16 Jan 2012
by Daniel at Attune Foods
I have always been a sucker for cereal. Growing up in Canada, one of my biggest thrills was the family trips we would take to Buffalo NY, where I was allowed to bring back a single box of my favorite box of cereal. The anticipation begun weeks in advance as I did research watching Saturday morning cartoons, trying to determine which cereal would be the tastiest, sweetest and coolest to my friends. I needed to determine what promotions were being offered on what cereals – I was willing to accept a tradeoff on taste or newness for a fabulous prize in the box.
Movies like Dick Tracy on a cereal box would keep me up at night with anticipation. New cereals were particularly exciting for me, as I had seen many cereals come and go, I only had the opportunity to buy 3 or 4 boxes a year from Buffalo and needed to make the most of my opportunity. While we had many cereals in Canada, they were typically different from the United States – and we had many fewer varieties. I would stand in the aisle of Wegmans in Amherst for 30 minutes agonizing over my choice. Ultimately, I’d hold 2-3 cereals and beg my parents to let me try more than one. Occasionally, they obliged. I made some great choices. I remember bringing home a box of Apple Jacks at a young age – something that wasn’t replicable in a packaged food box in Canada. Similarly, Cookie Crisp was a favorite – my mom told me that the government of Canada wouldn’t allow companies to sell cookies in the form of cereal. I developed a passion for Boo Berry – with that adorable and only so-so scary ghost. I loved Life Cereal too (and the line extension with cinnamon!) – though I developed negative associations due to Mike’s rumored death from consuming Pop Rocks and soda together. I can still recite the theme song to the Lucky Charms commercial when they added the 7th colored marshmallow to the cereal. Cereal is a part of childhood, and the nostalgia is incredible.
I ate less cereal as a teenager and young adult but started to revisit the category a few years ago and found my palate had changed with a little bit of help and encouragement from me. As I started to think about my own health, and wanting to be kind to my body, I began to consume fewer packaged foods, more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and generally, food that was closer to its natural state and source. Suddenly, the cereals I ate as a child seemed more like dessert to me. A spoonful of orange stars and red balloons while charming, now tasted very sweet.
The first time I tried Uncle Sam Original Cereal, I thought it tasted plain, boring, and not particularly pleasant. The second time I tried Uncle Sam, it was no longer unpleasant, but it was still plain, and too boring. By the fifth bowl of Uncle Sam, I became accustomed to the taste, and while still not enamored by it, I found it at least functional and neutral. Knowing that I was doing something good for myself, I continued to eat it. By the middle of the second box, it was starting to grow on me. Instead of being boring, I could now taste the nuttiness from the toasted whole wheat berry. I appreciated the rich contrast offered from the flaxseed. And while it was almost anti-sweet at first, I suddenly could taste the natural sweetness of the grain. Around the same time, I made other changes to my diet. I started using one teaspoon less of sugar in my coffee every morning, switched to skim milk, and switched to unsweetened yogurt – all palate training exercises on their own, helped by my switch to Uncle Sam.
I now eat Uncle Sam high fiber cereal most days of the week. I work for Attune Foods and there’s an obvious bias from that, but we make 14 types of cereal, and our office is full of many other types of cereal – many of which are healthy. Believe me when I say that I don’t have to eat it. I want to.
My journey to Uncle Sam is one we hear from many other consumers. They wouldn’t have naturally picked up Uncle Sam as being one of the only cereals on the market with less than 1g of sugar per serving, it seems alienating. With only 4 ingredients, it seems boring. By being so minimally processed, it can’t taste interesting. But due to some health intervention, they gave it a try. And not just one bowl – usually an entire box. Typically they didn’t like it at first, but by the end of the box, they felt better about themselves, and continued to eat it. And by the second box, they started to appreciate and enjoy the taste of Uncle Sam. Eventually, it can become somewhat of a badge of honor – a food that not only helps you start your day right, but can also help you appreciate the natural taste of other real foods.
If you have had a similar story, please share it with us – we’d love to hear it.