Sainsbury’s Choco-Hazelnut Squares

I have to give some credit to Sainsbury’s here.

Most imitations are blatant, wholesale rip-offs of the branded good. Today we’re talking about an imitation product of the Kellogg’s Krave cereal: cereal squares filled with chocolate or hazelnut ganache.

Sainsbury’s took this idea, but with one pretty major difference. They’ve sold it in handy lunch-box sized packs, marketing it as an “on-the-go” breakfast cereal alternative which does not require milk. Although this concept is new in the UK (cereals as packaged on the go-no-milk snacks), an earlier review of Cadbury’s Chocolate Squares in SouthEast Asia on this blog shows that it’s been around in the eastern market for a year or two.

Sainsburys choco hazelnut squares(2)

Although Nestle has got it’s 5-in-1 sachets of Cheerios and Cookie Crunch in supermarkets, those aren’t advertised as “milk-free” alternatives (then again, eating cereal out of the box has been something so many of us have been doing!)

So you see: the packet itself is small, at 40g, constituting what “should be” one serving of cereal. I paid 59p for this; which is pretty expensive considering an average 375g box of cereal costs less than 2 pounds per box, and which contains upwards of 8-10 servings.

I don’t like the animal on the packet. I (think) it’s an Owl, and 20 guesses how Sainsbury’s related that to it’s Choco-Hazelnut squares. It clearly does not exclude the “children” target market, given its colours and graphics which could appeal both to young and old.

Small squares. Deformed. Bent? Sheesh. Talk about some bad product consistency here. In my history of eating “squared” cereals, I’ve never encountered such mishaps. Broken is fine, but totally misshaped? That points to some manufacturing defects in the product “baking / forming” itself, which shouldve been picked up early in the developmental process.

Sainsburys choco hazelnut squares

At least it’s light and puffy, despite it’s thi character. To me that’s a good thing, since this leads on to the thicker (texturally) ganache. Too thick an exterior wouldn’t let you enjoy the smoothness of the inner filling; and this cereal avoids that pitfall. It’s got a good crunch initially as well, which collapses into the light puff, and finally, the ganache.

I wonder if it’s worth mentioning this; but I thought the corners were  sharp; angular squares are appealing, but I can imagine something too “sharp” being dangerous to little mouths (I.e Kids).  This might be due to the thin-ness of each piece, since a “fat” corner wouldn’t be sharp would it; but I guess that’s something we’ll have to ask the manufacturer.

The outer shell of the cereal didn’t taste very wheaty: some might like this, some might not. It was more like a “pillow puff” version of Cornflakes, with a clear corn / grit taste to it. It’s also lightly sweetened; I did not detect any “distinct” sweetness worth mentioning on its own.

The ganache was dull as well. It wasn’t “bad” tasting. It had little hazelnut aromas, not even the cheap-sweet-nutella-esque that is so common in hazelnut confectionery. I suppose one can’t expect very much from a grocery store brand. Kellogg’s Chocolate Hazelnut Krave beats this on Hazelnut taste hands-down. There was “chocolate”. Nothing deep-cocoa-ey, but just plain sweetness. As you can tell, I’m having difficulty explaining the taste characteristics of this cereal. It’s just that bland.

A sad thing then, that what was the perfect “canvas”  (the puff) for the ganache had ultimately gone to waste. Sainsbury’s Choco Hazelnut Squares’ ganache was a let-down.

Nutritionally, I’d expect this to fare better, sugar-wise, then Krave. This wasn’t the case. There isn’t much too different between this cereal and Krave’s nutritionals. At 420kcal /100g, they’re roughly identical, sad to say. The 40g serving-size  pack that you buy this in will surprise you as well, as 40g isn’t very much.

(Sorry for not having a picture of this one. I snapped one, but it was blurry, and oddly enough didn’t show that it was blurry when I previewed the shot after.)

Sorry Sainsbury’s, but Kellogg’s Krave takes the cake, and it’s cheaper for the box too.

-The Exercising Male

Hubbard’s Big Bugs n’ Mud – Chocolate Clusters Cereal

Another chocolate-themed cereal. I hope the readers don’t hate me for this, but how do you divorce your favourite treat from breakfast? Ok maybe we could say that this one’s slightly different from the rest – the name itself is kinda gross: “bugs”, “mud”. Ah well.

