All my life, I’ve been an avid cereal-eater. From Cornflakes to Cheerios, from Weetabix to Shreddies, I will reliably eat a bowl (or two) each morning to set me up for the day.
So when I moved from London to San Francisco in November last year, an obvious question presented itself: What is American breakfast cereal like?
As a Brit, you hear whispered tales of American cereals. Fluorescent colours. More sugar than a can of Coca-Cola. Literal candy. It’s the kind of thing I would have loved as a kid – but what would I think trying them for the first time as a 26-year-old?
I set out on a journey to try and compare some of the most iconic American kids’ cereal around. Here’s how it went.
Words by Rob Price. Photography by Melia Robinson.
For this experiment, I decided to try eight American cereals that aren’t widely available in the United Kingdom and that I hadn’t tried before. That meant no Frosted Flakes or Coco-Pops, for example.
I was to have one a day for breakfast, assessing their flavour, texture, scent, presentation, and overall experience.
Day 1: Classic Trix
Oh god, what have I let myself in for?
I opted to throw myself in at the deep end and kicked off the week with some Classic Trix, a fruity, boulder-like cereal.
First impressions? It looks like acid-infused Nesquik. And it smells insanely sweet – literally, like candy. The taste can only be described as bad. The flavours go together very oddly, and it’s immensely cloying, sticking in your molars long after you’ve finished eating.
Its one redeeming feature is the texture, which offers a good crunch and absorbs the milk nicely.
The milk, meanwhile, takes on a pastel hue scattered with rainbow dirt, and it tastes fairly generic, albeit sweet – better than the cereal itself.
Day 2: Cap’n Crunch
Ahhh, the iconic Cap’n Crunch. I’d heard of this one before, and I was very curious to see what it was like.
The cereal’s appearance is an immediate letdown. They look like tiny wheatie things, nowhere near as appetizing as they’re made out to be on the box.
The taste is head and shoulders above Classic Trix. It’s reminiscent of Golden Nuggets, a British breakfast cereal. And, true to form, it has an excellent crunch. The box was also solid, with some interesting games and puzzles, including a mad-libs-style story, a word search, and a maze.
I was let down by the aftertaste, however, which was a little sickly – and the milk isn’t great either.
Day 3: Reese’s Puffs
Awww yeah, this is the good stuff.
Three days into my cereal-induced vision-quest, I hit a breakfast food I could be effusive about: Reese’s Puffs.
If you’re not a fan of peanuts, you’re gonna have a bad time – these guys are seriously peanutty. But I’m all for peanuts, and it tastes good. It’s nutty, sweet but not saccharine, and it’s not nauseating in a way that sweet cereal can be. (I liked them enough to go back for a second bowl, which, in retrospect, was a bit much.)
The texture is fine – nothing to write home about, just a standard ball-thing – and the box has some cool pictures, but no actual games.
The leftover milk was perhaps a little too peanutty – but then, what do you expect?
Day 4: Fruit Loops
Froot Loops: Not even once.
Real talk: Froot Loops are garbage.
The colours of these weird Cheerios are bizarrely garish, and they look horrendously artificial. I would not feed these to my children. (If I had any.)
It tastes like cake icing, which is really not the vibe I’m after while eating breakfast at 7 a.m., and the texture goes a little soggy and unpleasant. They claim on the box to have natural fruit flavours; I am incredibly dubious.
The milk itself tastes actively bad, and I couldn’t finish drinking it – the first time that happened.
All in all, a big fat no from me.
Day 5: Cookie Crisp
Incredibly unhealthy. Incredibly good.
I’d like to meet whoever invented Cookie Crisp.
Sure, these things don’t taste remotely healthy. It’s literally a bowl of cookies, and you can practically feel your arteries thinning as you eat them. But you know what: They’re great.
The flavour is good – different from the normal fare, without the chocolate being overpowering – and the texture evolves as it grows more milk-sodden in a really satisfying manner. And the milk was great, a classic cereal flavour, and not overtly chocolaty.
The only real letdown was the box, which features faux-Instagram images in lieu of games and encourages you to buy more boxes to see them all.
Day 6: Apple Jacks
Weird, but not awful.
By this point, I was starting to get pretty sick of American cereal hitting me with an unrelenting wall of sugar, overpowering my taste-buds.
As such, I was automatically suspicious of Apple Jacks because, well, they look weird as hell. One of their mascots is a personified cinnamon stick wearing sandals, and the box is covered with video game-themed quizzes and games, for some reason. Just who is this cereal aimed at?
The orange and greens colours, meanwhile, are so vibrant they’re almost luminescent.
But you know what? I didn’t hate them. The flavour was better than I expected, heavy on the cinammon and light on the apple. The texture degraded unpleasantly with milk, though the milk itself was delicious.
Day 7: Fruity Pebbles
Please make it stop.
Not even the Flintstones could redeem this cereal.
Fruity Pebbles have a sickening, nauseatingly sweet smell, and the flavour isn’t any better. It tastes like leprechaun vomit. The texture, like miniature Cornflakes, is better than expected, however.
In short: No, thank you.
Day 8: Lucky Charms
A flawed masterpiece.
Lucky Charms have a semi-mythic status, and they arguably exemplify everything that’s wrong with American diets.
They don’t even pretend to be healthy, which I found oddly refreshing. It’s literally just a box of cereal mixed with candy, marketed to children. And so while obviously they taste extremely sweet, the flavour isn’t sickly like many of its fruit-infused rivals. The milk, meanwhile, turns blue, which definitely isn’t a colour milk should be, but it still tastes great.
Where the cereal is a letdown, however, is in the marshmallow candies themselves. The texture of the charms is bizarre, and it’s actively unpleasant when you crush them between your teeth. It’s deeply unsettling, like biting through Styrofoam pellets.
Verdict: Cookie Crisp takes the crown.
After a week of embracing American culture, one thing was clear: This stuff is wildly unhealthy. The sugar is often so intense it’s nauseating, and they taste a million miles away from a balanced diet.
I found myself naturally gravitating towards the non-fruity options. I’m under no illusion that they’re any better for you, but they seemed less insidious than the cereals that boasted of their natural flavours while also being stuffed with sugar.
Of the cereals I tried, Cookie Crisp takes the throne. It strikes the right balance between sweetness and flavour, and it didn’t leave me feeling queasy. I even went back for seconds a day later.
That said, none of the cereals have convinced me I’ve been missing out on anything life-changing, and I’m unlikely to change my breakfast habits any time soon. There’s still plenty of American kids’ cereals I haven’t had a chance to try yet (I’m looking at you, Count Chocula), so maybe I just haven’t tried the right one yet.
For now, however, I’m going to stick to Bran Flakes.
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