“ Brand: Kellogg's / Type: Cereal Bar „
As someone currently on a successful weight-loss regime, I am always on the lookout for new and interesting products to add a little variety to my diet. Being a busy sort, I can't always guarantee that I will have time for a bowl of cereal in the morning, so when I saw these cereal bars on offer at my local Tesco, I decided to give them a try (they usually retail at £2.16 for the six (6) bar pack, but Tesco had a 2 for £4 offer). As a big fan of berries (I usually pile my bowl of two Weetabix high with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries when I can) I was cautiously optimistic.
THE BOX & PACKAGING
The box art is attractive and gives the impression that the contents are crammed full of goodness, which is exactly what the manufacturer wants you to buy into. Two bits of information are particularly prominent: (a) the bars have 50% more fruit (ooh - how exciting!) which can easily be mistaken or misinterpreted as being made of 50% fruit; and (b) they have at most, 90 calories, as they are advertised as being in the "90-calorie bar range".
In fact they actually have 85 calories per bar. Closer inspection of the small print reveals they mean 50% more fruit than "previous fruit content" and a cursory examination of the ingredients (more on this later) shows the actual fruit content is possibly somewhere around 8.5% of the entire bar. Hmm. Far less impressive that the 50% screaming out from both the front and back of the box.
Each individually packaged 22 gram bar is also blessed with the two main claims mentioned above, along with a description of the contents: "Rice and wheat cereal bar with sweetened blueberry flavoured fruit pieces, sweetened dried blackcurrant and a delicious yoghurt flavour topping." OK. Now I'm confused. Is it real blueberry or is it blueberry "flavoured" and is it real yoghurt or "yoghurt flavour". All of a sudden, things don't seem quite as wholesome as they first appeared to be.
When I opened up the bar, I immediately noticed two things. First, my nostrils were practically assaulted by an intense aroma of sickly sweet blueberry (in the way only artificial smells can!) and secondly, the bar was a fair bit smaller than the packaging would initially suggest.
With my sense of smell barely recovered from the initial olfactory shock, I wafted the bar under my nose to see what else I could discern about its composition (all in the name of research obviously, as I don't normally make it a practice to subject cereal bars to a good old sniff). Once you get past the blueberries, all you really get is a heavy sweetness that is entirely at odds with the lightness of the bar.
On closer visual examination, it appears the bar is generously flecked with shrivelled bluish-purple pieces which, ostensibly, approximate dried blackcurrants and blueberries. A drizzle of white stuff along the top confirms the presence of our (is it or isn't it?) yoghurt. So, now for the moment of truth. The first bite!
Well, its fair to say that the taste suggested by that veritable assault of blueberry smell is instantly replicated on the taste buds. You get a very fruity, but intensely sweet flavour of berries, a little too sweet for my liking. The bar is sort of semi moist, and I found the sensation of biting into it quite nice. There is a nice crunchiness to the cereal, but it takes quite a period of dedicated chewing to get beyond the seriously overpowering fruit "flavour".
Finally, after about a minute of masticating, I managed to find some balance, with the cereal (the aforementioned rice and wheat) finally, if belatedly, making their presence known to my shell-shocked taste buds. Honestly, it shouldn't take that much effort. The funny thing is, although there are no artificial sweeteners, the whole thing tastes, well... very artificial. I think any doubt I may have had about whether actual blueberries were involved at any point in the production of this bar was emphatically dispelled by my taste buds (That's a resounding NO if you were still wondering).
The ingredients list is mind-boggling, and had I bothered to read it properly before buying the product, it may have given me a better idea of what to expect. Initially, it was all Greek to me, until I turned to the other side of the box where I found it written in English. That was a joke (c'mon - surely that was worth a snigger?!). Forty-six percent of the bar is made up of the Kellogg's Special K cereal.
The other major ingredients seem to be sugar, wheat gluten glucose and fructose syrup, and a variety of vitamins and minerals no doubt intended to bolster its "healthy" properties. Apart from the fruit (or not) bits mentioned earlier, the rest of the list includes (hopefully for your enlightenment - but certainly not mine) such exotic components as: defatted wheat germ, barley malt flavouring, whey powder, humectant, E320 as an antioxidant, and emulsifiers, amongst a plethora of others.
VERDICT & LESSONS LEARNED
I suppose some portion of the population will find a use for them, but as for me, I have Tesco's and my own false economy (both in time and money) to thank for saddling me with twelve of these things (well, eleven now that the review sample has been consumed). I guess if I have nothing else to hand, eventually I will manage to polish them off.
So, in a nutshell, I have learned two things from this disappointing foray into the cereal bar world: (a) there's no substitute for the real thing, and (b) pay closer - and more critical - attention to the ingredients. I was particularly disappointed at the borderline dishonesty of the 50% "more fruit" claim.
This is clearly a convenience food designed for people in a hurry. I suppose in Kellogg's estimation, if they're too busy to have breakfast, they'll be too busy to look beyond the superficial claims all over the packaging. After all fifty percent more of practically nothing.... is still practically nothing.
© Hishyeness 2009 - Previously published on ciao.co.uk under the same user name.