Hubbard’s is an established cereal brand in Australia, and New Zealand. I was able to get a hold of it in the expat / fairly upmarket grocery store here in Kuala Lumpur. It’s priced lower than the American cereals (proximity, perhaps?) Though it’s… Just as tasty.

 

Something I’ve realised when it comes to box art: it differs from country to country, according to the origin of the brand. American brands, I’d say we’re familiar with. Mascots, creatures like Tony the Tiger, Cap’n Crunch, with separate, non-generic identities adorn american cereal packages. I’ve found that Hubbard’s and Nestle use more general characters, unnamed things to represent the image, relying on colour and little else to convey their brand.

Big Bugs n’ Mud from Hubbard’s uses a crocodile, and other background entities to convey its branding. I can’t quite draw a direct relationship between the crocodile and the nature of the cereal, other than jaws + crunch. Then again, what the heck does a tiger have to do with Frosties?

(C.f. read The Great American Cereal Book for some info on this. It’s a lovely book for all cereal lovers!)

Clusters. Well, that’s what this cereal claims to be anyway. The cereal bag was filled with broken chunks, problem being that each chunk was small – the largest, about the size of your thumbnail. I guess these qualify as “clusters” when you compare them to Honey Bunches of Oats, with similar clusters. But boy was I hoping for hefty chunks. I thought “Big Bugs” meant Beetle sized pieces. I wasn’t sure whether to fault the importer / distributor (poor shipping methods), or to fault Hubbards (truly small clusters) – but what might be useful to note is that the clusters are awfully fragile: even lifting one could cause it to crumble.

They’re crunchy alright. Light, puffed wheat, rice, and barley tossed in a cocoa compound, giving it that “dried mud” look. I guess it’s quite hard to NOT be crunchy if you’re puffed, especially in air-tight packaging. I liked the bite. It was refreshing, and it stayed like that in milk for the entire duration of the cereal experience, without going soft and putrid.

I also liked the fact that the variety of grains was discernible: puffed rice grains were intact, long; puffed wheat was pillowy, as if biting into a pocket of air.

Maybe that aspect of the cereal could be seen to be analogous to… The “Big Bugs”, a variety of bugs in your cereal. How appetizing.

On to taste. Off the cuff – I had expected myself to be dismissing Big Bugs n’ Mud cereal right now, for being “overly sweet in a Cocopops” way. Surprise surprise. It was lacking in chocolatey-sweetness to the extent that I wouldn’t even say it was sweet, but rather, that it had a “tinge / touch / morsel / nibble” of sugar, juuust enough to give it some flavour.

In short – it’s pretty tasteless, for something which calls itself “chocolatey clusters”.

That could be forgiven if the cereal had some darker, mature chocolate notes. But this had none of those characteristics, and only had its “wheaty / grainy” taste, that comes with having a grain base.

Problem with the above? The less-sweet motif doesn’t quite match up with its nutritionals.

You get 160kcal for a 2/3 cup serving, which isn’t much. You could eat a similar amount of some sweeter granolas for that. Protein content isn’t particularly high either, less than 4g in that serving. You get more from a bowl of Bran, or Special K.

Well – to end off: i have to insert this picture – all my reviews thus far have it.

 

The Thumb Shot.

This cereal was boring, other than for the crunchy variety of grains. Not very “chocolatey” at all. Guess those of us not from Australia and New Zealand aren’t missing out on much, from this offering by Hubbard’s then.

-The Exercising Male

 

Country Life Organics Chococrunchy Amaranth

An organic cereal produced by a Malaysian company, made in Belgium, and brought across the seas to the supermarkets here. I suppose that makes this the very first review of a “local” cereal, eh?

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Country Life Organics is unheard of overseas: a quick search online reveals zero distributors in the USA and the UK, and no reviews as well. I got this from Village Grocer at Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, which is an upmarket place stocking the very best of foreign grocery favourites (the selection is mind-blowing)

http://www.countryfarmorganics.com/cfo/prod.asp?prodid=692&sltcat=7&cat0=1&cat1=2&cat2=125

The product description goes something like this:
Country of Origin : Belgium
Nutritional Benefits :

– Non GMO, free from additives and other flavouring or colouring.
– Extra crunchiness and distinctive chocolaty sensation.
– Luscious clusters of organic amaranth, oat and wheat flakes coated with organic chocolate and cocoa powders.
– Amaranth is well known for its complete protein profile.
– High in fibre and iron.
– Complex carbohydrates give high energy source.”

