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.
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 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.|
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.|
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?