Cereal Surprises

February 10, 1999

I started collecting the cereal unit prices as a matter of personal curiosity.  I suspected that Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which was a big favorite of my kids for quite a while, was one of the most expensive;  I thought that Quaker Natural, while costing more per box than perhaps any other cereal, was probably the least expensive.

What I didn't expect to find was that Rice Krispies are nearly as costly as Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Apparently, we pay a lot for air and a big box with RK.  I'm also surprised that Cheerios are more expensive than Wheaties; Wheaties seem so much more substantial. It was a pleasant surprise to see that Grape-Nuts were even more economical than Quaker Natural, and a big surprise to note that Pop-Tarts, while not exactly a cereal, came in on the way low end at price per ounce.  For some reason, they feel expensive.

February 12, 1999

Nor did I expect this bit of nonsense to become a family project.  Meredy thought I should escalate it to the status of true wazfag and include all sorts of information.  Damon and Ethan told me I should add a link back to my main page, which would mean adding an index entry for it.  So here's some real wazfag.

When I went shopping last night, I got prices for Quaker Crunchy Corn Bran, Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Corn Pops, Froot Loops, Kix, Raisin Bran, and Special K.  The surprises of that lot were what Corn Pops, which are Kix with sugar coating, are less expensive than Kix--implying, perhaps, that Kix are made by washing the sugar off of Corn Pops.  It was gratifying to see that Raisin Bran comes in on the cheap end.  The big surprise was learning that Special K is even more expensive than Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  [Feb. 23:  Added Quaker Oatmeal.  Meredy was right.  I probably should also add that all these unit prices are on the middle-sized boxes, neither the smaller ones with higher prices nor the huge ones that usually, but not always, have a considerable price break.  The mongo box of oatmeal brings the unit price down to a trifling 8.6 cents per ounce.]

Cereal
Per Box
Per Ounce
Quaker Natural
5.29
18.0
Kix
4.99
27.7
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
4.25
30.4
Corn Pops
4.07
27.1
Wheaties
3.99
22.2
Rice Krispies
3.79
28.1
Cheerios
3.79
25.3
Special K
3.79
31.6
Frosted Flakes
3.79
25.3
Shredded Wheat
3.69
24.6
Cocoa Puffs
3.69
24.6
Froot Loops
3.69
24.6
Grape-Nuts
3.49
14.5
Raisin Bran
3.43
17.2
Corn Flakes
3.39
18.8
Quaker Crunchy Corn Bran
2.99
18.7
Pop-Tarts
2.19
15.6
Quaker Oatmeal
2.19
12.2
Another helpful family suggestion was that I present the table with the cereals arranged in order of the unit prices.  And it is helpful, because now we can see some trends emerge and draw some inferences.  My bias, as the parent of children who eat lots of breakfast cereal--and lots of very sugary breakfast cereal--is that the plain cereals are healthier, more honest, than the sugar-coated ones, and that Grape-Nuts, Raisin Bran, Quaker Natural, and Shredded Wheat are among the best for you.

The general trend I perceive is that the healthier cereals are all at the low end of the unit price scale.  This makes intuitive sense because there are no further processing steps and no gratuitous ingredients added once the basic cereal is made.

There's no sugar coating until you get to Cocoa Puffs (or Cocoa Poops, as they're affectionately known at my house).  Then we'd expect to see most everything that cost more per ounce than Cocoa Puffs be coated with sugar.  Not so.  Between Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes come Cheerios!  Between Corn Pops and Cinnamon Toast Crunch come Kix and Rice Krispies!  And, look, Special K turns out to be even more expensive than Cinnamon Toast Crunch!

What does it all mean, especially when you consider that Cocoa Puffs are Kix with both sugar and chocolate added?  One of three things:  either it costs a lot to make Rice Krispies and Special K, we've been conned by advertising, or absolutely nothing at all.

Cereal
Per Box
Per Ounce
Quaker Oatmeal
2.19
12.2
Grape-Nuts
3.49
14.5
Pop-Tarts
2.19
15.6
Raisin Bran
3.43
17.2
Quaker Natural
5.29
18.0
Quaker Crunchy Corn Bran
2.99
18.7
Corn Flakes
3.39
18.8
Wheaties
3.99
22.2
Shredded Wheat
3.69
24.6
Cocoa Puffs
3.69
24.6
Froot Loops
3.69
24.6
Cheerios
3.79
25.3
Frosted Flakes
3.79
25.3
Corn Pops
4.07
27.1
Kix
4.99
27.7
Rice Krispies
3.79
28.1
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
4.25
30.4
Special K
3.79
31.6
Now you're probably going to ask, "But what about Pop-Tarts, which are third lowest in cost and the trashiest thing on the list?"  Easy.  Pop-Tarts really aren't processed cereal.  They're a baked item.  I'll therefore do what every good scientist does when he finds data that damage his theory and declare the data invalid.

But this is a good segue into unit prices in general.  If Pop-Tarts are baked good, then how do they compare to other, healthier baked goods, like bread?  Lucky's Hearth Farms breads (which I, as someting of a bread maven, believe to be a good value) are 8.3 cents per ounce; Wonder Bread (it's a wonder they can call that stuff bread), which I consider greatly inferior to the Hearth Farms breads, is 10.4 cents per ounce, and Oreo cookies are 18.0 cents per ounce.  Now you can see where Pop-Tarts properly fit.

How do the prices of cereal compare to other foods, like meat?  Well, whole chicken, at $1.29 per pound, is 8.1 cents per ounce; chuck roast, bone in, is 12.4 (both cheaper than Raisin Bran); New York steak is 40.6 cents per ounce; and top round (London broil) is 24.3.  I suppose we might expect a higher quality cut of meat to be more expensive than breakfast cereal, but it could come as a shock to learn that for the same price you pay for Cocoa Puffs or Froot Loops, you could be eating London broil.  Either that, or you can't compare Raisin Bran and roast beef.

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