Chocolate Cheerios Not Groundbreaking

Chocolate Cheerios

Chocolate Cheerios

I Paid: $3.69 for an 11.25-ounce box (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4 stars

Marketing: 2 stars

Chocolate Cheerios. The phrase just sounds wrong. Cheerios have always been a quintessential compromise food: breakfast cereal that’s healthy enough to please parents but still fun enough for the kids. Cheerios are made from oats, they’re a controversial miracle food, and they’re completely reliable yet fun to be around—the Jerry Orbach of the cereal world.

In an earlier era—say, the mid-1990s—adding chocolate to Cheerios would have completely upset the apple cart. For decades in America, chocolate meant dessert, decadence, and special sessions with the dental drill.

Nothing, of course, stays the same for long. In the 2000s, we learned about the healing powers of cocoa, the food that could “outshine penicillin and anesthesia in its importance to public health,” according to a particularly enthusiastic article in ScienceDaily. Suddenly cocoa-dusting your Cheerios isn’t about sweets; it’s about the healing power of the pod.

This isn’t necessarily apparent to the casual consumer, who may expect a Cocoa Puffs–type experience. This is unfortunate. Chocolate Cheerios are far from frivolous; if anything, they’re actually austere and serious, and arguably too virtuous with a mere 9 grams of sugar per serving (compare to Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch, the gold standard of rotting your teeth at breakfast thanks to its 20 grams of sugar per bowl). There is a “dusted with cocoa” taste to these Cheerios, but they’re definitely not Cocoa Krispies: The milk may darken, yes, but it doesn’t quite turn to chocolate.

Ultimately, however, Chocolate Cheerios are winningly earnest. They don’t wear on the palate like a traditional sweet cereal, and they allow a feeling of virtue with the appearance of vice.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.