Cereal Eats: Cheerios Showdown Part 2, The 'Sweet' Cheerios
We're back for the second round of our exploration into the beloved Cheerios and its many varieties. Many of you shared your love for the basics last week and its great to know there are many other Multigrain lovers out there! Now we venture further, into murkier, more sugary territory. Today, we take a look at Frosted Cheerios, Fruity Cheerios and Chocolate Cheerios.
In the world of sweet cereals, there are four basic groups: Fruity, Chocolate, Frosted and Marshmallow. Yes, there are less common (but not less delicious) categories like Cinnamon, Maple, and Peanut Butter, but for the most part, the aforementioned quartet reigns. In my mind, the real veterans of junk food cereal are Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Lucky Charms and Cocoa Krispies. I'm not saying these are the best or the oldest (my dad always tells me his sugary cereal of choice from the 1950s was Smacks), but they represent a kind of framework for cereals of the future. Their simplicity has stood the test of time in the face of wild creations like Smorz and Krave and Caramel Apple Boulders.
So what happens when Cheerios, good old wholesome, well-behaved Cheerios, takes on these classic sweet spins?
I'm a big fruity cereal fan. I remember the first time I had Trix and it changed my young life forever. I'm not afraid to admit that I still love Froot Loops in all their gaudy, sugar-bomb glory. I don't think now is the time to get into how I feel about Fruity Pebbles (hint: I LOVE THEM) but that time will come. I do need to differentiate "fruity flavor" from "berry flavor" (neither have any resemblance to real fruits or berries, let's be clear). I don't really like berry flavored cereals, Berry Berry Kix, Crunchberries, etc.
Anyway, I don't remember when I first encountered Fruity Cheerios. They were released in 1995, which means I was 9 years old, which in turn means I probably didn't get to try these for many years after their release date. But I remember it was love at first taste. Unlike Froot Loops and Fruity Pebbles there's not an aggressive sugary coating or even a perceptible glaze. Just happy colored O's, with a flavor that combines hints of Trix with a bit of "health-food fruit cereal" (it's not a flavor I can describe, you just know it or you don't). The overall experience is great. Even the most mature, discerning fruity cereal lover can almost feel good about this. It maintains that wholesome Cheerios quality with all the fun of a fruity cereal.
Let's cut to the chase: The chocolate flavor in these screams health-food-chocolate. Put this next to Cocoa Puffs, Pebbles, or Krispies (you wouldn't dare put these next to the Count) and it would taste like rabbit food.
But when you take a step back and remember that these are Cheerios we're talking about and they are always going to fall short of sugary-sweet and decadent, this is actually a pretty decent chocolate cereal. And once again, it doesn't feel like you are eating handfuls of candy. Of course, any chocolate cereal lover will want to know about the milk. Well, the color is extremely light but the flavor is there. Not very strong, but what you would expect from this restrained chocolate cereal. Not sure I'd run out and buy a box again, but if you are crazy for chocolate and want something a little more sensible, this is a reasonably tasty choice.
Saving the best for last! I've mentioned before that I love the poor underrated cereal pieces in Lucky Charms. Well, take those and coat them in an excellent robe of sugar and you have Frosted Cheerios. Crusty is almost always a bad word when it comes to describing food, except in reference to good bread. Well, add Frosted Cheerios to that short list.
The coating is indeed crusty and thick in all the right ways. Yet somehow, this coating is less sweet than that of say, Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes. The strongest flavor coming through is that good old Cheerios taste, with the great crunch and balanced sweetness of the frost. It remains balanced even in milk and stays deliciously crunchy. Yet again, here is a "sugary" cereal that Cheerios manages to keep within its conservative bounds. Personally, I am CRAZY about Frosted Cheerios; that texture is addictive. These days I would hesitate to dive into a bowl of Frosted Flakes, it's just too much, but Frosted Cheerios is just perfect.
It appears that Cheerios has managed to stay delicious in these variations. The only kingdom unconquered is Marshmallow Cheerios. (Hello out there? I think the people are ready for this!) What say you, Cheerios lovers? Are these too sweet, not sweet enough or just right?
About the author: Aside from doing an awesome job with her role as Advertising Sales Manager, Leandra Palermo secretly harbors a lifelong passion with all things crunchy and served with icy cold skim milk. This column represents the culmination of that love affair.