The year is 20xx. Innovation is dead. No new cereals are ever released. Instead, every old brand keeps releasing “New and Improved” versions that buff their old selves with unnecessary flavor and cosmetic improvements.
Froot Loops now contains “100% more Froot Jooce” and comes in colors only visible to the hyper-photoreceptive mantis shrimp. Waffle Crisp is now just a box full of freeze-dried Belgian waffles—and the bag is made of intelligent, gelatinous maple syrup that can gain sentience when stored in certain climates. Cinnamon Toast Crunch just contains packets of wheat seeds, yeast, and cinnamon, with instructions for growing, harvesting, and baking your own miniature cinnamon toast.
As for Alpha-Bits? They now contain the letters of every alphabet, from English and Cyrillic to Egyptian hieroglyphics, Klingon, and whatever language the Bionicles spoke. Some also say that spiking a drop of blood into your morning bowl of Alpha-Bits will make them reveal the universe’s existential secrets.
But most agree that’s just ridiculous.
This revamped cereal revolution all started in 2017, as Cocoa Puffs, Krave, Honeycomb, and yes, Alpha-Bits, made a big hullaballoo about self-improvement. As a designated cereal emissary of the year 2017, I’m here to tell you whether Alpha-Bits actually followed through on their “new year, new me” promise, or if they’re just “new meh.”
But in order to answer this, I first have to dive into some “old” Alpha-Bits, which are still easy to find on shelves. In all honesty, I haven’t tasted Alpha-Bits in years. I may be a kid at heart, but that inner child is aged roughly 8–10, not the 4-year old serial cereal drooler who appears to be the target audience of Alpha-Bits’ young’n-friendly packaging.
Even though I always chose totally mature, grown-up cereals like Cookie Crisp and Reese’s Puffs over Alpha-Bits, I still heard the recent public outcry about Alpha-Bits tasting terrible compared to its pre-Y2K flavor formula. Eating it now, though, I think the rumors of Alpha-Bits’ demise were greatly exaggerated: the wide-eyed Super Why! packaging may leave me wondering, well, “super why the heck would they do this?” but this stuff still tastes pretty good.
With an equally crispy and satisfyingly soft crunch, a pretty robust whole grain oat base (though not a golden-toasted one), and a faint touch of floral honey sweetness, old Alpha-Bits is halfway between a plain Cheerio and Post’s Honeycomb. “A Corn Pop that went to Harvard” might also be a fair descriptor. In milk it’s even better, as the savory oats shine a little butterier, throwing Lucky Charms into this strange oat cereal family tree. I wouldn’t eat this stuff regularly, but call me crazy, if I had a wee lad or lassie of my own, I’d probably feed them this stuff instead of those blasé Cheerios.
At least that way my kiddo could spell real words with their cereal instead of spooky ghost noises. Though it would probably end up looking like an “infinite monkeys eating breakfast at infinite typewriters” situation.
This means the new stuff has higher standards to live up to—hey Mark Twain: can you revive what isn’t dead?
The packaging starts me off on a high note, though. It feels like a nostalgic throwback to Alpha-Bits’ more adventurous days, complete with ambiguous kid mascots, nautical nonsense, and a trusty canine companion. This box looks like it belongs in a Highlights magazine in a dentist’s waiting room, and that’s a high compliment.
But unfortunately, the compliments stop there. Sorry to be blunt, but New and Improved Alpha-Bits is a downgrade in every way. The letters are jumbo, bloated versions of their former selves, which wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t also more airy and less crunchy. I’m also pretty confident a lot of letters are missing from this lax lexicon, because I found about ∞ Bs and had to perform some tooth scalpel surgery just to get a G and K for my desperately spooned plea to Post.
Any kids named Kayleigh or Kraig are going to be sorely (or obscurely) disappointed.
The flavor is stripped down to nearly nothing, too. Sure, the same base, un-toasted oat flavor is there, but the honey butter kiss has been replaced by the faintest vanilla sneeze. I had to eat halfway through the word count of Infinite Jest before I even tasted anything sweet—or non-cardboard-y for that matter. Adding milk just turns the aerated shapes into swollen, creamy milk puffs with a slightly more impactful vanilla glaze.
Unless I accidentally bought a box of alphabet soup noodles—which these kind of taste like—this is inexcusable. Cocoa Puffs got about 50% more awesome, Krave got a sweet fudge injection, and Honeycomb got mixed reviews, but new Alpha-Bits are a sinking ship that’s tough to salvage. I recommend any fans to stock up on the old stuff now, or prepare to jump ship onto a Cheerio or Oatmeal Square life raft.
If you’re also upset about this Alpha-Bits change and made it this far into the review, feel free to voice your opinion below. But no matter how many comments you may see implying the contrary, please keep one thing in mind: even though I’d like to, I don’t make the cereal! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to glue some cereal bits to paper in the form of a strongly worded letter.
The Bowl: New and Improved Alpha-Bits Cereal
The Breakdown: Aside from a more whimsical box and improved readability for the visually impaired, New and “Improved” Alpha-Bits is a tasteless regression that leaves me borrowing some Cheerios to spell “Booooooo!”
The Bottom Line: 2 non-existent “Kraig” novelty license plates out of 10
(Quick Nutrition Facts: 110 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein per 3/4 cup serving)