Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Tony Deyal | Cocoa puffs and cereal killers

Published:Saturday | June 11, 2016 | 6:00 AM
(General Mills via AP) This product image provided by General Mills on Monday, June 22, shows a bowl of Trix cereal made with artificial colors and flavors, (left) and a bowl of a reformulated version, made with natural flavors and colorings.

"Like religion, politics, and family planning, cereal is not a topic to be brought up in public. It's too controversial." - Erma Bombeck.

My daughter loved cereal, especially the chocolate-flavoured ones. In those days, together with her television staple, Sesame Street, she enjoyed the Flintstones both to watch and to eat. Fred, Wilma and, their daughter, Pebbles were good but Cocoa Pebbles were better.

When crunch time came there were also Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies and Count Chocula. In addition, our cupboard invariably had cereals like basic cornflakes, Cookie Crisp, Cocoa Puffs, Boo Berry, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and, of course, the Breakfast of Champions, Wheaties, which was the first cereal to have its own jingle and television spot.

Athletes, including Muhammad Ali, Mary Lou Retton and Michael Jordan helped to popularise (and sell) the brand. Like Wheaties, Rice Krispies first appeared in the 1930s and its three 'amigos', Snap, Crackle and Pop, based on the sound that the cereal supposedly made when milk was poured on it, was also an extremely popular brand.

I remember once teasing my daughter by calling her a 'cereal killer'. She got upset, threw a tantrum or two, raged and cried, looked at me accusingly and when she cooled down, reached for her cereal, which was both comfort zone and standby snack. Given the way all children are difficult to feed, we were glad that if all else failed we could resort to cereal, which, with the milk added, at least gave her some protein.

 

SHUNNING CEREAL

 

Now kids and even adults are turning away from cereal in any form, fashion or quantity by the droves. At first, I thought the decline in cereal consumption had to do with nutritional issues. After all, many of the chocolate cereals had 'artificial chocolate flavouring'. This was on the Chocolate Honeycomb packages and I never noticed or I would never have bought it. I still can't figure out what artificial chocolate is, how it is made and what it is derived from. Nutritionists preach that most breakfast cereals are high in sugar and refined grains and that the high sugar consumption can have harmful effects and may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The website 'Authority Nutrition', which claims to use an 'evidence-based' approach to diet, states: "Breakfast cereals are heavily marketed as being healthy. These cereals have all sorts of health claims printed on the front of the box. This includes misleading claims like 'low-fat' and 'whole grain'. But when you look at the ingredients list, the first few are often refined grains and sugar. Examples of misleading claims are 'whole grain' Cocoa Puffs and 'whole grain' Froot Loops. These products are NOT healthy just because they have small amounts of whole grains in them. These are highly processed foods that are loaded with added sugars. Small amounts of whole grains do not negate the harmful effects of the other ingredients."

A list of unhealthy truths about cereals include that they are loaded with GMOs (genetically modified ingredients) which can mess with your immune system, are full of preservatives, have artificial dyes and flavours but, worst of all, many contain pesticides and these are linked directly to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

 

AT A CROSSROADS

 

So is this why many people are no longer eating cereal? One answer comes from a Washington Post article by Roberto A. Ferdman, titled 'The baffling reason many millennials don't eat cereal'.

The Post referred to a New York Times (NYT) piece, 'Cereal, a taste of nostalgia looks for its next chapter'. The NYT article says that "cereal as a cultural marker and profit centre is at a crossroads". A survey showed that 40 per cent of millennials (people reaching adulthood around the year 2000) said that cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it. The Post added: "A large contingent of millennials are uninterested in breakfast cereal because eating it means using a bowl, and bowls don't clean themselves (or get tossed in the garbage). Bowls, kids these days groan, have to be cleaned."

The Post also says that coffee is suffering the same fate. "Despite talk of a third wave of coffee, which values quality above all else, and basks in artisanal rather than effortless methods of preparation, Americans still covet convenience above all else.

"'Convenience is the one thing that's really changing trends these days,' Howard Telford, an industry analyst at market research firm Euromonitor, said last year.

"Less than 10 per cent of the coffee beans Americans buy are fresh whole beans. And ground coffee isn't just outpacing whole bean coffee - it's increasing its lead, each and every year."

The article also points out that increasingly people want their restaurant meals to come to them and that 20 per cent of millennials, compared with the national average of 15 per cent, want home delivery of their meals.

So it this the result of laziness? Another survey showed that while 82 per cent of parents said they had to do chores when they were kids, only 28 per cent of them revealed that they demand the same from their kids. What about Caribbean people? Well, when I see someone double-park to save a 20-yard walk to the supermarket, or park in a zone reserved for the physically disabled, or even circle the parking lot several times to grab a spot when someone at the entrance moves out, I realise that we have a whole bunch of Cocoa puffs or victims of other cereal killers around.

- Tony Deyal was last seen quoting Ronald Reagan, "They say that hard work never killed anyone but why take the chance?"