Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Wheat Chex has a new box

     I feel oddly protective of Wheat Chex.
     First because it's one of only two cold breakfast cereals I still eat, the other being Shredded Wheat
    Second, because Wheat Chex seems imperiled. It can be hard to find, while Shredded Wheat is everywhere. secure. Shredded Wheat is like Cheerios — popular enough to be here forever. 
    But Wheat Chex ... it's the red-headed step-child of the Chex family of cereals.  There's always Rice and Corn and all the new varieties, Cinnamon and Chocolate and whatever, and you wonder whether they just ran out of Wheat Chex, or can't be bothered stocking it just for me.
   So when I was at a run to Sunset Foods -- trembling in the shadow of Mariano's but still managing to hold on — I paused in front of this graphic shift. The new box is on the left, if it isn't clear.  That's a good sign. They wouldn't redesign the box, then drop the product. 
    Would they?
    Since not too long ago we were mourning the change in the Celestial Seasonings box, I feel obligated to point out that the Wheat Chex redesign is a big improvement. It's cleaner. The typeface on the "Wheat Chex" is friendlier, and the see-through "X" a nice touch.
Yes, that's Elizabeth Taylor
    I did pause, uncertain, at the square of four squares arrayed on the spoon. That would never happen in the living world, of course, not unless you stuck your fingers in your cereal and set them onto your spoon like that.  Still, there's a certain purity, not unlike Wheat Chex itself, and that too is an improvement over the old box, with its droplets of milk that look like white paint.
     I probably shouldn't be eating Chex at all—the stuff is fattening as hell. A modest bowl will set you back 42o calories, with the milk, and because its mostly carbohydrates it'll leave you hungry at mid-morning. You're far better off with a grapefruit and yogurt.
     But having given up bourbon, I'll be damned if I'll surrender Wheat Chex too. Someone has to keep the faith. Breakfast cereals are on the decline, and have been for years. Sales fell 25 percent between 2000 and 2015—still at $10 billion, but shrinking.  Reasons abound. One survey said 40 percent of Millennials described breakfast cereals as "too difficult to eat," which is just sad.  They're referring to the clean-up, not the pouring milk part. But still.
1952 ad -- Wheat Chex phasing out the old name.
    Chex, by the way, was introduced in 1937 by Ralston Purina as "Shredded Ralston" (The history of breakfast cereals is intertwined with nutty American dietary fads, and just as Kellogg's started as sanitarium food for nutritional fanatics, so Ralston was related to "Ralstonism" a late 19th century movement not unlike Scientology, with various levels of progress toward a new, superior race of humans, a belief that the minds of others could be controlled through magnetism, and other assorted nutritional hoo-ha, such as a conviction that watermelons are poisonous).
    Ralston always struggled to produce a product that an increasingly important breakfast cereal demographic—children—would eat. It overcame that Hot Ralston was "steaming paste ... that children hated" by hiring Tom Mix, cowboy star, to be its mascot (his image, anyway. The actual Mix, a squeaky-voiced alcoholic, was kept out-of-sight). 
    Rice Chex was introduced in 1950, about the time the name "Wheat Chex" was introduced. Back then, the Wheat Chex squares weren't the careful geometric grids we see today, but puffier and more jumbled, closely resembling a Shredded Wheat biscuit. 
Space Patrol's Ed Kemmer finds them "tops for taste" in 1953.
    The next year Ralston tried to sell the duo to kiddies, sponsoring "Space Patrol," an early space-themed TV show. Shot on a shoestring budget with special effects considered cheesy even then, the product was woven into the plot line—members of the Space Patrol would pause from their adventures to keep their energy up by wolfing down a few bowls of Chex. 
     By 1955, Ralston Purina was trying reverse psychology. "Children," an odd character dubbed Prof. Checkerboard warned. "Wheat Chex are only for adults. Don't eat Chex."  Another commercial featured a man eating it at a fancy Victorian table complete with candelabra, announcing it was the "grown-up cereal from Checkerboard Square" (a Checkerboard is the Ralston Purina logo). 
    They kept that tack for years, edging back and forth between sincere appeals to adults and sideways pitches to kids, all the while recognizing that lots of people just didn't like the stuff ("People who don't like Chex cereals haven't tried Chex cereals," a 1976 commercial claimed, suggesting that opposition to the taste was merely notional). 
    Corn Chex showed up in 1958. In more recent years, there have been the typical palette of failed flavors-- Vanilla Chex, Honey Graham Chex. Sugar Chex. I never ate those—well, I remember giving Bran Chex a try (bleh) and Raisin Chex (not bad). 
    Anyway, too much about Chex. But we can't fret over the candidacy of Donald Trump every single day, can we? 


