Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: "natural" Trix

As I have previously stated this blog is not intended to review every cereal out there - that is an endeavor all its own. But, every once in a while a cereal shows up that needs to be reviewed, and the latest iteration of Trix from General Mills is one such case.

For years, Trix has definitely been on the list of iconic sugared cereals targeted to children. If you look back at the boxes and overall development of the brand over the years it easy to see that this cereal is all about fun. For many years the widely-used phrase "Trix is for kids" said it all. It was sweet, brightly colored, and featured a crazy mascot.

Of course, we all know the pressure that cereal companies have been under to get healthier and tone done the marketing to children. Last year General Mills declared their intent to start eliminating artificial colors and flavors from their cereals. They are now starting to follow through on their promises and a reformulated Trix is the result. The box clearly highlights that it contains "NO high fructose corn syrup, NO colors from artificial sources, and NO artificial flavors." Instead it is "naturally fruit flavored sweetened corn puffs with other natural flavors."

So, does it measure up to the wild and crazy Trix of the past?

Let's start with taste. Actually, let's start by opening the cereal bag. One of things that I always find fascinating (and somewhat disturbing) is how when you open up a bag of cereal with lots of artificial ingredients the initial waft of smell is almost overpowering. It's not pleasant, at least not to me. Now, with more "natural" Trix, that atomic blast of synthetic odor is missing. There's still a hint of that funky "this-isn't-a-healthy-cereal" smell, but at least it's tolerable. And that's a good thing. Back to taste. Not that I was ever a big fan of Trix, but my overall impression remains less than enthusiastic. The taste is definitely more natural, but I can't say that it leaves a heightened fruit experience in my mouth. Overall, the flavors are much more muted.

The texture of Trix is not surprising. Corn puff balls have the capacity to provide some good out-of-the-box crunch and hold together well in milk. The sugar coating adds a layer of protection, and so even after 10 minutes the cereals is far from mush and pleasant to eat. Nothing really new here.

A big part of Trix's past success has been the experience, both outside and inside the box. The cereal itself has definitely gone down a few notches on the experience scale. The muted flavor does not help. And the colors are so much more boring (and actually very similar to the original Trix decades ago). The more recent blues and greens (despite their artificial nature) definitely added color to the breakfast bowl. These yellow, pink, orange and purple balls just don't match up. With the new formula, General Mills also changed the box. Still hints at fun, but it's a much simpler design indicative of a much simpler cereal. Still some game-y stuff on the back.

What about nutrition? In the past Trix would have scored real low. While the new recipe contains whole grains, and lacks high-fructose corn syrup and those nasty artificial flavors and colors, the overall nutrition profile has hardly changed. It's still over 30% of sugar by weight, and the fiber content hasn't really changed.

In the end, new Trix has become just another boring sugared cereal. I admire General Mills living up to its convictions (albeit consumer pressure), but whatever specialness Trix has had is now diminished. Probably the only thing it has going for it is its brand recognition and equity. If this were a brand new cereal entering the marketing it would be DOA. Sad, but part of the new cereal reality.

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