ranking cereals

I just bought my first box of cereal in a while. At the grocery store, an entire side of an aisle was completely filled with cold cereal – every brand and flavor and shape and color you could imagine. Very nice variety for a common breakfast food and afternoon snack – a lot more than I remember.

I really wish I could see some data on which cereals do best for which age groups, during which months of the year, and purchased at what time of day. It’d be interesting to compare marketing campaigns too. Does anyone buy the big box of Kelloggs Smacks cereal? I didn’t think so.


Anyways, all this got me thinking… what are the qualities of a good cereal? Would the output of a cereal ranking algorithm be similar to my instinctive ranking of cereals? Let’s find out.

Here are the parameters by which I scored a list of 26 different cereals, including 3 hot cereals:
Healthiness – Sugary cereals, chocolate cereals, etc. If they leave the milk tasting like melted ice cream, chances are it’s not too healthy. (1=Healthy, 2=Intermediate healthiness, 3=Not healthy)
Texture – Everyone loves a crunch. I’m not talking the texture that hurts your gums when you eat it dry, but the texture where pieces clump nicely in the spoon and are accepting to a big chomp. (1=Great texture, 2=Okay texture, 3=Boring texture)
Fun Factor – The box, the games, the toys, the colors, the shapes, the mascots, the commercials, etc. (1=Very fun cereal, 2=Intermediate fun, 3=Not very fun)
Good w/ Fruit – For me, this is key. I enjoy adding banana, strawberries, and/or blueberries to my cereal. (1=Good with fruit, 2=Not good with fruit)
Needs Sugar – Despite it’s probable inherent healthiness, if it’s bland, it stinks. If you have to add sugar to make it hit the spot, we have to drop its ranking. (1=Does not need sugar, 2=Needs sugar)

Scores were summed up across all parameters. The cereals were then sorted from lowest score to highest score to retrieve the final ranking of cereals. As a note, the ‘Good w/ Fruit’ and ‘Needs Sugar’ fields were weighted slightly lower than the other three by simply giving them a lower maximum score of 2 versus a 3. You’ll also notice no column for ‘Flavor’. It’s too hard for me to score based on flavor as that is pretty mood-dependent, and hopefully that information is covered by the other columns anyways.

Results
Note: Lower score is better.

6 – Crispix
7 – Honey Bunches of Oats
8 – Cinnamon Toast Crunch
8 – Frosted Flakes
8 – Life / Cinnamon Life
9 – Captain Crunch
9 – Froot Loops
9 – Fruity/Cocoa Pebbles
9 – Lucky Charms
9 – Trix
9 – Rice/Cocoa Krispies
9 – Cheerios (all types)
10 – Cocoa Puffs
10 – Oatmeal (non-instant)
10 – Cream of Rice
10 – Cream of Wheat
10 – Raisin Bran
10 – Special K
11 – Apple Jacks
11 – Corn Pops
11 – Golden Grahams
11 – Kix / Berry Berry Kix
11 – Cookie Crisp
11 – Honeycomb
11 – Frosted Mini-Wheats
11 – Wheaties

Full Data

Discussion

The results are interesting, but still expected. You’ll notice that the fun and texture of the fruity cereals clusters them in the middle, dragged down by their lack of healthiness. Only a few cereals really get to the top of the list, and I’m delighted to see Crispix and Honey Bunches of Oats up there (and next to Cinnamon Toast Crunch which is probably the best flavor). With some cut banana and/or berries, those first two are the most satisfying cereals, down to drinking the last drop of milk. Finally, we see the hot cereals in the middle of the pack as well, high on health but low on fun and texture.

I acknowledge that this list is not comprehensive. For example, it has been pointed out to me that I am missing Raisin Bran Crunch which is a pretty popular cereal of choice these days. I also forgot Clusters / Honey Nut Clusters which I was huge on for a while as a kid. Whoops!

I also acknowledge there is some bias built into this scoring, as what I believe is “fun” or “good texture” is different from what you will think is “fun” or “good texture”. However, it’s a quick algorithm that you could apply to anything to help understand not only the elements being measured but also about the person doing the measuring.

Oh, and if you were wondering, I bought Honey Bunches of Oats.

fruits of the year

Fruit is the greatest thing in the world. That sugary sweetness with nutritional value can’t be beat. The world of fruit is diverse, colorful, juicy, artistic, healthy, natural, and pleasing. Nothing beats a good piece of fruit and you know it.

One of my best memories as a kid is eating fruit each night. As my brothers and I each showered and got in our pajamas, my dad would cut up a few pieces of fruit and mix them up in a bowl for each of us. Depending on what he had bought that week, it may have included pieces of pear, apple, banana, orange, strawberries, blueberries, and/or grapes. We’d each sit, eat our bowl of fruit, and watch The Cosby Show and maybe another Nick At Night show like Dobie Gillis or My Three Sons or Mork & Mindy before heading to bed. Little did we know that we were being filled with all sorts of free radical neutralizers and other vitamins and minerals that would help us stay healthy and strong. Here I want to rank my top fruits of the year, with the hope that I can do this on an annual basis. These may be debatable, but I don’t care. I’m basing my opinions on a combination of three main things:

  • The Acquisition (cost, availability)
  • The Consumption (taste, versatility)
  • The Feeling (health benefits, satisfaction)

1. McIntosh ApplesAcquisition: Available in pretty much every supermarket throughout most of the year. Cost is relatively cheap. Grown off a tree that is fun to climb. Easy to choose which ones you want and you can feel for tartness before purchasing.

Consumption: Easy to eat – just wash and go! Good just plain or with peanut butter or with a little cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. Can be eaten during all hours of the day. Can be used in numerous other dishes such as pies, juices, sauces, muffins, cakes.
Feeling: Skin has many nutrients/vitamins. Beautiful green/red color. Roundness is complete and satisfying. Puts me to bed. Smiles at me. Feels great to eat I’m almost addicted.

2. Strawberries

Acquisition: Can be expensive and tough to find in harsh times of the year. However, in mid to late summer when the prices drop, they can be found on the street corner plump as a tennis ball. Sometimes tough to avoid a few bad ones when sold in plastic containers.

Consumption: Taste of a good, dark red strawberry might be the best bite in the world. Tingles my jaw. Drips with juice on a hot day. Love that crisp, cool center when bit in half. Sometimes a pain to avoid the leaves when in a hurry or overwhelmed with excitement. Great in desserts, shakes, cereal. Great mixed with other berries too.
Feeling: Beautiful red color and distinct heart-like shape. Have great sex appeal. Sometimes eat too many and get real full off them.

3. Bananas

Acquisition: Very easy to get and are the cheapest fruit you can buy. Not many bad bananas in a bunch so easy to pick out too. Ripen quickly though and are odorous when too ripe.
Consumption: Simple to peel, simple to eat. Taste predictable and easy to crave. Awesome in cereal. Love banana bread. Love banana chips. Good in shakes, desserts/sundaes, pie, on a sandwich (w/ peanut butter), much more. Also like them yellow Runts.
Feeling: Filling and nutritious. Good potassium and other vitamins. Beautiful yellow color and distinct shape.

Just missed the list: pineapples, cantaloupes, clementines. Better luck at the end of the summer.