Milking It: Cocoa Krispies Choconilla

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Cocoa Krispies Choconilla Kellogg's Rating: Two and a half spoons out of four

Cereal description: Puffed rice kernels -- half of them a deep brown, the rest a light tan color. The latter are identical in hue to standard Rice Krispies, which aren't vanilla-flavored. So what gives? Couldn't spring for white food coloring? That would have been a lot cooler. Sort of the cereal equivalent of "Ebony and Ivory," except without having to hear that dreadful song.

Box description: My version of the box mates standard imagery -- Snap, Crackle and Pop perched atop the Cocoa Krispies Choconilla logo (with the "nilla" part printed in white, the color the vanilla kernels should have been) -- with tie-ins to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, like pretty much every Kellogg's staple during the summer of 2008. It seems like a long time ago when I sampled and enjoyed Indiana Jones Chocolate Cereal with Marshmallows and hoped the movie would be as good. Unfortunately, it wasn't -- which makes the sight of a graying Harrison Ford clinging to a rope over an offer for a "Free Search Light" (available in exchange for four box tokens) seem rather sad instead of exciting. More Indiana Jones blah-blah appears on the side panel opposite the nutrition information -- a "Blast Off with Breakfast" puzzle featuring clues such as "Short name for almonds, cashews, etc." (Hint: It hurts if dudes get kicked in them.) The back, meanwhile, repimps the search light with assistance from a numerical puzzle that looked too difficult for me to attempt and shots of Ford, Shia LaBeouf and Cate Blanchett wearing uniformly glum expressions. Come on, guys! Cheer up! This is breakfast, not life or death! Or is it?

Taste: Choconilla works the same chocolate-and-vanilla territory as the recently reviewed Cocoa Puffs Combos and achieves similarly middling results. Simply put, the vanilla lessens the intensity of the chocolate without offering a worthwhile substitute. Vanilla isn't the problem in and of itself. In fact, I really liked Vanilla Rice Krispies, which were available in my neck of the woods a few years ago and continue to occupy shelves in Canada according to this blog entry. But the juxtaposition with chocolate does neither flavor any favors in this instance. A good variation on a classic brand may not trump the original, but it provides an interesting twist. A mediocre one, in contrast, makes me wish the food designers had left well enough alone -- and that's the case here.

Conclusion: Choconilla takes Cocoa Krispies to the next level. Too bad that level is a step or two beneath the previous one. -- Michael Roberts

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