normal functioning of the brain, affecting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills.

Ten years ago, the prevalence rate of autism was about 1 in 500, Flutie said. Now it is 1 in 150.

“We want to support the charity, and the foundation,” said Ballou. “We helped Doug and his wife, Laurie, bring a lot of awareness and funds (more than $10 million in the last 10 years) for the foundation.”

Flutie added, “Laurie and I are very committed to play a supportive role in the autism community and look forward to another 10 years of making a positive impact in the daily lives of families who are also affected by autism.”

Ballou laughs today about the rush to collect the first boxes, as PLB Sports ordered just one truck load of 13,000 that went to Wegmans, Tops and Stop-N-Shop grocery stores in New England.

“We didn’t realize Doug’s fan-base, and the first truckload was gone in two days,” said Ballou. “Suddenly, our biggest customer was not a grocery store, but the Buffalo Bills. They were selling boxes of cereal and Flutie jerseys on their Web site and we had to keep sending trucks to Orchard Park.

“We do products with Dustin Pedroia (Premium Black Bean and Corn Salsa), we do Big Ben’s (Roethlisberger) Beef Jerky and (Ed) McCaffrey’s Rocky Mountain Mustards. We’ve had Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz and never had we had to ship the product directly to a NFL or Major League Baseball team.” Ballou said.

Meanwhile, the orders continued and the plant in Missouri could not keep up with the demand.

Flutie made appearance in Rochester and Buffalo at Wegmans and Tops, and the crowds swelled.

“When we were in that Wegmans store, Doug called me on his cell and said he was coming but he was late,” said Ballou. “I said ‘Doug, you’re not going to get in this store, it’s Beatles-like.’ I told him to go in the service entrance. I kid you not, hundreds of people ran after him. We were pinned against the door. A security guard opened the door and let us in. I said, ‘Doug, I don’t know what is happening.’ I really did not.”

What happened was 1 million of the original red boxes were sold, including an auction for the millionth box which went for $1,500. That money also went to the foundation.

“We put it in a case — a box that retailed for $2.50 went for $1,500,” said Ballou.

Ballou said 10 years later, the price has gone up — 49 cents to $2.99, but he said the first box was 20 ounces of cereal and this one is 14 ounces because they wanted to keep the price under $3.

He said Wegmans has signed on to carry the new limited edition cereal as well as few retailers in New England.

The first Flutie Flakes boxes appeared in episodes of “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Dawson’s Creek.”

“People are pre-booking orders at and ordering the product. Basically, they are getting in line to get the first box in November. They have been pre-ordering by the box and the case,” said Ballou. “But this time we’re only producing a set amount.”

According to the PLB Sports Web site, athletes use the different foods, sauces and cereals (Michael Peca did pickles with the Buffalo Sabres) to help launch or support their own charities as Flutie did.

Daily Reporter of Wellsville, N.Y.