  1. Stop kvetching!
    At least there's still the same 14 ounces in the box, so it wasn't the victim of the Great Grocery Shrink Ray!

    1. And I thought the old box was the new one, it's brighter looking.

  2. I'm not much of a cereal eater. A box would probably last me a year or more. But, when it comes time to have some, Chex are near the top of my list of favorites.

  3. This is an Avoid Saying Something Harmful About Trump (ASSHAT) day.

    1. Not so much "avoid" as "unable to think of anything that hasn't been said three different ways in the past two weeks."

    2. How about commenting on today's article in the Sun-Times on gangs planning to kill cops sniper style and/or Madigan (still better than Rauner) railroading his Democratic primary opponent?

    3. It's bad. Do you really need that pointed out?

    4. I like Madigan, but I voted for Jason just because I thought that Madigan's minions went overboard in defaming his opponent for no good reason -- he would have won without spending a penny.

    5. I like it pointed out in your words. Maybe we can start a request day.

    6. Typically, I tell people asking for stuff that I'm not a short-order cook. There's nothing to say about Madigan. He's a pre-existing condition. I have no insights into the man or why he is here or what should be done about him.

  4. I love cereal and bring it with me to work in a little Tupperware every day. But, no milk! I munch on it at my desk like its a snack food. Crunchy, satisfying...with a nice big cup of coffee. Crispix or Special K are current favorites after decades of Cheerios. My husband eats a big bowl of kid's cereal every morning...with milk. He seems to like Cocoa Puffs the best. (He's 62) There was a breakfast restaurant in the Loop called Cereality for a while. I think the servers wore PJs and there were TVs that showed cartoons.

  5. I'll stick to strawberry Honey Bunches of Oats from Post, neither too bland nor too sweet.

  6. I occasionally eat cereal as a snack at night. I figure it's "healthier" than cookies or cake or whatever. A half a cup, with a little 1% milk, and I don't feel guilty. Something not real sugary but sweet enough to satisfy (Honey Bunches of Oats is a good example).


  7. Looks like the 4 squares on the spoon are echoing the "X" in "Chex". I can imagine the series of meetings and brand reviews to get the new box design approved... who says we all live in the same world?

  8. It seems we've gone from multiple brands of cereal to multiple varieties of brands. There are about 7 versions of Special K, like numbers for Cheerios, Rice Krispies, even Captain Crunch. I think Corn Flakes and Wheaties are alone in keeping to the basic ingredients. I prefer the simple versions, adding my own fruit or whatever as I wish.

  9. I prefer above all others Shredded Wheat. Drowned in hot milk, which my wife considers an abomination. She also disapproves of another favorite, Rice Crispies, labelling them "empty calories."

    We put skim milk on our cereal, which is O.K. when you get used to it. But I look forward to trips overseas, where our small hotel breakfasts feature real milk on the cereal. Tastes, by contrast, like melted vanilla ice cream.

    Tom Evans

  10. Try 1% milk, T.E. It is still lowfat but without the watery taste.

  11. Just in, at Jewel-pumpkin flavored Cheerios and pumkin flavored Chex.

  12. I'm looking for the Wheat Chex jingle and words perhaps 1950s vintage. I can't hum the tune here, but the lyrics are, "Wheat Chex the grown-up cereal from Checkerboard Square / Wheat Chex the grown-up cereal taste beyond compare [here my memory fades] then, finally it winds up, "And kids who want to be like grown-ups go for Wheat Chex, too."

    Any help would be welcome. I've scoured the internet and am unable to locate the jingle.

    Thank you for your thoughtful consideration!

  13. Ha. I'm here because I just listened to a fifties old-timey recording of...Space Patrol. Poor evil Prince Bagarati was defeated by the Forces of Good. Probably because he forgot to eat his heaping morning bowl of Wheat Chex!

    Or Rice Chex!


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