Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats Crunch

Already this year a number of new cereals have been introduced, but the one that caught my attention most is new Mini Wheats Crunch from Kellogg's. The reason is simple: It appeared to be a knock-off of Quaker's Oatmeal Squares, which I must confess is my favorite all-around cereal. So, a cereal that tries to match my personal fave must be examined, if only to determine which is the best of the best. I do not want to spend too much time comparing new Crunch with Quaker's successful brand, but the comparisons are too obvious to ignore. The Kellogg's cereal has the same shape, highlights a brown sugar flavor, and even comes in a blue box. The recipe itself is somewhat similar, except that whole wheat is the number one ingredient with oats a close second, whereas with Oatmeal Squares the order is obviously reversed. The question for us is: Is this innovation or just a mere copy-cat effort?

It is worth noting that new Crunch is part of the Frosted Mini Wheats family, yet another attempt by a cereal manufacturer to build their portfolio around particular, successful brands (such as Special K, Cheerios, Honey Bunches of Oats, etc.). But in this case the connection is somewhat misleading. Crunch, despite whole wheat as the number ingredient and it having a light frosting, does not look or taste like the other Mini Wheats varieties. This does not make it bad, just out of place.

As far as taste is concerned, my initial impression was positive, but I detected a hint of maple flavor coming through. This caught me a little off-guard as I wasn't expecting it since it is labelled as a "brown sugar" flavor. Upon closer examination of the box I discovered that the reason might be the fact that the cereal does contain both natural and artificial flavors. The latter probably explains the odd taste, and is somewhat disappointing for me. Other than that the cereal holds it own on taste, but would probably be much better with a more authentic, natural flavor.

For me and my love of Quaker Oatmeal Squares, texture was going to be a big test. If there is one area in which the Quaker brand has its own oddity it is texture. Out of the box and immediately in the bowl with milk Oatmeal Squares are too hard and crunchy - it is only after sitting for 20 or more minutes that they are to die for. Kellogg's may have found one way to beat the competition, as Crunch is a much lighter woven square, and easier to chew out of the box and shortly after you smother it with milk. Yet, even after 5 and 10 minutes it still retains sufficient crunch, living up to its name.

Eating Crunch left me a little frustrated. In many ways this is like eating any generic or store-brand knock-off cereal. It might be a decent breakfast cereal, but you're always thinking about the original that you could be eating. Apart from the Crunch lettering which is energetic and wants to jump off the box, the whole experience is diminished by Kellogg's lack of creativity. There are enough subtle differences with this cereal that they could have given it its own identity. Why did they feel the need to copy so much?

While not heavily promoted as a health cereal, Crunch is also not intended to be a high-sugared, novelty cereal. The Mini Wheats brand, while not shying away from the frostings, tries to convey a wholesome image based around whole wheat. Crunch is generally nutritious with a full 6g of protein, 5g of fiber, and the standard fortified vitamins and minerals. The one area that leaves it a little suspect is sugar content. In my view, a healthful cereal should contain no more than 20% of its weight in sugars. Crunch is around 27%. And, forgive me for yet another comparison, overall the brown sugar variety of Quaker Oatmeal Squares edges out Kellogg's Crunch here.

Comparisons aside, Kellogg's Crunch is a relatively wholesome cereal that most everyone will enjoy as an alternative to many of the cereals common in the market today. I question whether it will have longevity as a product SKU, but if you enjoy a crunchy cereal with a touch of frosting sweetness this is worth adding to your grocery cart next time you go shopping.

(Review protocol HERE)


Jim Rayball said...

Another spot-on review. I have had a bowl of these, and they taste OK (not great), but with really good texture in milk.

Jim. Rayball.

Anonymous said...

How do oatmeal squares compare to barbaras morning oat crunch? I love oatmeal squares!

Lloyd said...

Sorry, not sure I've tried them.