Fake Fruit Food

A few months ago I wrote about the “high margin-to-cost” breakfast cereal business. I have a few more thoughts, this time not specifically about the product itself, but about the pervasive use of fruity words in the naming of those breakfast cereals.

If I had just ten seconds to share advice on improving your nutrition, I know exactly what I would say: Eat more fruits and vegetables. And I don’t think that would surprise anyone. We all know these are nutritional powerhouses, and we all know that it’s a good idea to eat more of them, especially since most of us don’t eat enough produce to begin with.

The food industry knows this, too. They know that we know we should eat more fruits and vegetables. This is why so many processed items contain some version of the word “fruit” and examples from the fruit family. To a certain extent, it’s true for vegetables, too: think “vegetable” oil [Oh yeh? What “vegetable” is that?], though not exactly the same because, after all, who’s gonna want to pick up a box of asparagus crisps or spinach wafers for breakfast? But it’s a really big issue for fruit, because fruit is sweet, and sugar makes us want to buy more. 

So there are “Froot” loops, fruit roll-ups, Tootsie frootie rolls! Fruity pebbles! The list goes on and on and on! It’s theatre of the absurd in the breakfast cereal aisle.

Try some apple jacks, why don’tcha?…and apple raisin crisp, apple zings, apple zingaroos, strawberry chex, apple cinnamon chex, cap’n crunch crunch berries, Boo-Berry, banana nut cheerios, berry burst cheerios, banana frosted flakes, bite-size frosted blueberry muffin, frosted mini-wheats strawberry delight, cranberry almond crunch, Fruit ’n Fibre, Fruit & nut granola cereal, honey bunches of oats with peaches, berry-berry six, for starters. All of these have been available for purchase at one time or another in recent years.

Then there’s raisin bran, and total raisin bran, apple cinnamon rice krispies, berry krispies, fruity marshmallow krispies, strawberry rice krispies, strawberry shortcake, Special K Red Berries, Special K Fruit and Yogurt, and Total Cranberry Crunch. I’m sure there are more, but I am also sure that you get the picture. It’s one thing to eat a strawberry. It’s entirely different when you eat frosted mini-wheats strawberry delight, with its fruity name. It’s not a strawberry, it’s closer to a berry made of straw.

The Weight Watchers system considers fresh fruits and vegetables “free,” which means that you can eat as much as you want, without it costing any of your daily point allotment. It’s not the same for blueberry oat clusters.

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