Two gluten-free breakfast cereals — one disgraceful strike-out, and one home run
My local natural-foods/farmer’s market/health products store is stepping up their gluten-free offerings, which is very welcome, of course. It’s nice to see some products that I’ve salivated over in the pages of Living Without actually on the shelf of a IRL store.
(05/25/09 NOTE: Enjoy Life has completely reformulated their granola, and it is fantastic!! It is NOTHING like this old version, which I review below. See new review here.)
The bad news first: In short, Enjoy Life’s Very Berry Crunch is simply awful, perhaps the worst packaged g.f. product I’ve ever eaten. In fact, it is causing me to be extremely hesitant to ever buy any of Enjoy Life’s products, and that is a shame, because everything they make is not only gluten-free, but free of all of the other “common” allergies: wheat, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, egg, soy, fish & shellfish. Since my son Wes can’t have five of those eight things, I can’t tell you how freeing it feels to simply be able to grab anything made by that company and KNOW it’s safe. But, if it’s safe, yet tastes like cr@p… well, that’s not much of a trade-off.
The packaging is attractive — colorful, fun and hip:
But — and this is more an annoyance than anything, the size of the box dwarfs the size of the enclosed bag. This is both wasteful and deceptive, and means that one has to pull out the internal bag every time one wants a serving of the cereal, instead of unfolding the plastic and pouring. Also deceptive is the product photo, which bears little resemblance to the actual product. The actual granola is in alternately huge chunks and grainy bits, and unappetisingly dark in color. I’m in serious doubt that the product pictured on the box is actually the cereal. It’s really that dissimilar. The box I purchased bears a graphic that proclaims “NEW crispier crunchier taste!” I shudder to think of what it might have been before, because the cereal is no where near crisp and crunchy. It’s dense, hard, oddly chewy, and very difficult to chew — it has the texture of something really hard that was set out all night in a humid room. Also, when one purchases something called “very berry,” one might reasonably expect some berry taste. This “granola” tastes mostly like coconut, with berry seeds.
The second new-to-me gluten-free cereal will certainly grace our breakfast table for years to come. Oddly enough, as I inspect the box, I see that the brand, Perky’s 100% Natural, is actually a sub-brand of Enjoy Life. That’s unexpected. We have eaten Perky’s Nutty Rice before — kind of a gluten-free (and nut-free) version of Grapenuts. It’s pretty good, though fairly bland. Wes saw the PerkyO’s ad in the above-mentioned magazine, and asked me weeks ago if I could buy it. Until Wednesday night, though, I’d never seen it in the store. Not only did I spot it on the shelf, but it was on sale — about $3, instead of the regular price of about $4/box.
We tried the Apple Cinnamon version. Again, nice packaging:
Upon opening, it has a scent akin to Apple Jacks, which seems a fake-apple flavor/scent. But, an inspection of the ingredients states that the only flavoring added (besides cinnamon) is “natural apple flavor.” Reaching into the bag (which again, is a little too small in relation to the size of the box, but not as bad as the Very Berry Crunch), I was a little startled by the texture, which didn’t feel Cheerios-ish at all. Then, I realized that the O’s are dusted with powdered sugar, which lends to the smooth and starchy feel. It looks rather like off-brand Cheerios, if you KWIM. The cereal itself tastes great, though probably appealing more to kids than adults. It has a good crunch — a light-in-weight crunch, not a hard, dense crunch. It floats in milk, and doesn’t get soggy quickly (both Wes & I use rice milk, but it seems like it would hold up well in regular milk, too). Wesley loves it, as does Audrey (my 11 month old), who has been happily snacking on it for the last couple of days. Eating PerkyO’s does not feel like we’re sacrificing taste or quality in our quest to remain gluten-free. It has none of the “weirdness” that can sometimes accompany super-healthy and/or gluten-free foods.
This cereal, unlike the “granola” above, is NOT made in a dedicated gluten-free facility. However, they do put this disclaimer on the box, which I appreciate: “Strict manufacturing and sanitation practices are employed to prevent cross-contamination. This product is routinely batch-tested for gluten.” That satisfies me.
So, granted, this is all simply my opinion and experience. But, I would STRONGLY caution anyone tempted by the attractive box of Very Berry Crunch to stay FAR away, and I would encourage anyone wanting a tasty regular-style g.f. cereal to try PerkyO’s.