Taste-Test

Are generic cereals worth the value vs. the real stuff?

bowls of cereal
All photos by Lee Breslouer

Huge, cheap bags of cereal always have bizarre names like Sergeant Snap and Fruity Infinite Circles -- and who buys that crap, anyways? Certainly not anyone who wants to make the ultimate cereal. But times are tough these days, and since generic cereals offer nearly double the amount of sugary goodness at a fraction of the cost, we decided to compare them to their brand name counterparts and see if they were worth buying.

boxes of cereal

We tested the big dogs: Cocoa Puffs, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cap'N Crunch's Crunch Berries, Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks, and Froot Loops, as well as their generic counterparts...

bags of generic cereal

... Cocoa Puffed Cereal, Cinnamon Swirls, Crisp Berry Crunch, Frosted Toasted Oats with Marshmallows, Frosted Apple & Cinnamon Rings, and Fruit Rings.

Cocoa Puffs

PRICE
Cocoa Puffed Cereal: 28oz for $2.99
Cocoa Puffs: 11.8oz for $3.29

TASTING NOTES
Cocoa Puffed Cereal
: There's a special kind of satisfying crunch you get when chomping down onto a good cereal, and this sucker has it. They also use real cocoa in the mix, and it's obvious.
Cocoa Puffs: You've gotta be super into chocolate to enjoy this, because there are strong chocolate notes smacking you in the face from the get go. It's not a bad thing.

YOU SHOULD BUY:
Cocoa Puffed Cereal. You're cuckoo if you buy Cocoa Puffs: the generic tastes exactly the same.

box of Froot Loops

PRICE
Fruit Rings:
28oz (almost two pounds!) for $2.99
Froot Loops: 12.2oz for $2.50

TASTING NOTES
Fruit Rings: These taste like artificial fruit gone bad, which does not sound possible. But it is. And we checked -- this stuff has a Best If Used By date of September 2014.
Froot Loops: It's easy to see why these are America's favorite fake fruit cereal endorsed by a creepy toucan: it features awesome artificial fruit flavors that linger long after the last bite.

YOU SHOULD BUY:
Froot Loops. Stick with Toucan Sam. He knows the Froot game.

Lucky Charms

PRICE
Frosted Toasted Oats with Marshmallows: 28oz for $2.99
Lucky Charms: 11.5oz for $3.29

TASTING NOTES
Frosted Toasted Oats with Marshmallows: The oat flavors are a little bland here, but there's plenty of marshmallowy goodness to make up for it.
Lucky Charms: The cereal with a cartoon, miniaturized Conan O'Brien on the box delivers. The oats pieces have a nice crunch, and the marshmallows taste significantly more sugary in this, despite having 3g less sugar p/serving than its generic counterpart. Go figure!

YOU SHOULD BUY:
Lucky Charms. No other breakfast food is magically delicious, unless you make your omelets with 'shrooms or something (NOTE: which we DON'T advocate).

Cap'n Crunch Berries

PRICE
Crisp Berry Crunch: 28oz for $2.99
Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries: 13oz for $2.00

TASTING NOTES
Crisp Berry Crunch: The real fruit flavors don't shine as much as they do in a bowl of Cap, but that doesn't stop this from being a viable alternative. Still quite tasty.
Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries: The Cap'n is known for creating crunchy, delicious cereal. Add real blueberry and strawberry flavors in the mix, and you've got a solid part of a complete breakfast, which apparently includes fifteen other types of food and drink.

YOU SHOULD BUY:
Crisp Berry Crunch. The generic is just as delic'us as the Cap'n.

Apple Jacks

PRICE
Frosted Apple & Cinnamon Rings: 28oz for $2.99
Apple Jacks: 12.2oz for $2.50

TASTING NOTES
Frosted Apple & Cinnamon Rings: There's an unsatisfying crunch when you bite into it, and the aftertaste is mealy.
Apple Jacks: The real apple flavors shine through, and there're strong cinnamon notes on the finish.

YOU SHOULD BUY:
Apple Jacks. Eat what you like! And what we like is the brand name.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch

PRICE
Cinnamon Swirls: 12.8oz for $2.49
Cinnamon Toast Crunch: 12.2oz for $3.29

TASTING NOTES
Cinnamon Swirls: Is there such a thing as artificial cinnamon? That's what this tastes like. And it's not fake in a good way, like boobs can sometimes be.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch: So much delicious crunch! And a smooth cinnamon finish.

YOU SHOULD BUY:
Cinnamon Toast Crunch. We've never met a baker as happy as the cartoon one pictured on the box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. We'll have what he's having.

Lee Breslouer writes about food and drink for Thrillist, and doesn't believe the ice cream headache is a real thing that can happen to someone. Follow him @LeeBreslouer, because you can't make a name that good up.