Clearly targeted at the “sophisticated healthy-eater-expat” here in Kuala Lumpur, since breakfast cereal isn’t the traditional breakfast which locals eat.

Country Life Organics Chococrunchy Amaranth costs RM14 a box (about 3 pounds). For a price comparison, Chocolate Lucky Charms imported from the States cost RM25, while local Nestle cereals are RM10. So I’d say the cereal in front of us, for all that it touts, is pretty good value-for-money.

We’ve got Amaranth and Cocoa Powder, baked into clusters that resemble granola. For 137kcal/cup, with 4.3g of protein, it’s a decent breakfast choice that should appeal to those of us who bother about cereal nutritionals. The fact that Amaranth is an “IN” supergrain adds to the image of the cereal.

The clusters vary in size, like your average box of granola chunks. Large and small chunks make healthy variation, similar to the points mentioned in the Crunchy Nut Clusters review. The cereal dust in Chococrunchy Amaranth was, however, far superior to your usual dust. Individual Amaranth grains coated in Cocoa, form a Chocolate Soup Porridge that’s so fine yet thick, it feels like a custard in your mouth. Imagine this sludge at the bottom of your bowl, with the hefty chunks above, and you’ve got a winner.

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The effect of this dichotomy in texture is enhanced further if you’ve got some other “staple” cereal you mix this with. For example, Special K flakes, or Cheerios go perfectly between the heavy chunks, and the sludgy bottom, to make one heckuva parfait.

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You could make some chocolate soup, or do as i did, breaking the larger chunks to sprinkle over plain yogurt, for an easy, crunchy dessert.

On to taste. I’d expected a half-baked cocoa kick, much like Nestle Koko Crunch that you get in Asia, or cheapo own-brand Cocoa Krispies overseas. Nope. Deep, woodsy, oak cocoa aromas that reminded me of a heavy hot chocolate I’d had in London at a french bakery.

This is very, very good. I wonder at how they achieved this. The ingredients list doesn’t mention anything special, no artificial sweeteners, or Cocoa from Ghana, or fancy-schmancy chocolate from Van Houten. “Cocoa powder” seems as simple as it gets. I wonder if the secret is that the cereal isn’t heavily sweetened? Or perhaps the amaranth grains were so well toasted that they had a nutty earthiness which I have misattributed to the cocoa aromas.

(On second thought, I think it’s a combination of roasted amaranth + cocoa that yields this mature and earthy result)

I’m impressed by this cocoa-authenticity.

So much so that I have been picking at chunks of this cereal, alongside my daily dark chocolate tastings.

A 9/10 on account of cocoa-ness, crunchy-roasted amaranth, and price.

If you’re in Malaysia, go get some.

-The Exercising Male

Honey Monster Choco Puffs

What is that puffy creature that seems to look like the Sun doing on the front of a box of cereal? Honey Puffs are the UK version of Sugar Smacks, and are, quite simply, sugar-coated wheat puffs.

They’re a bargain here in the UK, where you can get a 400g box for a pound. This means that the Honey Puffs don’t just attract kids, but attract the budget-cereal eater too, for the price point is only slightly higher than the House Brand versions. (In fact I haven’t come across any house brand versions yet)

These are the simplest cereals imaginable: little puffs, hard, crisp with the sugar coating.

As you can see, the puffs are (by my standards and expectations, anyway) fairly large. The size of small pebbles, such that 6 – 8 fit on the average spoon at any one time.

This size also makes them more-ish, if eaten dry and with your fingers ( I found myself quite enjoying this method of eating with Choco Puffs; slow, yet satisfying)

Two characteristics to note:
1) External Crunch
2) Slight, “thin” internal Puff.

The crunch is provided by the cocoa-sugar crust, which was surprisingly well-done, as it was a thin, delicate shell that requires minimal biting to break. I’m particularly impressed here, as with this shell, the Choco Puffs stayed crunchy for a long time – even down to the last quarter of my bowl. A possible comparison could be a Crispy M&M, just dialing down the sugar shell a notch. Not bad for a “budget” cereal, eh?

