Milking It: Oat Cluster Cheerios Crunch

Oat Cluster Cheerios Crunch General Mills Rating: Two-and-a-half spoons out of four.

Cereal description: Three variations of the trademark O's -- original recipe, a glazed-looking, slightly yellower version, and their deeper brown siblings -- made from a melange of oat, wheat, rice, corn and barley. Also present are oat clusters spattered with honey, cinammon, molasses and distilled monoglycerides. (Mmmmm. Distilled monoglycerides...) The clusters are proof that this is an adult cereal. After all, the babies who normally gnaw on Cheerios would probably choke on them.

Box description: Two words (or maybe the name of an Alabama tailback): Bo Ring. The cover features the Oat Cluster Cheerios Crunch logo suspended over a giant spoonful of the stuff amid splashing advertising milk and a heart-shaped message proclaiming, "May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease*". Beware the use of the qualifying word "may" and the asterisk, which leads the reader to a section that reads, "Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. Cheerios Crunch cereal is low in fat (1g), saturated fat free, and naturally cholesterol free." Imagine some voice actor reciting this lawyer-speak really fast at the end of a commercial and you'll enjoy it more. As for the side panels, they feature a stretched-out logo on one edge and nutrition information on the other. And the box's back is dominated by General Mills' usual "Keys to Healthy Living" feature (complete with a photo of a dad pouring milk on cereal in front of a kid who looks less than thrilled) and a "Crunch Into Your Morning" display sporting more advertising hype and that "May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease*" line again. Given the focus on cardiac care, I was surprised that a mini-defibrilator wasn't included as a special toy surprise.

Taste: Not bad, all things considered. The honey, cinnamon and molasses (not to mention those monoglycerides) gives the cereal a flavor that lifts it above and beyond regular Cheerios, whose flavor isn't all that distinguishable from air. But as a breakfast fanatic, I want more from my morning bowl than "not bad." The economic downturn, coupled with the current prejudice against ultra-sugared cereals, has led to a huge decrease in the introduction of unique and eccentric new munches, and an upswing in the amount of nutrition-conscious stuff marketed under familiar brand names. Oat Cluster Cheerios Crunch exemplifies this approach, and it's by no means the worst example. But that doesn't mean it's much fun to eat. Although it may prevent your chest from exploding, it probably won't put a big smile on your face.

Conclusion: Yummier than Lipitor -- but not most cereals with cartoon mascots. -- Michael Roberts

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