Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Not so nuts about Grape Nuts!

On Monday, GM filed for bankruptcy; we learned that an Air France flight heading from Brazil to Paris had gone missing somewhere in the Atlantic; and it was announced that golden-voiced Susan Boyle, having ignominiously placed second in the latest Britain's Got Talent, had checked into a London clinic for a wee bit o' a rest.

All in all, it wasn't a joy-filled news day - especially the news of the missing plane. Hard not to think about whether the people on the flight were aware that they were going down. God, how ghastly. Let us hope they all at least died on impact.

As I went into a fret on what to blog about, I came across an article in The Wall Street Journal on Grape Nuts. (Access may require subscription.)

Personally, I'm not a major fan of Grape Nuts in the raw. Eating them is too much like munching on pebbles and, especially since the major dental investment of 2008, I am not about to go munching on no pebbles, thank you. (In the article, eating them is described as having "a mouthful of gravel", so I'm not the only one that feels this way.)

Still, pebbles/gravel and all, as a New Englander, I am very fond of grapenut pudding and grapenut ice cream, and will often order it when I see it on a menu.

Grape Nuts has, apparently, fallen off in popularity over the years.

At one point, it was the seventh most popular cold cereal. Now, it's nearly dropped into oblivion, with market share of less than 1 percent, and sales estimated at a paltry $80M/year.

The Journal's exposition of just how Grape Nuts are made may not help things out any. (This could be said of most food production, excepting only tomatoes from the backyard garden.)

At the Grape Nuts factory - no longer, alas, in Battle Creek, Michigan, but in California - wheat and barley, "wet and malting" are taken from silos, and tipped:

...into mills that ground it into flour. Until five years ago, the mills spat out the husks for cattle feed. Now they stay in, so Grape Nuts can sell as "whole grain." That is one change in [the original] formula. Another is a spray of vitamins and minerals. It qualifies Grape Nuts for food-stamp programs, and adds an element -- zinc -- that enables Dana Johnson, in Arvada, Colo., to make home-brewed Grape Nuts beer. ("Light and drinkable," he says.)

Mixed with yeast (one cup per 2,000 pounds) and water, the flour turns to dough, gets chopped into 10-pound loaves and sent into a huge oven -- 1,610 loaves at a time. "Now it gets interesting," Mr. [Fernando] Vargas said at his workstation, watching the loaves emerge from the oven and catapult into the darkness. An instant later, they hit the fan -- a whirling high-speed shredder that rips them to smithereens.

I like the idea of the catapult into darkness, which Mr. Vargas refers to as "dropping the bombs."

But as for the "whole grain" designation, and the "spray of vitamins and minerals" - I call yechhhh!

Anyway, Grape Nuts is starting up a new ad campaign, aimed at males over 45.

Taking a page from Cialis and Viagra, their new slogan - used in conjunction with vignettes in which men are given advice on things like preventing the in-laws from moving in -  is "That takes Grape Nuts."

Obviously, I'm not in their demographic, but, even if I were, they would be way down the list of cold cereals - perhaps even further down than their historic high of seventh in popularity.

Let's see. These days I mostly buy Kashi GoLean - different types, including the shredded wheat, Shredded Wheat being my all-time number one, favorito cold cereal. Minis or big loafs, as long as it's unfrosted, I love it. (If Grape Nuts are gravel, then Shredded Wheat's Brillo, I guess. But once soaked in milk....)

I also love Cheerios, Quaker Puffed Wheat, Quaker Puffed Rice, Rice Crispies, and Corned Flakes. I like Raisin Bran, but hold the raisins, please, and just give me Bran Flakes. I'll add my own raisins, thank you, and they'll be plump and soft, not desiccated and, frankly, pebbly. 

I have, however, pretty much put away most of the cereals of my youth.

In the day, I loved Sugar Pops, Frosted Flakes, Sugar Crisps, and Sugar Jets (which I don't think are even made any more). The sweeter the better. If memory serves, the jingle for Sugar Jets was:

I'm hungry, I'm hungry, for good food to eat

For Sugar Jets, Sugar Jets, candied and sweet

Ah, the good old-days when advertising a breakfast cereal as "candied and sweet" was the way to get a mom to buy it. (In retrospect, I'm amazed my mother bought any of the sugared cereals, since she pretty much had a fatwa on soda and candy except on special occasions.  Ice cream, cookies and cakes were okay, however. My father had a sweet tooth, and my mother baked several times each week.)

While I liked the sugary cereals, I drew the line at Froot Loops, Lucky Charms (gag!), Alpha-Bits, and Coco-Puffs (much as I love chocolate).

Some cereals had little prizes in them - chintzy plastic yo-yos that you got about one yo out of; railroad decals (I'm definitely dating myself here); and - my all time favorite - the baking powder frog men. These were little plastic frog men with one extra-large flipperish club-foot, into which you poured some baking powder. Toss the frog man into water and watch him descend! Expend the baking powder and, hur-ray, and up he rises!

Want your own baking powder frog man?

There's a guy with a web-site dedicated to baking powder submarines that has some side mentions of b.p. frog men. He kindly provides links to Amazon, where you can buy 6 repros of these little guys for $6.98. (I am restraining myself here, but next time I'm in a flea market or junk store, I will definitely look around and see if I can acquire one for myself.)

Until then, I will content myself by recalling all of the cereal jingles of my childhood that I can dredge up.

Can't get enough of those Sugar Crisps, Sugar Crisps...


JaneL said...

Mmmm... Spoon-size Shredded Wheat for breakfast - my favorite! Instead of milk, try using plain yogurt on it. A few bacon bits sprinkled on top give it a whole new taste.

Sandy said...

Great blog! And it made me think of those little vinyl records built into the Super Sugar Crisp packages for the first time in eons. The Archies, I believe, singing "Sugar Sugar." Ah, Sugar Bear, where art thou?

Anonymous said...

I *love* Grape Nuts. It's been my favorite cereal for many years. When I go on business trips, I'll try to bring or buy my own box of Grape Nuts so I can have milk delivered by room service and savor it in my room. I like it better than a full breakfast bar.

Love the taste; love the texture; love the healthiness; love the way it fills me up. I'd have to eat several bowls of most other cereals to fill me up for breakfast--but just one bowl of Grape Nuts does the trick. I even had some generic Grape Nuts for dinner tonight, but that's just because I'm working late.

sewluna said...

100I love Grape-Nuts!! They are tasty and very filling. I especially like them hot; 30-60 seconds in the microwave, and voila!