Monday, November 09, 2009

An Investigative Investigation of Things

Cereal: Part Two
Faux Pops

There is a recent trend in cereals which coincides with American's general liking of all things gigantic: make things bigger. Ok, those Little Mini Wheats are an exception. But go with me here.

I give you Jumbo Rice Krispies (Figure 1). Compared to regular Rice Krispies, yes, they are jumbo. About three times the size, I'd say. But are they Krispies? A quick visual inspection shows the relative shape to an original. But you will notice: each Jumbo is about uniform in size and texture, not bearing any of the puffy, bubbly qualities of the original. Hmmm.

Figure 1. Jumbo Krispies.

What do you suppose makes up a Rice Krispie? From the ingredient list:
Rice, sugar, salt, malt flavoring, high fructose corn syrup, ---Whaaa?? That was unexpected. The rest is vitamins, I think.

Now the Jumbo Krispies:
Rice, flour, sugar, whole wheat flour, yellow corn meal, oat fiber, polydextrose, salt, honey, palm oil, natural and artificial flavor, etc...

My baking experience tells me that these must be baked with flour and cornmeal, and are NOT just rice made all poofy and crackley.

Figure 2: Jumbo Krispies Treats
Finally, the taste test. Of course, one cannot ignore the classic snap, crackle, pop sound either. It is not there! I was hoping for a three times as large snap as well as size. When eating, you will see that the texture is not that of original Rice Krispies. It is lighter, smoother. And the taste? Well, they are good, to be sure. But with a corn flavor and touch of sweetness not unlike Cap'n Crunch (without that roof of the mouth pain). I guess the final experiment is to try using them in a classic recipe: Rice Krispies Treats. They turned out sweeter than regular treats, even without the extra chocolate and caramel on top (Figure 2).

FACT: Jumbo Krispies are not actually giant mutant rice genetically engineered by Kellogg's.

Chocolate Peanutbutter Corn Pops
Oh how I wished this to be what it looked like. Corn Pops with a sweet chocolate coating? Sign me up! We brought this cereal home and opened it within a day or two. Basically, they are round balls of chocolate peanut butter. Tasty on their own, but not exactly Corn Pops as we know them. See below.

Figure 3
Figure 3: an original Pop; notice the awkward shapes and glossy yellow sweetened coating. Each Pop has its own unique shape, like snowflakes. Pouring them out is like creating a blizzard of flavor in your bowl, and the puffy texture is reminiscent of childhood, not having changed in 87 years or so.

See the large size of the Chocolate Pops, which is a plus. However these are missing the signature puffiness we've grown to love from Pops, as well as the abnormal shapes. If you didn't know better, without a size comparison, this could be Cocoa Puffs, just substituted because we already finished the box of Pops when I needed to take this picture. You'd never know (they're not).

In conclusion, I would suggest to cereal companies forego the need to reinvent the classics. If you have a new cereal, just market it as a new cereal! Piggybacking something new onto something that is already successful might save a few dollars, but in the end it just leaves us breakfast lovers disappointed.

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