Now, as for taste, you get what you pay for. As how I usually describe chocolate cereals which don’t appease the chocoholic in me;

“these reminded me of CocoPops / Cocoa Crispies”

It’s a lightly textured cocoa hit , almost like a cocoa-dusting (maybe that’s why the sugar-coating is so delicate). It’s not a “deep” cocoa flavour though; it nips you on your periphery senses, juuuuuuust enough to qualify as a chocolate cereal, given its namesake “Choco Puffs”.

A comparison may help: I found this cereal similar to Chocolate Lucky Charms in its chocolate-y-ness, and if you recall, I had thought this light chocolate hit to work against its favour(https://milkandspoon.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/chocolate-lucky-charms-general-mills/). However, as a fellow blogger commented: some do enjoy this light cocoa taste; having REAL chocolate in your cereal can be achieved by buying chocolate granola, or making your own chocolate muesli – which is clearly not the point when you shop at the cereal aisle in a supermarket.

Nutritionals: 114kcal / 30g (approximately a one cup serving, assuming its the same weight as Sugar Smacks. Here in the UK serving sizes are in weight). A high amount of sugar, like your usual chocolate cereal, yet less calorific owing to the “high-volume= low density” character of puffed grain.

I liked this. I’m flying home to Asia for the Summer, and have half a box to finish by tomorrow. I don’t think that will be a problem.

Stay tuned for some “odd”, off-the-beaten path cereal soon!

(Hopefully: depending on what I get back home)

-The Exercising Male

Nestle Original Shreddies, Nestle Coco Shreddies

Shreddies. I have to admit that I had never taken much notice of this cereal prior to coming to Oxford  to commence my studies. Nestle Shreddies never quite caught my eye in the supermarkets in Singapore; there were tonnes of other options like Waffle Crisp, Cheerios, which you read so much more about online. Also, I couldn’t source the Shreddies maker-equivalent in the States, though I had read that Post used to make a version of it. (More on this at the end)

Nestle Shreddies seem to be a “bare-bones” cereal that no one quite bothers about. You could say that they are analogous to Cheerios, as a “base” cereal, hence the Coco Shreddies and Frosted Shreddies incarnations.

These were offered as an option during college breakfast in my first year, and I usually chose these over the muesli also offered; as these were plain, and I could top it off with some nutella diluted in milk, or with some Honey Sugar provided for the morning porridge.

Enough banter. Let’s get to it. The plain Shreddies will be discussed first; the Coco one later, as they only differ in an aspect or two.

A squarish creature with eyes, a mouth, arms, and legs, jumping in, or out, of your bowl of cereal. That’s what’s on the Nestle Shreddies Box. Clearly targeted towards kids / teens; not exactly marketed as a health food since it doesn’t make huge claims of “Cholestrol-lowering” powers or Fiber.

Nutrition-wise, this cereal is actually decent! The ingredients list shows that you’re essentially eating shredded wheat. So not too different from Shredded Wheat Biscuits; that explains the 4 – 5g of protein you get as well. The amount of sugar isn’t TOO alarming; not like Lion cereal (w/ 13g of sugar per serving!) Or the traditional Cocoa Krispies.

Texture and appearance-wise: you can see the obvious “net” structure; akin to a stiff deep-fryer basket. It’s hard too; as hard as you’d expect any “shredded wheat” cereal to be.


The picture should be able to show you its thickness. This gives it a crunchy, biscuity bite that reminds you of water crackers. They’re dense too; and sink to the bottom of the bowl.


There isn’t a caramelized exterior in the plain Shreddies, nor any shiny / glitzy coating akin to Nestle’s Honey Stars. I think that’s why the next point comes up…

In milk, these turn soggy fairly quickly. 2 to 3 minutes, I’d say. I think they lack the “armour” that some cereal manufacturers employ to keep their creations crunchy even in milk (such as a thick exterior ala Peanut Butter Bumpers). They don’t discolour in milk; which is a good thing I guess – it shows that you really ARE eating a plain, unadulterated wheat masterpiece.

Cardboard. That was my very first thought when I bit into this, soaked in milk, back in my first year. I regretted my choice of this cereal immediately. But; after a second, a third, a fourth, and a fifth bite, it grows on you. I realized this was the taste of wheat, that I had misinterpreted. It was earthy, and dull in a good way.  It was “well-bodied” like a solid 70-85% dark chocolate, or a “thick” Colombian coffee.

