A grotesque injustice has befallen the breakfast cereal industry and it’s been perpetrated by the very makers of this beloved morning staple all in a wholly ill-advised and utterly stupid attempt to cater to the nouveau health-conscious.
I recently purchased a package of Alpha-bits, something I hadn’t done in quite some time. Alpha-bits is an old favourite of mine and neatly falls into the category of what I like to call “treat cereals”, better known in the public vernacular as “sugar cereals”. I am no regular consumer of said cereals, desires notwithstanding, but we’ve developed a family tradition whereby we purchase a treat cereal for camping weekends. Even children deserve a little guilty pleasure once in a while, and they’re outside burning excessive calories while camping anyway. This is how fond memories are made. Ones, hopefully, that’ll override the “Dad’s flipping out again” memories, thirty years from now.
All of this, of course, is merely justification for my own personal indulgence in these delicious but typically forbidden constituents of the most important meal of the day. And the word delicious is incredibly important to both the stature of a treat cereal as well as this entire nonsensical blog post.
What appeared in my bowl the Saturday morning of our first camping trip of 2016 was, by all accounts, the same Alpha-bits I’d loved as a child, teen, university student, and single adult. But upon entering my mouth, where my ever-trusty taste buds reside, it quickly became evident that the present was altogether unlike the past. What had once been an admittedly simple, but tasty breakfast cereal was exhibiting all the flavour of the box it came it. With each successive spoonful, my mild confusion turned to utter disdain as it became all too clear that the health nuts had gotten to someone in the upper echelons of Post Cereals management.
I was distraught, though hardly surprised. This is not the first time such an outrage has been perpetrated upon my childhood nostalgia. Turning perfectly good unhealthy cereals into perfectly disgusting, but infinitesimally less unhealthy, cereals has overtaken the entire breakfast cereal industry for some years now. Combined with their slash and burn antics when it comes to ingredients costs, these twin demons of cereal destruction have turned the best isle in the grocery store into a minefield of misleading advertising and obliterated childhood memories.
And here’s the shameful part; it all could have been, SHOULD have been, avoided. What the suits and skirts in the boardrooms of cereal makers worldwide seem completely void of understanding is that people aren’t buying Alpha-bits, or any other sugar cereal, to improve their health. We know bloody well it’s not good for us. In fact, THAT’S why we’re buying it. We want a treat, a break, a special pick-me-up to get us going in the morning, not unlike your coffee or line of cocaine. If I wanted a healthy cereal I’d pick up the All-Bran and eat on the toilet. Please, stop trying to make sugar cereals healthy. You’re just making things worse, not better.
Sadly, Alpha-bits is not alone. Many of my favourite treat cereals have been altered or had production halted altogether. It’s a sad state of affairs and has taken a bit of anticipation and fun out of our camping experience, at least for me. Luckily my kids won’t know any better because they’re only experiencing the bastardized current versions. They have no familiarity with the glorious taste extravaganza these cereals once were. But I know. I know!
Here then, to either help wallow in my cereal self-pity or throw salt in my breakfasting wounds, are my favourite cereals of all time.
- Golden Grahams
Bar none, this is my very favourite breakfast cereal. Or it used to be. I swear they’ve changed the recipe and it’s no longer quite as flavourful as it was in my childhood. I should have known something was up when they rid the packaging of that infamous foil bag, replacing it with the generic plastic bag of all other cereals. I’m sure that’s when the flavour changed too. Whatever the reason for that luxurious foil bag, it must have been the key ingredient to the exquisite taste that was Golden Grahams.
And not only was Golden Grahams a phenomenal tasting cereal, it was one of the most durable as well. Unless I was completely distracted from my eating mission for a significant period of time, Golden Grahams never went soggy in the bowl making for a uniquely uniform eating experience from start to finish. That alone put Golden Grahams into the upper strata of the cereal hierarchy.
It’s still a good cereal, just no longer awesome. And unless that secret ingredient requiring the foil bag was anthrax, the change is indefensible.
- Boo Berry
You’ll perhaps recall the Pop Tarts wall I lamented in an earlier post. A similar phenomenon can be witnessed when it comes to the infamous monster cereals. These delicious cereals were a regular contingent of Canadian grocery shelves in the 70s and 80s but have been completely absent for a couple decades now. This is criminal in my opinion and further proof of the ignorance of Americans regarding the dietary habits of their northerly neighbours.
