Breakfast and Brunch

Milking It: Wild Animal Crunch

Wild Animal Crunch Kellogg's Rating: One and a half spoons out of four

Cereal description: The cereal pieces, a mash-up of oat, wheat and corn flour that suggests the manufacturing process used to make plywood, are tan in hue with light brown streaks running through them. Shape-wide, they're meant to recall assorted creatures, but even zoologists would have a hard time figuring out which ones. On the inside of the box, over illustrations of a dolphin, an elephant and a turtle, a hidden message asks, "Did you guess the animal shapes in your cereal?" No, I must admit -- I didn't. They all looked like undifferentiated fetuses to me.

Box description: Wild Animal Crunch features a series of animal photos on its covers, à la the tails of Frontier jets. Mine sports a mother polar bear and two cubs, so that people can see how cute they start out, and how scary they wind up. The name above them is designed around the Animal Planet logo -- an innovative example of product placement on a product -- and a globe illustration in the lower right-hand corner reveals that the box represents a "Collector's Polar Package." Perhaps some people will be encouraged to save a box without opening it or ingesting any of its contents (good idea). Nutrition information appears on both side panels -- isn't that going a bit too far? -- while the back features trading cards that can be scissored from the container and a "Polar C-C-Cross W-W-Word" (if reading these words is embarrassing, imagine how the person who thought them up feels). The best items appear toward the bottom: a plug for ROAR (Reach Out, Act, Respond), an animal preservation organization, and a "True or False?" area with statements such as "Male and female walruses live in separate herds." Turns out that they do. Hey -- I learned something!

Taste: Like, for example, who lousy this stuff is. For a product that boasts "crunch" as part of its moniker, the pieces don't deliver a satisfying snap when crushed between molars. The flavor, meanwhile, is exceedingly bland. The slightest hint of molasses is detectable in the beginning. By the bowl's midpoint, however, eating the cereal is like chewing air -- and not strong, tangy air, like in Times Square, but the generic, scent-free variation.

Conclusion: Mild Animal Crunch is more like it. -- Michael Roberts