I doubt kids would like Nesle Shreddies though. I’m perplexed as to why the box-art is so kiddy-minded.

It’s time we talk about Coco Shreddies. They’re the same as the plain variety, except with a brown coating that’s meant to emulate chocolate.

As you can see from the first picture above- it’s a darker shade of brown here, akin to Koko Crunch, unlike Cocoa Krispies which are slightly lighter coloured. This coating is a sugary-one; it’s ALMOST caramelized as a shell on its, but dissolves quickly in your milk, and loses a fair amount of its colour. 

The brown coating gives it a powdery bite when you eat it dry, but yet retains the original’s texture in milk.

Chocolate-hit? Average. Making it similar to your average chocolate crispy cereal, without any rich dark chocolate hit; but simple. I have to admit – Coco Shreddies nails this chocolate bit in a basic, crave-ending sense. It’s like having Hersheys or Cadbury chocolate – you know what you’re in for, and you appreciate the simplicity.

Nutritionally, Coco Shreddies obviously have more sugar in them then the plain variety,  but it’s a worthwhile addition given the chocolate “add-on” it entails.

That’s that. Nestle Shreddies is something more of us should sample as a healthier cereal alternative. For those in the States, I haven’t been able to source who makes these on your end. Perhaps these exist as Chex? I know Post does these in Canada though.

Give Shreddies a chance.

-The Exercising Male

Weetabix Chocolate

Ok, so two of my favourite foods : chocolate and cereal, yet it seems to be that so many cereal manufacturers often miss the mark when combining the two, I don’t feel that there are actually many particularly good chocolate cereals lurking out there, chocolate chunks with granola, yeh great, but when actually making the cereal chocolate flavour there’s a fine line between good and utter disappointment.

I love regular Weetabix..I love chocolate, I actually really like their regular Minibix with chocolate chips, so what could really go wrong by making the actual “biscuit” chocolate flavour, well unfortunately a lot I think. I guess this cereal is probably aimed at children, the smiling wheat crop on the front peering over the top of the two big chocolate Weetabixes ready to gobble them all up, and  with half the amount of sugar compared to other chocolate cereals on the market, this is meant to be a cereal that children will want and that adults won’t mind buying, due to the “healthier” nature of it. I mean at 346kcal, 15.9g sugar and 10.5g fibre per 100g, it’s actually got some pretty good nutritionals for a chocolate based cereal..if only it tasted as nice.

Weetabix Chocolate

My go to way to eat Weetabix, always warm, always made into a thick substantial paste, so that’s exactly what I did. As the ding of the microwave sounded a very strong sort of malty cocoa flavour wafted around the room from the cooked breakfast substance, dipping my spoon into it I have to say that it is no where near as satisfying as regular Weetabix, the cocoa flavour and the melted dark chocolate chips seem to create an odd contrast to the classic malted Weetabix flavour, it all just tastes a bit odd..not particularly chocolatey but not as malted and warming as regular Weetabix.

Weetabix Chocolate

So I tried it another few ways, I tried it warm, but this time, not mushing it up, so the chocolate chips were slightly melted, but stayed intact, this is even worse..you sort of end up with a pile of mushy cocoa flavour wheat mess, and the milk, although turning slightly chocolate coloured/flavour, doesn’t have a particularly delicious flavour to it. Certainly not that sweet delicious chocolate cereal milk that kids may be used to from the likes of Coco Pops etc.

Weetabix Chocolate

I know, I know, a lot of you eat your Weetabix cold, so what is it like that? Again, not great, not really sweet, not really savoury, it tastes of well..a bland cocoa cereal concoction really, certainly not something a child would particularly want for breakfast..you’re probably better buying them the regular Weetabix..which is not only healthier..but also tastes a hell of a lot better, as they’re certainly not gonna get their chocolate hit from this!

I find that the only way that this Weetabix Chocolate could be salvaged was to actually mix it with 1 regular Weetabix : 2 chocolate, 1 regular, a couple of sweeteners, some milk, pop it in the microwave. Hey presto..its edible! With the addition of the extra regular Weetabix it enhances the savoury malt aspect with just a slight twang of deeper chocolate flavours, making it..slightly more edible and enjoyable than it is on its own..but when you’ve gotta add extras to your cereal to make it good..well then the base product can’t be all that can it!