Friday, July 12, 2019

Kroger Chocolate Toasted Oats Cereal (Kroger)

It's better than I thought it would be, but completely unnecessary.
Ever since I was a kid, I've always been into cereal, a fascination that continues even to this day. There is, arguably, no more versatile food on the face of this Earth: obviously, it's great for breakfast, but it's also equally effective as both a snack, or even as a quick meal when nothing else sounds good. Since most cereals have quite a bit of vitamins (which will help to offset the high sugar content of some of the kids-based ones), it's also a healthier alternative than other snacks, which is why we seem to have at least a dozen boxes on hand at any given time. (And that's not even taking into account its other uses, such as an ingredient in milkshakes, a topping for ice cream, a healthier breading for fried foods, etc.)

And ever since I was a kid, I've always loved the name brand “O”s cereal. I think most kids like the apple cinnamon and honey nut variants—which I always did, too—but I was one of the only kids I knew that loved the taste of the original, even without added sugar. Even today it seems most adults have to add a spoonful (or more) of sweetness in order to force it down, but I'm fine eating it right out of the box, or with a cut-up banana for some more natural sweetness.

I guess I'm out of the loop (pun intended!) but now it seems the classic cereal is always constantly being “updated” for modern tastes. Instead of just a couple varieties, now it seems a new version of “O's” are coming out weekly: there's multi-grain, and yogurt, and frosted, and fruity, and banana nut, and peanut butter, and strawberry banana, and berry...it's all rather overwhelming and unnecessary, especially since most of those flavors are very similar to, and executed better in, other cereals. And that's a big reason why I have avoided almost all of them like the plague, not taking so much as a second glance at any of them in the store, unless it was to scoff at the latest stupid addition to the seemingly neverending line.

Well apparently my mom has an affinity for buying cereal when it's on sale, and then never eating it: a couple times a year, we get a dozen or so unopened boxes of all different kinds, across all different brands, both corporate, and private label. In this latest batch, we received a box of Kroger's Chocolate Toasted Oat's cereal, and I have to say I couldn't be less thrilled to try it.

Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have, were it not for my two-year-old son, who is far more open-minded when it comes to cereals than I am (but shares his daddy's affection for the stuff). After giving him a choice of cereals based on pictures, of course the one he settled on was one of a couple that I really had no interest in eating (we always share a bowl of cereal together when we eat it, which is how I'm “locked in” to whatever his choice is; it's one of our little traditions). Unwilling to break his fragile little heart over something so trivial, I sucked it up and decided to give it a shot.

It's still stupid, and I won't ever buy a box for myself, but I honestly have to say it's better than I ever thought it could be. Dare I say, it hit the same flavor profiles for me as the Count's cereal; you know, the over-chocolated cereal with marshmallows that seems to only be available around the Halloween season. It's obviously not as sweet or as chocolatey as that cereal, but take away the marshmallows and I think it's closer than anyone would like to admit. I guess think of it as a “diet” version of that, with a good amount of chocolate flavor coming through that isn't overly sweet.

The issue for me is that there are dozens of other chocolate cereals on the market, and many of them still do the whole chocolate thing way better. Like “Cocoa Small Stones”, and “Cocoa Spheres”, or the aforementioned chocolate vampire: If I want a chocolate cereal, I want a cereal that's unabashedly chocolate, and that leaves the milk a dark shade of brown when you get to the bottom, rather than a browner shade of white. But that's just me: if you're on a diet, or otherwise hate the sweetness of typical chocolate cereals, then I guess this might fit the bill a little bit better for you.

Again, it's not at all a bad cereal: it's just another pointless addition to the ever-expanded "O's" line that seems to want to incorporate every possible flavor, fad or not, in an effort to stay relevant and drum up some contemporary business.

Overall: 6/10. I never really cared to try this cereal, but now that I have, it's kind of bittersweet for me: it's certainly better than I thought it would be, but I still don't think I'll ever get it again. The chocolate is strong enough, but not overly sweet the way a lot of other chocolate cereals are. Then again, that's more of a bad thing for me: if I want a chocolate cereal, I want a chocolate cereal, not one that seems like it doesn't want to fully commit to the idea (to wit, the milk is only a very light shade of brown when you get to the bottom). Beyond that, it's still another pointless addition to the “O's” line of cereals that seemingly keep churning out new flavors every single week, when their original lineup (original, honey nut, apple cinnamon) is already pretty perfect. I got these for free from my mom, so I'm not sure of the value proposition when purchased from the store, but regardless, as decent as they are, I wouldn't pay a dime for these when there are much better chocolate cereals around.

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