Milking It: Honey Bunches of Oats cereal with Real Chocolate Clusters

Honey Bunches of Oats cereal with Real Chocolate Clusters Post Rating: One and a half spoons out of four

Cereal description: A gang of different flakes: tan, oversized corn, smaller, more mottled oat and dark speckled wheat. Tossed into the midst of this melange are little, coagulated wads of what's presumably either oat or chocolate; at least that's what it says in the ingredients panel. Couldn't prove it by me, though.

Box description: Following the iron-clad rules governing the marketing of cereals that are supposed to be good for you, the cover here is about as distinctive and innovative as the three-millionth widget to ride the conveyor belt. Under a yellow banner declaring the concoction to be "New!," the Honey Bunches of Oats logo -- a sun-shaped circle with a hive-like stirrer dripping with honey at its center -- hovers over a jumbo spoonful of the stuff that's been "enlarged to show texture." The "With Real Chocolate Clusters" part of the name appears to the spoon's left, while fine print above it provides an oddly capped explanation of the product contained within: "LIGHTLY SWEETENED CEREAL with 3 KINDS of FLAKES & CRUNCHY OAT CLUSTERS BAKED with a TOUCH OF HONEY." Poor "with:" It turns up twice and gets lower-cased both times. The side panel opposite the nutrition information touts the mixture as being "Heart Healthy" thanks to its "Whole Grain" and "Vitamins & Minerals," while the back sports another picture of a spoon, and that's pretty much it. Betcha the guys who designed this box did everything as cheaply as possible and then took the leftover portion of their budget with them on a road trip to Vegas. Craps!

Taste: I enthusiastically endorse the idea of combining cereal meant to appeal to folks concerned about their diet with chocolate, an additive that undermines the entire concept. ("I started eating dark chocolate because of its health benefits:" Yeah, sure.) But the chocolate here is way too subtle. It's difficult to catch a hint of it in any given bite -- and the same goes for the honey that's supposedly a key part of the recipe. The sweetest flavor blast I got from my most recent bowlful was when I used my finger to clear a mash of cereal from one of my molars. Didn't love the texture of the amalgam, either. The image that came to mind as I munched involved a pile of fall leaves blown against the side of a house by a windstorm. Mmmmmmm.

Conclusion: "Lightly sweetened" shouldn't mean that the cereal was sweetened with a beam of light, for God's sake. -- Michael Roberts

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