Thursday, October 28, 2010

Generic Taste-Off #1: Cheerios vs. Joe's O's

Five days before the Nov. 2 mid-term election, it's only appropriate to stage this battle between perennial incumbent Cheerios and upstart cereal Joe's O's. They're both the vanillas of the cereal world: plain, simple, insistently tasteless blank canvasses on which to paint with fruit, other cereals, or, I dunno, flavored milk? Who actually eats this stuff by itself?

Well, that's what I'm about to do today. Because I'm brave like that. Both cereals will be tasted fixings-free -- a single heaping bowl each, paired only with 2% milk. Cheerios: the cereal moms use to pacify their babies, or Joe's O's: the Cheerios knock-off that is deemed fit for hip adults solely because it's sold at Trader Joe's. Which will prevail? Which will win the battle of the bland?

First up is the champion, Cheerios.
Price: $3.99 for 8.7 oz.
Box: Yellow with blue accents
Description: "Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal"
Health claim: "As part of a heart healthy diet, the soluble fiber in Cheerios can help lower your cholesterol."
Notable nutrition facts: 170 mg of potassium to Joe's O's 60mg. That's good.
Appearance: Lightly browned oat o's.
Taste: Bland, burnt oat taste. Good crunch. Suitable for teething babies, ample applications of fruit (bananas, berries, pears, etc.), or mixing with other cereals (anything with crunchy flakes; now that's synergy).
Bottom line: Poor tasting, high-priced cereal that's relatively good for you.

And now we have the challenger, Joe's O's.
Price: $1.99 for 15 oz.
Box: Yellow with red accents
Description: "Toasted Whole Grain Oats"
Health claim: "Fortified with Six B Vitamins Including 50% DV Folic Acid. 1 Gram of Sugar per Serving"
Notable nutrition facts: 280 mg of sodium to Cheerios' 160 mg. That's bad.
Appearance: Somewhat more lightly browned oat o's.
Taste: A good, subtle flavor that's hard to place. Notes of vanilla? Sweeter than Cheerios, with less of a burnt note. Crunch, however, is overzealous; texture balance is a bit off. Again, suitable for teething babies, ample applications of fruit, mixing with other cereals, or, if you're hard up, eating by itself.
Bottom line: A good value with a few potential worthwhile uses. No superhero, but no villain, either.

And there you have it: the nod in the battle of the bland goes ever so tastelessly to Trader Joe's Joe's O's. Be sure to tell all of the expecting mothers and cash-strapped Trader Joe's shoppers out there. As for me, I'll continue to buy exactly neither of these cereals. (And pardon me while I use Raisin Bran Crunch to get that taste out of my mouth.)

Leave your suggestions for more generic vs. name-brand taste-offs in the comments section. If I choose your selections, you'll win a big pat on the back from whoever is nearest to you when you find out! Now that's democracy.

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