The TV ad for Frosted Mini-Wheats with a Touch of Fruit in the Middle features an alluring, full-screen image of blueberries and strawberries, glistening sexily with drops of water. “Mini, meet berries,” the sultry voice-over intones.
The Web page for the latest Mini-Wheats cereal says, “If you’re looking for a great, new way to enjoy the taste of mixed berries in the morning, then look no further. This is packed with whole grain fiber and a filling made with a touch of real fruit to help keep you full all morning.”
But the ingredient list reveals that that “real fruit,” such as it is, is buried in a sludge of non-fruit items, none of them all that good for you:
WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT, BERRY FLAVORED FILLING (HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, GLYCERIN, PALM OIL, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, APPLE FLAKES, SODIUM ALGINATE, STRAWBERRY FLAKES, BLUEBERRY FLAKES, GRAPE FLAKES, SUGAR, MALIC ACID, MODIFIED WHEAT STARCH, CITRIC ACID, SODIUM CITRATE, RED #40, BLUE #1, SOY LECITHIN), SUGAR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, NATURAL FLAVOR, GELATIN, REDUCED IRON, NIACINAMIDE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), ZINC OXIDE, FOLIC ACID, VITAMIN B12. TO MAINTAIN QUALITY, BHT HAS BEEN ADDED TO THE PACKAGING.
Yes, that’s right: the “touch of fruit” in the “berry flavored filling” consists of apple flakes, strawberry flakes, blueberry flakes and grape flakes. Leaving aside for now the questions of what exactly a “flake” is and when apples and grapes became berries, consider the absurdity of that mix. High fructose corn syrup AND sugar? And that’s just the filling!
I actually don’t hate Mini-Wheats. Of course, like many boxed cereals, they have a lot of added sugar. They’re fortified with a bunch of vitamins, which is fine so long as you’re not counting solely on cereal to provide those nutrients and you get most of what you need from less-processed, real foods. But Mini-Wheats are also made with whole grain and packed with fiber; a single serving provides nearly a quarter of your daily fiber needs.
But I find that “touch of fruit” thing insulting. There’s absolutely no relationship between the glistening piles of berries in the ad and the fruit flakes in the cereal’s filling. The filling is essentially there to add sweetness and color to the cereal. I wouldn’t mind it so much if all that sugar weren’t masquerading as fruit.
Here’s an idea: If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the taste of mixed berries in the morning, why not eat some mixed berries? You could even add fresh berries to a bowl of cereal. But not the kind with the fruit flakes in the middle.