I loved all three monster cereals, but my very favourite was Boo Berry, the blueberry flavoured ghost cereal. Such is my luck that would be the first one to leave Canada. Frankenberry, the strawberry flavoured cereal was a competent replacement but just not quite in the same league as its wonderfully artificial counterpart. Sure, Count Chocula is fine, as most chocolate cereals are, but it was competing directly with another member of this list and never really had a chance.
A couple years ago there was a brief special batch of Frankenberry and Count Chocula available for sale at my local Safeway store (of course, no Boo Berry). A limited-time, gimmick offer, it was nothing more than a tease for an old school fan such as I. I bought a box of each and was thoroughly mortified by what lie inside the box. These recipes have changed dramatically from my youth. And not for the better! Good lord, they should be ashamed of themselves.
- Froot Loops
One of my all-time favourites and becoming likewise for my children, Froot Loops is the camping cereal I purchase most regularly. This one is hard to judge, I must admit. It actually doesn’t taste too different from what I remember, or at least the change hasn’t ruined it. I’ll even give chops to the genius at Kellogg’s who came up with the blue loop! It’s nice to see an old stalwart make a welcome change for the better.
There’s admittedly nothing terribly special about Froot Loops, it’s just a solid, fruity-sugar mix that kick starts the morning perfectly.
I ranted about this once spectacular abomination in the preamble to my list. I’m still irked. I mean, it’s Alpha-Bits. Why did they need to be fixed? At all? They’re never going to be Cheerios so just leave well enough alone, dammit!
- Cocoa Puffs
Cocoa Puffs is a deserving inclusion on this list despite the annoying mascot. It does, however, deserve a special asterisk. Cocoa Puffs is now sold in Canada under the name Nesquik thanks to a corporate deal that only makes sense to fat, rich white guys in board rooms.
These too taste relatively the same but that name, god, what a horrible name.
- Lucky Charms
Who doesn’t love Lucky Charms? Those little marshmallows are to die for. The rest of the cereal, well, it pretty much tastes like it’s dead. I’m not sure why they bother, frankly. They should just make the entire box marshmallows. Like everyone else, I always ate the cereal part first before savouring the sweet, soft marhsmallows , by now floating in a thoroughly sugared and colourful milk, alone at the very end. It was the cereal equivalent of eating your vegetables.
I have no doubt the cereal part of Lucky Charms has changed but since it was utterly tasteless to begin with they could hardly have made it worse. Lucky them. I do have one gripe with modern Lucky Charms, though. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to junk food and don’t much care for change. Thus the new marshmallow shapes do not impress me. Pink hearts, orange stars, yellow moons, green clovers, and blue diamonds were good enough for me, thank you very much.
*I must add an important addendum to this entry. I recently discovered and tried Chocolate Lucky Charms. OH! MY! GOD! A suit finally gets it! Bravo whomever dreamed up this fantastic improvement on an old stalwart. My new favourite treat cereal by a mile!
- Harvest Crunch
This may seem like an odd, healthy, entrant in an otherwise gloriously sugar-coated mess of a list, but Harvest Crunch is well deserving of its inclusion. First and foremost, it was a delicious cereal. Secondly, when I was a kid it was the special, luxury cereal that only my Grandma Schmidt ate and therefore was a rare treasure we were only allowed to enjoy when we spent the night at my Grandparents’ home.
It was a luxury cereal back then because it was pretty expensive. At least that was the excuse that my mother gave us for not buying it rather than the sack of puffed wheat we were forced to eat from at home. It was (presumably) expensive because it had exotic ingredients in it like dates. Yeah, some of you might find that confusing or even shocking because THEY’VE TAKEN THEM OUT.
Nowadays, Harvest Crunch is nothing more than granola with more almonds on the box picture than in the actual cereal. And while dates in cereal may at first sound disgusting, it was actually really good. Kind of like a Fig Newton cereal. What’s even more unfathomable about this change is that here we have a genuine healthy cereal and they still had to mess with it and, true to form, make it worse. All for the sake of saving a few bucks. This is what’s wrong with Capitalism people!
Well, that’s my list. The cereals, most of which are pale imitations of their former, glorious, selves, that I cherished back in the 70s and 80s before science and good sense started ruining food. Honourable mentions to Honeycomb, Frosted Flakes, and Raisin Bran.