Saturday

Monkey On A Box


I wrote this under a title we were given at Uni, The Everyday.

Now you don’t even need a bowl to taste your cereal. ‘Lucky Charms’ ‘Fruit Loops’ and ‘Count Chocula’ can be bought in lip balm form so you can get a breakfast taste-hit throughout the day. And it isn’t just treat flavoured cereal that can be wiped across your lips, standard cereals such as ‘Frosties’ ‘Rice Krispies’ and even ‘Corn Flakes’ can be bought in wax form, so you can re-experience breakfast at a moments notice. The question is why would anyone want a reminder of the taste of corn?

Cereal is advertised as an everyday, essential item, a basic foodstuff. But of course it is not a natural food source, cereal is made from processed grain, usually a buzz word for – unhealthy and avoid – but not in terms of breakfast. As a nation we love it, 94% of us have a box of cereal in our cupboards, meaning it is a part of most people’s daily routine. How is it that cereal ends up in the bowls, and even on the lips, of millions of people every morning?

Monkey on a box or tiger on a box, is the dilemma I have when walking down the cereal aisle at a supermarket. It is not a problem I have when buying anything else. If I fancied toast for breakfast I wouldn’t have to contend with a monkey or a tiger. It would probably be a case of white or brown bread, wholemeal if I’ve bothered to walk to the big Tesco. The point is, buying cereal is one of the most complex supermarket decisions out there. You have to be careful you don’t end up with something really bad like ‘Weetabix Minis : Choco Crisp’. Weetabix want you to believe that you are making an informed, healthy decision, but you are still eating chocolate at 7am.

The Monkey is of course, Coco the monkey from Coco Pops, the tiger, Tony from Frosties. Kelloggs talk about these characters as cereal ‘mascots’. A mascot is usually defined as an object that brings luck, do you need luck to eat a bowl of cereal? Is eating a cereal an event? Kelloggs cleverly attach friendly faces to their cereal brands, hooking a young audience for life. Breakfast isn’t always a sociable meal, but with Coco there you will always have a friend.

It isn’t just the animals that become a distraction in the cereal aisle it is the language to. In June this year Kelloggs were warned by the Federal Trade Commission in America for making ‘unsubstantiated claims’. Apparently Frosted Mini-Wheats do not improve a “kids' attentiveness by nearly 20%”. Pop-Tarts aren’t "Made with Real Fruit" either. You can’t trust anything. In essence cereal manufacturers are all working with the same raw material, and how it is sold, the associations attached are the point of difference.

In case, like me, you think most cereal tastes like cardboard and you just want to enjoy the good bits, now you can. An American company called, ‘Cereal Marshmallows’ sells just that, the crispy, sweet marshmallowy surprises usually found in cereals such as Lucky Charms. Maybe one day we’ll start eating bowls of cereal marshmallows, instead of pretending to like what is essentially hard stuff floating around in milk.

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