Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Taking One For The Team.

As I have made clear in the past, this space is first and foremost a public service—a means for me, the disembodied voice on the internet, to reach out to you, the five acquaintances who still read this. And it’s with this attitude that I present to you Part One of (what I am not guaranteeing will be) a multi-part series:


[Disclaimer: I am not a licensed food critic. 60% of the five meals I have eaten in the past two days have been cheeseburgers. When I saw Ratatouille, I found myself hoping that it would be one of those Disney movies in which the bad guy—in this film, a food critic—dies by falling a great distance from a cliff or castle tower. Breakfast, however, is my favorite meal of the day, and seeing a new cereal on the shelf can be enough to make any grocery trip the highlight of my entire day—no—week. All of which is to say: I feel that I am not without authority on the subject.]

Let’s get right to it—kicking it off:

NEW Kellogg’s Pops Chocolate Peanut Butter!

The Idea: “General Mills has Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs, and Quaker Oats has the equally delicious (though redundantly-named) Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch. Why is our company the last on this bandwagon, we used to be pioneers, everyone in research and development is fired, yes, even you, Terri, I don’t care that you’ve been with the company for 30 years and invented Crispix!”

The Packaging: We’ll start on the outside. Your average everyman/John Q. Public/John C. Reilly might assume that a cereal box’s only job is to grab the shopper’s attention. But a cereal connoisseur knows that the cereal box doubles as reading material—something to keep in front of you and stare at for the three minute duration of your meal. The ultimate goal is not aesthetics, but to cram as much on there as possible. A maze? Great. With a word search? Even better. Throw a couple of Fun Facts on there, and I’m sold. So that’s the criteria we're working with. How does Pops Chocolate Peanut Butter stack up?

First of all, yes, that is the illogical order in which they chose to put those words, and therefore, the name of their cereal. Not a good start, Kellogg’s. Aside from that, though, the front of the box is serviceable. Product name, picture of the cereal (“enlarged to show texture,” of course) splashing into the bowl in that “stop getting milk all over the dining room table” kind of way. It’s the back of the box, though, where a cereal truly has the opportunity to shine, and where Pops Peanut Butter fails. Almost interchangeable with a box-front, the back features a barrage of unintelligible plugs for the product (“Flavor Factor!” “Sphere factor!” “Me Factor!” Like, what?), not even bothering to disguise them as a maze. Sure, they try to make up for this with some narrow-side-of-the-box fun facts: “Peanuts are not a nut! They are actually legumes!” and the likes. But sorry, Kellogg’s. Looking up “chocolate” and “peanut butter” on Wikipedia and then adding a few exclamation points does not count as effort.


How It Compares to the Original: The short answer? It doesn’t. The unnecessarily long answer? Pops Chocolate Peanut Butter is one of those spin-offs that is less a spin-off and more a transparent attempt to use an existing brand to launch an almost entirely unrelated product (see also: Cap’n Crunch’s Choco Donuts, CSI: New York). Gone is the oddly-hollow-yet-satisfying crunch of Corn Pops. Gone is the glossy, sweet, and slightly sticky sheen. Gone is the foil-lined bag, which always made me feel like I was eating some kind of astronaut food.

Instead, we get a generic attempt at cashing in on both the Pops dynasty and the chocolate peanut-butter craze. While the original Pops have a light, airy, and vaguely roasted quality (yes, I’m aware that that sounds gross, but: Yum!), Chocolate Peanut Butter are a solid, heavy affair, a quality that makes them unfit for snacking and is not relieved by milk. Furthermore, every piece of Pops Chocolate Peanut Butter sports the uniform “cereal ball” shape, as opposed to the sort of pop-corn irregularity of original Pops—a quality that would add a spontaneity, not often found before 10:00 am, to any morning. In a sentence: these are not Pops.


How It Compares To Other Cereals: For the length of my childhood, Cap’n Crunch held the gold standard for peanut butter cereal—straightforward, pure, and not overpowering in its nuttiness. In my teenage years, Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs were introduced, and quickly took the crown. Sure the whole “Wait, Reese’s for breakfast?!” advertising campaign lost its edge to anyone who’d ever tried Cookie Crisp (which are, quite literally, a bowl of tiny cookies you eat before work-or-school), but the Reese’s product itself took what had already been established by the Cap’n and improved upon it with the introduction of chocolate. Also, they feel kind of cold in your mouth, which is a hard-to-describe yet enjoyable sensation.

And while I swear this isn’t just a case of loyalties, I’m happy to say that Reese’s keeps the title. And it really comes down to one factor. You see, Reese’s had the good sense to divide the peanut butter and chocolate flavors into separate puffs, distinguishable from one-another by their coloring. Not only is this visually appealing, but it puts the client in control; focusing on chocolate in this bite? Get more dark brown pieces on your spoon! In it for the peanut butter? Go for the tan! Pops Chocolate Peanut Butter, meanwhile, attempts to cram the dual flavors into each piece with no care at all, resulting in what can best be summed up as a ridiculous mess.

The Verdict: Those last two words up there actually sum it all up. From the packaging to the execution, and even the name, itself, Pops Chocolate Peanut Butter are a ridiculous mess—a failure as both a spinoff and a cereal. Don't bother when there's better things out there.



Blogger kid pretentious said...

i'm expecting a fruit loo....krusty o's review soon

11:11 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Wait, where do you find those? Is it only at seven-elev...The Kwik-E-Mart?

I am working on a box of "Froot Loops Smoothies," though, which (SPOILER ALERT!) are about as good as they sound, at least assuming that you don't think they sound very good.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just reading the box that said Fruit Loop Smoothies made me start feeling a little sick.


3:19 PM  
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8:38 AM  

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