Daily Archives: November 21, 2009

Compare and Contrast

Store vs. National Brand:

“Great Value,” for those who don’t know, is a Wal-Mart “generic” brand.

Observations:

1. It does seem to me that the “crunchy fruit-based toroid” segment of the breakfast cereal industry has a problem with names. In the case of the national brand, the use of “Froot” rather than “fruit” telegraphs that what you’re eating possibly has more to do with long chains of polymers than something which actually once grew on a tree; in the case of the store brand, the name sounds like a rare but absolutely vicious tropical disease. I’m not sure I want to eat something that sounds either aggressively chemical or that resides in the feculent gut of a mosquito.

2. On the cartoon spokescreature front, the national brand is the clear winner. Toucan Sam, long proof of the cereal industry’s commitment to sexual diversity in its mascots, is at least tangentially related to his subject, by way of having a rainbow beak call to mind the rainbow of dyes dumped into the cereal, and the fact that toucans are a primarily frugivorous species. He’s clearly happy to be instructing the children on the joys of grain cereals. Contrast this to Great Value’s monochrome frog-like creatures, which aside from being deformed in the horrible way that amphibians seem to be these days thanks to all the chemicals we dump into the water supply, really have nothing to do with fruit at all.

Moreover, the main frog here appears surprised and ambivalent about the fact that he’s seated in a cereal loop, riding a sketchy flume into your breakfast bowl. This is not a mascot pleased to tell you about a product; this is a creature who is thinking five minutes ago I was sucking down flies with my tongue in a swamp, now I’m sliding into a vat of milk and oats, seriously, WTF. Which is another point: I’m okay with my cereal mascot eating the product; I’m less okay with my cereal mascot wallowing in my product. Nothing says don’t eat me like a conflicted amphibian descending into your bowl.

3. Ironically, I suppose, I give credit to the store brand for not overtly trumpeting some trivial and dubious nutritional benefit. Really now, Froot Loops: “Now provides fiber”? Because, cheese binges aside, your target demographic of hyperactive four to twelve-year-old has recently had to come to grips with the scourge of bowel irregularity? Do the cereal-purchasing mothers of the same say to themselves, as the cruise the cereal aisle, I want something both sugar-laden and poo-inducing? The juxtaposition of kid-pleasing cartoon character and AARP-level benefit banner is jarring, to say the least. With the Fruit Spins, there’s no ambiguity: You’re getting sugar, you’re getting colored dye, and yes, fine, 25% of your iron for the day, if you want it. I like that.

4. After all of this, we bought the Cheerios.