Sunday, February 03, 2013

Classic Review: Kellogg's Corn Flakes

As I've previously indicated, the Breakfast Bowl is expanding to regularly include reviews of cereals, not  just news and reflections on the cereal industry. These reviews will usually be of interesting, new cereals that have hit the market, but from time to time I will also conduct a review of a "classic". There are some cereals that are mainstays, not only to our breakfast tables but our culture as well. Reviewing these venerable classics provides an important point of comparison to the many newer innovations that are coming out today.

For this, the very first, Breakfast Bowl review I will begin with none other than Kellogg's Corn Flakes, the original, modern breakfast cereal. This Battle Creek classic ultimately inspired every other cereal that has ever been produced, and is a fitting place to start exploring the world of cereal.

Corn Flakes is so well established and ubiquitous that it is fair to say that everyone is familiar with and has tasted it. So, my taste opinions may not be that valuable. Nevertheless, there is just one word that comes to mind when I eat Corn Flakes: bland. Sure, the toasted corn contains a hint of flavor, but really there isn't much to them by themselves or in milk. For years people have added sugar and other things such as fruit to their cereal, and Corn Flakes is the perfect explanation why. It needs something to enliven the taste. Most cereals today have a much broader taste profile, lessening the need for table additions. But, Corn Flakes is so lacking!

Texture is also not a high point for Corn Flakes. The flakes are light and easy to consume, but their lightness also makes them vulnerable to the effects of liquid. After 5 minutes they meet the criteria of soggy cardboard, but in 10 minutes the flakes still hold together but are nothing less than limp. I know it's hard for Kellogg to tamper with such a well-known formula but improving texture would make a difference. I remember from year's back when General Mills made their own Corn Flakes, a much crunchier flake that endured milk much better.

Despite being far too common, eating Corn Flakes is an experience, even if just by reminding one that this is the grandfather of all cereals. There is a sense that you are connecting with important history when you pour a bowl. Kellogg emphasizes this on the box when they claim that these are "The Original and Best." Even Cornelius Rooster, who's been the mascot for over 50 years, is there retaining the tradition behind this brand. In many ways Kellogg doesn't have to upgrade the experience, but from time to time they give Corn Flakes a lift with special boxes, such as last year when they released a plethora of boxes featuring Olympic athletes.

Corn Flakes had its origins as a health food at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Although connected with a certain degree of quackery, the Kellogg's formula caught on. But, how does it stack up by today's health standards? OK, but not great. Being fat free may appeal to some, as does the relatively low amount of sugar compared to most cereals today. But, the lack of appreciable fiber, protein and micronutrients do little to make this a nutrition powerhouse.

How can one be overly critical of a cereal that's been around over 100 years? If it were introduced today Corn Flakes would quickly die as a brand as it cannot match many of the options available today. But, its historical significance embedded in our psyche is enduring. Of course, Kellogg regularly introduces flavor varieties and box promotions to keep it fresh - a strategy that works. Overall, despite being relatively uninteresting, Corn Flakes remains a standby that one cannot ignore.

 (Review protocol HERE)

1 comment:

Jim Rayball said...

Good review and the right conclusion. Corn Flakes is a classic and is better on whole than the sum of its parts. I will have a bowl later tonight.

Jim. Rayball.