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Cereal Eats: The Great Raisin Bran-Off

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[Photographs: Dave Katz]

I remember a comment that was on one of my first posts in this column. The person asked, "Does anyone actually LIKE Raisin Bran?" I was stunned by this.

I LOVE Raisin Bran! Everyone does...right?

I planned on writing a post in defense of Raisin Bran. But as I dug deeper, I realized there were some unanswered questions: Is Raisin Bran a brand name, or is it an accepted cereal type? Why does every brand sell it in a purple box? And I suppose, most importantly, which Raisin Bran is king?

I've loved Raisin Bran since childhood. And let's be honest, it's all about the sugary raisins. Raisin Bran was allowed, since in name and appearance it is masquerading as a healthy cereal, but oh, my sister and I knew those sugar-crusted raisins were secret treasure. Well, the sugar sort of disappears in milk, but just knowing the sugar granules were in there made it feel so special.

Sidenote: I have a complicated relationship with raisins. There was a time where I claimed that I despised raisins in any baked goods... but I am loath to admit I think there is a time and place for the little squishy guys. I guess they are OK in oatmeal cookies and morning glory muffins, and I love their cousin the currant in pretty much anything.

I think in my mind I hate the idea of raisins, especially as the replacement of chocolate chips (the horror), more than I actually dislike raisins. Raisins floating in milk actually sounds super disgusting in theory, but Raisin Bran has trained me to just go with it.

Today, we look at the big three brands:

But first: what exactly makes something "Raisin Bran"? What allows you to put that name on a cereal? According to Wikipedia, Skinner's was the first Raisin Bran on the market, way back in the 20's. While the brand name was once trademarked, it was later ruled that it could not be because the name Raisin Bran "is merely a description of the ingredients, qualities or characteristics" and this means it cannot be granted as an exclusive trademark.

Variations aside, we can confidently compare these three cereals that are comprised of bran flakes and sugary raisins. So, how do the big three compare?

The Winner: Kellogg's Raisin Bran

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The happy yellow sun characterizes this bright purple box, along with the promise of two scoops of raisins. The flakes are advertised as "crisp, toasted bran flakes". Aha, THIS is Raisin Bran.

The flakes are almost lacey, crispy but kind of melt in your mouth with that deep bran flavor. The raisins are nicely chewy, perfectly sugary and ample in amount. I realize that this indeed is the Raisin Bran I grew up with, and perhaps due to a cereal cognition theory, this is what Raisin Bran is to me. But, it was also a favorite around SEHQ, due to the texture and good, toasty, bran-y flavor of the flakes and quantity of raisins.

Too Sweet: Total Raisin Bran

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I'm not terribly familiar with regular Total, so I treated this as any other Raisin Bran. The box has a few hints of the signature purple, and the cereal is described as "crunchy whole grain wheat & bran flakes with plump, juicy raisins".

The flakes are very big, thin and flat, but somehow sturdy. Raisins are few and far between, but aptly sugar-coated. The flakes are super crispy and crunchy but oddly coated with a strange sweetness that overpowers everything. Once the extra sweet hit of raisins joins in, it becomes too much. Too sweet, and I'm OK with a sweet cereal, but there's something off about this one. My least favorite of the bunch.

Too Cardboardy: Post Raisin Bran

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The box is a deep, rich purple, and describes the cereal as "whole grain wheat & bran" with Sun-Maid Raisins. I noticed the fact that, unlike the other two, the raisins in the photo have no sugar on them. (This would have turned me off immediately in my younger years. Alright, alright, it still turns me off.) Rest assured, the raisins do in fact have a coating of sugar. Unfortunately, these flakes taste like what people fear that bran cereal will taste like: cardboard. The sugary raisins can't even save this healthy-tasting cereal.

And so, the crown goes to, Kellogg's Raisin Bran!

What say you, Cereal Eaters? What Raisin Bran brands do you love?

Printed from http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/06/cereal-eats-the-great-raisin-bran-off.html

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