On Grape-Nuts (and crunchy breakfast)

Editor’s note: Be sure to catch Barry Newman’s insightful and amusing Wall Street Journal coverage on the cereal’s latest attempt to stay in the mainstream mind. Hey, women love Grape-Nuts too! Don’t cut us out as marketing targets!

A group of us were talking last night about breakfast and how it relates to the spiritual mindset (or not, hehe), and I got to thinking that I have a lot to say on the general subject of Grape-Nuts, also known as Nutty Nuggets if you’re on a budget.

Grape-Nuts TV commercial from the 60s

Perhaps the most noteworthy attribute of Grape-Nuts is the crunch. I think this is perhaps the most tenaciously crunchy cereal that has ever existed. Yes, there are flaky-bumpy-crispy-crunchy cereals out there that could be contenders, and if you chew any decently crunchy cereal obnoxiously enough, you can fool yourself into thinking it’s crunchier. However, nothing will come close to Grape-Nuts’s power to:

  • possibly dislodge dental work;
  • get wedged in your molars and defy all toothbrushing efforts;
  • wake up everyone within a 20-foot radius of your chew zone;
  • and force you to spend a full 20 minutes working your way through half a cup of cereal.

I like to take a bowl to bed and help my sweetheart wake up in the morning by chewing next to his sleeping form.

Grape-Nuts were created in 1897 (The Straight Dope contends it was 1898) by C.W. Post, according to Wikipedia.

Image courtesy of artlung.com
Vintage Grape-Nuts packages looked completely different.

Much writing has been done about this elder resident of the cereal aisle. You can find the history of Grape-Nuts in a Wikipedia article. Associated Content has an interesting, though tauntingly spare, piece about some creative uses of Grape-Nuts cereal, such as making a pie crust.

I’ve been eating this cereal since I was 5 years old, which amounts to more than 30 years of crunch, crunch, crunching. My mom loved it because it was nutritious (per half-cup serving you get 200 calories and 7g fiber) and didn’t contain a lot of sugar like those kid cereals she disdained.

You probably know by now, especially if you are a Grape-Nuts aficionado, that the breakfast cereal contains neither grapes nor nuts; however, the original formula used grape sugar and inventor Post thought it had a nutty texture. So there you go. I won’t cover this in any more detail because it’s all over the Internet, ad nauseum. On to fresher things.

Grape-Nuts has been marketed differently through the ages, according to a Kellogg site, as flashier, more sugar-laden cereals have crowded the shelves at groceries.

The Kellogg site writes that, following a terrible slump in sales in the 80s, a “radically new” advertising strategy was developed in the 1987 ‘Little Nugget’ campaign, with a focus on the cereal’s crunchy texture and benefits.

Profile of the serial Grape-Nuts abuser:
A battery of psych tests was done on fans of Grape-Nuts cereal to assess what was wrong with this small subset of the population. The combined research came up with the following common elements of the hardened Grape-Nuts user (paraphrasing irreverently, with apologies to the Kellogg site):

  • They are concerned with their well-being but afraid of looking like wackos.
  • They know it looks cool to have healthy food in your shopping cart.
  • They like to make their friends and family go camping, hike, fish, and talk about how “crisp” the day is.
  • They want a sense of control over life situations (so a 100-year-old cereal is a safe choice).
  • They are interested in home and family, especially in making their family eat nutritious sticks-and-twigs cereals.

Grape-Nuts TV commercial starring Naturalist Euell Gibbons

Other noteworthy and amusing Grape-Nuts writing:
David Smith’s 2000 piece on Grape-Nuts in his blog, Life’s Funny.

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