Musing from your Post Master General
Happy Halloween everyone. I know some of you really dislike holidays. You are the ones who have this jaded sense that everything festive was invented by a shadowy alliance of greeting card companies, organized religion, and the government. Well you are probably right. But still, I personally love the holidays. They are a reminder that in this crazy fast paced world where horrible things happen every day, that there are moments when we should kick back, be thankful for the good stuff, and not take ourselves too seriously.
So in the spirit of Halloween, I’ve decided to not take myself seriously at all and review breakfast cereal. Of course I won’t be reviewing just any set of breakfast cereal (it’s Halloween for crying out loud.) I will be reviewing the Monster Cereal line from General Mills.
History of Monster Cereals
Not familiar with the monster theme cereals from General Mills? That’s okay. None of them are availed year around anymore. I am sure however that you are familiar with the most popular monster cereal, Count Chocula, as it is the oldest monster cereal and the one that lasted the longest on regular grocery shelves. The chocolate flavored Count Chocula, along with the strawberry flavored Franken Berry debuted in 1971. Franken Berry famously had to be reformatted a year later due to certain artificial dyes in it contents, which changed the color of children’s feces to pink.
Regardless of that setback, the monster cereals were a huge success, leading to the introduction of the third brand, Boo Berry, a blue berry flavored cereal, in 1973. In 1974, General Mills released Frute Brute, a werewolf themed fruit flavored cereal. The success of Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry did not rub off on Frute Brute as it was discontinued in 1984. In 1985, another fruit flavored monster cereal was released by General Mills called Fruity Yummy Mummy. This cereal was formatted very similarly to Frute Brute and it suffered the same fate as it was removed from shelves in 1993.
Boo Berry and Franken Berry continued to appear sporadically in different markets but only Count Chocula received the marketing and wide distribution throughout the 1990ties and into the new century. In 2010, General Mills finally decided to release the three active cereals only during the Halloween season. This is how it has been for the last couple of years.
A New Tradition
I decided a couple of weeks ago that I would try all three cereals and compare them. I checked a couple of local grocery stores but my pursuit was futile. The monster cereals were no where to be found. I posted a status on Facebook about searching for Boo Berry in vain. An uncle of mine responded right away, telling me that he had seen Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry at Target. He also commented that he saw Fruity Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute as well.
I thought he was joking. Being as that I am a black hole for useless information, I was well aware of the fate of the latter two cereals. Also, I had just checked the cereal section of Target and found nothing. I stopped in a CVS pharmacy and found the three cereals I was looking for and headed back to my apartment. When I got there, I decided for good measure to see if perhaps my uncle was right. I checked google and the results surprised me.
It turns out he had seen all five monster cereals at Target. This year, General Mills decided to re-introduce all five cereals together for the Halloween season. On top of that, Target would be carrying the cereal line in retro packaging. The General Mills press release can be found bellow.
I went to Target the next day and sure enough, all five cereals were there. I had missed them before because I only checked the cereal section. Target had placed them in seasonal Halloween section. I purchased one retro box of each. I searched around later that day for the new edition boxes of Fruity Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute but I could not find them anywhere. I had to end my pursuit. At least I had at least one box of each brand. I was in cereal nerd heaven.
Yesterday I decided to try out all five cereals in the name of science and exploration. Here are the results.
I was a little disappointed when I learned that this incarnation of Frute Brute was different than the Frute Brute that was released between 1975 and 1984. The original Frute Brute was a medley of fruit flavors with lime flavored marshmallows. The new Frute Brute is cherry flavored with regular marshmallows. Though I would not be stepping into a breakfast time machine, I understand General Mill’s logic considering the original cereal failed once before.
The cereal of course did not taste as if I was biting into a fresh cherry, but it did have that artificial cherry taste that most of us have come to except when we hear something is cherry flavored.
Overall the cereal was pretty good, but a little too sweet for my liking. Since I have reached adulthood, I haven’t eaten too many sugary cereals. Just from checking the sugar content though, the original version must have been a lot more sweet than this one, so I shouldn’t complain.
In terms of packaging, the werewolf on the front of the box is pointing at a spoon full of cereal he is about to eat, almost telling us “Hey, I know I might have a reputation for killing people and turning them into card caring members of species, but you have nothing to worry about, all I want to do is eat my cereal. You are safe.” Comforting. I’ll remember to bring my silver gun and bullet next time I have a bowl.
First I’d like to say that I like Boo Berry much better than Frute Brute and overall it may be my second favorite of the monster cereals. It doesn’t really taste like blueberries nor do you get a sense of heavy blue berry flavor. There are subtle notes of blueberry and they merge well with the marshmallows and the milk.
