Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Kroger Chocolatey Cocoa Crisp Cereal (Kroger)

This is pretty darn delicious.
NOTE: This was previously available in Kroger stores under the name "Cocoa Crispy Rice". It's the same thing.

A random thought that just popped in my head: they have puffed rice in candy bars, but why hasn't chocolate puffed rice been added to any? I mean, I'm sure it has at some point in time, but I'm not aware of any popular candies that contain it...and that could be a million dollar idea.

Anyway, with self-isolation being a thing that my wife takes seriously (and that I've been self-practicing as much as possible for years), she has deemed herself the sole errand-runner as of late. While I love not having to leave the house for anything, the one big drawback to this setup is that, while she likes the store, she is not much of an Aldi fan for solo trips, inexplicably preferring to go elsewhere. Recently, she thankfully had a revelation, opting to spend most of her time (and our money) at Meijer, but she still goes to Kroger once in a while to mix it up. Gross.

Well, while I'm not typically a “silver linings” kinda guy, there is one obvious plus to this whole (hopefully very temporary) setup: I can take a look at products from stores that I wouldn't normally waste much time on. With that in mind, let's take a look at Kroger's version of the “cocoa small stones” national brand cereal!

The first thing that jumps out at me is the appearance: each “puff” is dark, and seems to be filled with a generous helping of cocoa flavor. I don't have Aldi's brand (Millville) here for reference, but I'm pretty sure Kroger's gets closer to the look and feel of the “original” version a little bit more, at least right out of the box. The smell is also as it should be, suggesting a large dose of chocolate flavor, akin to the national brand.

Sure enough, the taste follows suit, living up to my distant memories of eating the “original” version all those years ago as a youngster: the cocoa taste isn't overly strong, but it is pretty sweet, as one should probably expect from a cereal predominantly aimed at children. Still, I don't think it's so much so that it would turn off most adults looking for a breakfast-themed chocolate fix; it strikes a solid balance of offering a sweet taste that kids will love, with one that can also appeal to most adults, short of the “dark chocolate” snobs.

The biggest complaint I have—and it pertains to this kind of cereal in general and not just this brand—is that the teeny little cereal bits are prone to getting super soggy, super quick. In the past, when I could focus on finishing a bowl in one sitting, it wasn't that much of a deal. But now, with a kid at home, all it takes is an unexpected spill, or potty break, or any number of other potential distractions that will force me to put my bowl down for a couple minutes. And “a couple minutes”, in turn, is all it takes for the cereal to go from an appetizing treat, to a sludgy mess. Don't get me wrong, I'll still eat it no matter what, but it's certainly less enticing from a textural standpoint when it starts feeling like you're eating chocolate boogers.

But what is a great flavor without some added value? This is the main aspect of this blog: lots of products in stores taste great, but a lot of them are also overpriced to all hell (unless you get them on sale, which is another story). This is also where some store brands can falter, by offering similar results, but for savings that don't amount to much. Well, I have to say that this offering from Kroger is the real deal, with each 15 oz. box retailing for just $1.49. How can you go wrong with that?

One thing I am a little surprised about is the milk at the end of the bowl: maybe it's just nostalgic memories of yesteryear (or artificial coloring), but didn't the milk used to turn a pretty dark shade of brown by the time you finished eating the actual cereal? Despite the much darker appearance of the cereal itself, the milk at the end only turns a slight shade of brown, though it does still pack in a pretty tasty chocolate flavor (much moreso than Aldi's version, which is even lighter). This is just a rather nit-picky observation that doesn't affect the overall score, but I always thought it was more of a darker hue. After all, isn't that one of the main reasons you want to eat a bowl of chocolate cereal to begin with?! Besides, it's certainly cheaper than paying $2 for a half-gallon of the pre-made stuff at the store these days. (Which brings me to another million-dollar idea: why has a chocolate cereal brand not released a chocolate milk, which aims to capture the flavor of drinking the remaining milk after all the cereal is gone?)

Overall: 8.5/10. This is a tasty cereal that packs in a good amount of sweet, delicious cocoa flavor, without going overboard. It might be a little too sweet for those that like their chocolate bittersweet, but it certainly isn't as cloying as some kids cereals can get, and in my opinion, strikes a good balance between “kid” and “adult” palates. Like all brands of similar cereals, it does get very soggy very quick, which takes the appeal down a bit, but this is a pretty spot-on imitation of the national brand (at least, from what I remember), while the $1.49 price tag makes it an outstanding value. You really can't go wrong here.

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