Sunday, January 27, 2013

Anatomy of a Review

As I explained at the beginning of this year, the Breakfast Bowl will be expanding its contribution to cereal lovers by providing regular reviews of new, and at times classic, cereals. Hopefully it will be way to help you discover new cereals that might be of interest to you.

In planning for my foray into reviews, I want to make sure that they are more than subjective drivel, even though things like taste do often come down to preference. Instead, my intention is that these features will give a good, informed overview of a cereal's features, and how it compares to others on the market. This requires a somewhat methodical and consistent approach, while keeping the writing fresh and interesting.

In the end I have decided to implement a rating system, using five "bowls", and based on four different evaluative criteria, and an overall score:

Quite basic, but probably the most important criteria for most people. Does the cereal tantalize the taste buds, or does it compare to soggy cardboard or hyper-flavored candy?

Eating involves more than taste. The entire physical experience plays into one's enjoyment of the food. Does the cereal maintain a good balance between crunchy and easy to down - out of the box, and after 5 or 10 minutes soaking in milk?

I am convinced that the success of breakfast cereal over the past century has been because of the way that companies have made its consumption an emotional experience. The cereal often has its own story, and is conveyed in the marketing behind it, especially with the box and perhaps the shapes, etc. The question to ask when rating a cereal is: How does eating the cereal contribute to my personal fulfillment and needs?

I don't want to take the fun out of cereal, but let's face it, ultimately we need our cereal to provide us some level of nutrition, even if just to give us the energy boost we need to face the day. Without being a killjoy, it still is a legitimate question to ask: Does the cereal provide a healthful range of carbs, protein, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals?

To wrap it up, I will give a final rating to the cereal. The number of "bowls" will be an indicator of how this cereal fared, and will be especially useful in providing comparisons once a number of these are completed.

Let me know if you have any questions on my review protocol. And, watch for the first one to appear this week!

UPDATE: 2/10/13 - Note that unless otherwise indicated, when conducting these reviews I will have purchased the cereal on my own. I am in no way affiliated with any cereal manufacturer or marketing firm, and these reviews are purely my own opinion.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Post goes Fit

Continuing to note new cereals for 2013, it looks like Post is really going at it. Since going independent in the last year it is evident that they are serious about getting back into the cereal game.

The latest example is with one of their stodgy old brands, Grape-Nuts. It has long been a minor player, usually hard-to-find on the top shelf of most stores, and chosen by only the real serious health food nuts. But, as part of Post's quest for new relevance, Grape-Nuts has been getting a make-over. The message now is that Grape Nuts is the perfect cereal to "meet the demands of the today's modern, active lifestyle." In addition to its original formula and flakes, they just introduced Grape-Nuts Fit, a vanilla-cranberry cereal to fuel active people. In some ways this is similar to Wheaties Fuel, but less testerone-focused; although with double the protein.

This is a strategy that just might work for them!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

C is for Cereal

Recently I highlighted a number of new cereals that have hit the market in early 2013. Here's another one I just discovered that is worth noting:

Post has entered into a licensing agreement to produce a cereal targeted at toddlers using a Sesame Street theme. Not the first time the children's TV show characters have appeared on cereal, but Post is maximizing the marketing impact, especially by going after toddlers directly.

C is for Cereal is an apple flavored oat and corn cereal, and the shapes are X's and O's. The disappointment, however, is that there are actually no C's. A somewhat confusing message.

Monday, January 07, 2013

New Year, New Cereals!

Just when it appeared that things were pretty mundane in the cereal world, 2013 could be a turning point. With the new year just beginning a number of new cereals are appearing on store shelves. January has typically been a good time for new cereal introductions, but this is one of the biggest launches I've seen in years, and coming from three of the biggest companies. There are indications of at least half a dozen new cereals, but here some of the most noteworthy:

Kellogg has introduced Cinnamon Jacks, a variety in the new "Jacks" brand. There have been special editions of Apple Jacks over the years, but it appears now that Kellogg wants to build on that brand with new flavors. Could we see such things as Chocolate Jacks, Berry Jacks, etc.?

One other interesting Kellogg addition is new Mini-Wheats Crunch. Here too we have seen a number of extensions, but Crunch appears to be a direct competitor to Quaker Oatmeal Squares. Same look, and even a brown sugar flavor.

General Mills is throwing a new twist into Cheerios. New Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch is the first time Cheerios will be mixed in with other cereal elements - not just O's any longer. Wheat flakes and almonds comprise the medley. [Feb 3/13 CORRECTION: It's actually not the first time. Four years ago they tried oat clusters. Medley Crunch is the first time flakes are in the mix].

Not be outdone, Post is making several additions to its most significant cereal brand, Honey Bunches of Oats, but the one that stands out is the new Greek variety. They are capitalizing on the recent Greek yogurt fad that is sweeping the nation. Yogurt in cereal is not new, but give Post credit for a strong marketing move.

Watch for these and more. Have you seen and/or tried any of these new cereals?

Some of these could be great candidates for Breakfast Bowl reviews in the near future!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

What's Next for the Breakfast Bowl?

I'm pleased to announce an exciting new direction for the Breakfast Bowl beginning in 2013!

It's hard to believe that I've been doing this blog for over seven years. What started out in 2005 purely as an experimentation with the then burgeoning trend of blogging has turned into the world's leading blog on the topic of breakfast cereal. That actually sounds more impressive than it really is, as cereal is not a hot topic in most circles. Nevertheless, there are a number of us out there who are fascinated with the role that cereal plays in culture, both past and present. This is one attempt to explore those dimensions.

But, times have changed. First of all, the cereal industry is continuing to evolve. The recent economic struggles coupled with a highly competitive market has taken some of the creative edge out of this industry. There isn't nearly has much fun stuff to write on any more. Second, blogging itself is no longer the only venue for fans of a topic to learn and interact. Social media is taking on an increasingly larger role.

When I started the Breakfast Bowl my intent was simply to share news about the world of cereal, exploring those things that are shaping the industry and our enjoyment of this breakfast staple. Over time the number of interesting stories worth writing about has diminished, and increasingly I have used Facebook and Twitter to pass along the more obscure and less noteworthy aspects of cereal life.

The one thing I have avoided for these seven-plus years is providing cereal reviews. The enjoyment of eating at the breakfast table is a personal thing, as is taste. I deliberately did not want to take away from my readers' opportunity to enjoy the experience of finding and consuming whatever cereals they were interested in.

It is time, however, for a change. I will continue to pass along interesting tidbits of cereal news on my blog and through social media, and occasionally I will offer commentary on where I see the industry heading and what needs to be done to keep breakfast interesting for all of us. But, starting this month I will begin something new for the Breakfast Bowl: occasional reviews. I am not the first person to do this, but in light of the fact that most of the other bloggers who were doing full-blown cereal reviews are no longer regularly doing them (e.g. Cereal Wednesday) I am going to take that on.

So, watch soon for regular reviews of cereal on the Breakfast Bowl to complement and round out the types of things I have always done here. I will not be reviewing every cereal that comes out, but only those that are noteworthy and interesting. Occasionally, I may even dip into the tried and true, offering reviews of classic cereals we are all familiar with. Hopefully you will not only find these reviews fun, but also helpful as you try to make your own choices at the grocery store.

Despite the limited time I have to maintain this hobby, I am looking forward to this new chapter in the life of the Breakfast Bowl. Of course, none of it would have any significance if it were not be for the hundreds of people who follow this blog, or one of my social media sites. Thank you for sharing in this passion!