Its the subtleness that I like about Boo Berry. I am not saying that the taste comes off as plain or even healthy. At its essence, it is still a sweet cereal, however, I don’t feel like I am falling into a diabetic coma after having a bowl.
As far as the packaging goes, both on the retro design and on the modern design, the ghost (I guess his name is Boo Berry as well?) has funny eyes. He seems to be under the influence of something. Maybe that’s how he died and became a ghost. Or maybe he is just under the influence of Boo Berry cereal and good Halloween candy. Who knows?
I’m sure you have had Count Chocula many more times than I have. I hated chocolate as a kid. Yes I know. I grew up without love and a soul. Regardless, only recently have I started to eat chocolate so I gave Count Chocula a chance. The cereal wasn’t too bad. It tasted like a lot of other chocolate cereals I have tried though. The marshmallows are what set it apart but I’m not going to put the success of the Count Chocula brand on the marshmallows.
Clearly Count Chocula was successful because every kid in the world (except me) loves chocolate. Out of all the flavors of monster cereal, it is the most universal recognized. Plus, it’s easy marketing. Who doesn’t love a vampire with a Transylvanian accent and an obsession for the simple things, in this case, chocolate? Look how popular the Count on Sesame Street is.
Maybe this generation of vampire lovers don’t appreciate a classic Bella Lugosi inspired Dracula. Perhaps general mills should have made the new generation packaging reflective of Twilight or True Blood like vampires. (Any artists want to draw me a mock up of that?) I’ve always been more in the Anne Rice camp when it comes to vampire depiction.
The only issue I have with Count Chocula’s depiction on the cover is his teeth. He does not have vampire teeth. Almost universally, vampires have separated fangs which they use for drawing their victims blood. Count Chocula just has a set of rectangular beaver teeth. I’m starting to doubt whether he is a vampire at all.
Franken Berry is my favorite monster cereal. It is very similar to Boo Berry but the Strawberry flavor is much more appetizing as far as I am concerned. The taste is not overwhelming, nor is the sweetness, and that’s a good thing. Most of the sugar flavor is provided by the marshmallows.
Aside from the chocolate in Count Chocula, it’s not easy to replicate taste in cereals of this kind but Franken Berry comes close to my expectations of what a strawberry flavored cereal should taste like. The taste reminds me more of strawberry ice cream rather than actually biting into a strawberry and that’s okay in my book.
I’m torn when it comes to the packaging. On the one hand, I like how the monster is depicted. They could have easily relied on the traditional B-movie Frankenstein monster but instead went with a depiction more faithful to Mary Shelly’s original story. Sure, he looks a little dimwitted but he should be considering the manner in which he was created.
On the other hand, why is he pink? No, I’m not saying pink isn’t a many color or anything like that. It just doesn’t seem like a color that Dr. Frankenstein would have used when creating his monster. I understand that the flavor of this cereal is strawberry but does he have to be the same color? And come to think of it, why is this cereal named after Frankenstein’s monster? There is no alliteration in the title like the other cereals.
Still overall, Franken Berry is the best of the bunch.
Fruity Yummy Mummy
Similar to Frute Brute, the 2013 incarnation of Fruity Yummy Mummy is different than the one that graced grocery store shelves from 1987 to 1993. For most of that period I wasn’t eating solid foods so I was never able to try this brand and I guess for now it has to stay that way. Its makeup is the same as the original version of Frute Brute save for vanilla flavored marshmallows. The new edition is orange cream flavored, which I was excited about.
Unfortunately the taste did not live up to my expectations. It tasted like the flavor of an orange hard candy rather than biting into an orange creamsicle ice cream bar which I had hoped for. Fruity Yummy Mummy by far is the sweetest tasting of all monster cereals. The taste was so sweet at one point I could feel it on the roof of my mouth. I could see how people might enjoy the flavor but I am not a fan.
I have no issue with the packaging whatsoever. There is not much you can do with a mummy really. I have a much bigger problem with the name of a cereal. Fruity Yummy Mummy seems a bit much. In my opinion, they should have just called it Yummy Mummy. I know they like to get the flavor in the title but considering all of these fruit flavors are artificial, does it really matter? I am not advocating they change it now. Considering it is just a seasonal release, nostalgia plays a big factor so the damage is done.
I hope that wasn’t too much of a waste of your time. If you happen to try any of these this Fall, let me know. Happy Halloween everybody.
header photo courtesy of http://www.blog.generalmills.com