Serial cereal scam


The first time you are conscious of being seduced it fills you with strange emotions. You know you are being used, but that realisation doesn’t detract from the pleasure of the moment, although the dirty feelings crystalised by hindsight have left me with a sense of guilt that I can’t rid myself of. My first time was in 1984, although it could have been 1985 and I can still remember the physical feeling of that moment.

All you had to do was collect 6 tokens, just 6 tokens for a magnetic game – how hard could that be. Tony the Tiger was promising me a world of magnetised joy for just 6 tokens! One token on a regular sized box and two on the big 600g boxes – that’s going to be easy I thought, ‘all I have to do is persuade mum that I’m a big fan of Frosties, eat a few bowls and, hello! Sticky metal fun!’.

The caveat to this, is that I don’t actually like cereal – never have, never will, it’s a texture thing. But, after a summer of ploughing through bowl, after bowl, after bowl of overly sweet, soggy flakes of shit, I had my tokens. But I’ve never been able to face Tony’s wares again!

It was whilst getting my head down for another morning session that I first happened upon a fascinating fact which has always amazed me. There are more calories weight for weight in Special K than there are in Frosties. If you delve into the world of those ‘nutritional info’ panels you’ll find that the differences between most cereals is minimal.

Cereal is cereal – if you believe the ads, they are all tailor made for you, no matter what your lifestyle, but they’re not. Eating a bowl of Special K a day will make you no thinner than tucking into a bowl of Cornflakes (which have less fat and less sugar!). Based on a 30g serving, there is only 20 calories difference between a bowl Kellogg’s Bran Flakes (one of the lowest) and Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes (one of the highest). That’s 20 calories – just 10 grapes or half a Rich Tea biscuit, between eating cardboard and eating sugary heaven.

There is, of course, the argument about cals for fat, sugar and carbs being handled differently by your body – but let’s not let science get in the way of a huge marketing scam.


  1. Kellogg’s Special K
  2. Kellogg’s Frosties
  3. Kellogg’s Rice Krispies
  4. Kellogg’s Coco Pops
  5. Kellogg’s Bran Flakes
  6. Kellogg’s Cornflakes
  7. Sugar Puffs
  8. Weetabix
  9. Shreddies
  10. Shredded Wheat
  11. Cheerios
  12. Kellogg’s Ricicles
  13. Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes

The game was shit, by the way.

One comment on “Serial cereal scam”

  1. Tom Eagle's comment - added on 2nd of October, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    This post is WICKED! I really respect your investigations into these things Ben… I think this sort of thing is sorely missing from food writing and yet it’s of daily importance… well done you!