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.

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on March 16, 2007, in Celiac Disease, Cooking/Baking/Food/Recipes, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. kAREN,
    This is very off topic, but email me so we can exchange cell #s…..see you next weekend

  2. Hey, they gave out some perky o samples at a recent GF support group meeting I went to. I kyped (sp) like 5 samples for Audrey Baudrey. ;O)

    “I sudder to think what it may have tasted like before….” (something like that!)
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Just like styrofoam buns from
    Ener-G foods!! Man….what else is Wes off of on that list….Can he eat pizza/cheese which I have planned?! We need to debrief.

  3. We’re sorry to hear that you had such a negative experience with our Very Berry Crunch. If you want to give Enjoy Life another try we’d be more than happy to send you a few coupons so you can try some of our other GF products. Just let us know!

  4. I happened upon your blog due to the Sonlight connection, and the picture of Very Berry Crunch caught my eye. My husband just bought a box for the first time, and *loves* them; I think he ate about half the box in one go. He had them with soy milk.

    I just had to comment, since it’s so funny how radically different your experience was.

    Now, off to read more about Sonlight, and contemplate Core 6….

  5. I wish I had seen this earlier. I too was sucked in my the attractive box & was shocked when I opened the box & found the tiny bag. It was the nastiest cereal I have ever tasted.

  6. I have just learned that I cannot have gluten and Very Berry Crunch is the first cereal I found that I could eat. I actually disagree with your review of the cereal. I am happy with the flavor. I expected it to be terrible but I’m finding myself really enjoying it. The texture is a bit odd, but again, I expected that given the fact that the company is trying to produce a product without many of the main ingredients of their competitors. I am excited to try more foods by this company.

  7. I’m thinking maybe that Enjoy Life has a consistency issue — some people report that they like the cereal, and some people can’t stand it. I myself have bought three or four boxes — three were awful, and one was surprisingly-not-awful, but not really GOOD. There are enough really good gluten-free cereals out there that even GF’ers shouldn’t have to eat foods that are horrible.

    Gwyn, check back here again — I very often have GF recipes posted. I’m hoping that you discover life w/o gluten is SO much better than with it!

  8. I am 18 years old and I just found out I had celiac’s in March. I tried this cereal and found it aggravating how misleading their packaging was and not only did it taste horrible but it made my jaw hurt because it was so hard! I have to say out of gluten free cereals the only one I have found I LOVE is Honey’d Corn Flakes by Nature’s Path.

  9. Kate, my experience was the same! Bummer. I love Honey’d Corn Flakes, too, as well as Mesa Sunrise… Mesa Sunrise was unavailable for a while, but now it’s back. It’s a GF/oat-free slightly-sweet multigrain flake, also by Nature’s Path.

  10. I agree with you about the Berry Crunch – not a good cereal compaired to the others available.

  11. Elizabeth Stacey

    I had a similar experience with the Enjoy Life very berry cereal. I was competely disappointed because the day before I had tried the Enjoy Life double chocolate cookies and they were fantastic. I have purchased the cookies again but not the cereal.

  12. Hi everyone, I was just diagnosed with Celiac caused because of my hypothyroid autoimmune disease. I am still getting over the fact that I cannot have some of the things I love, but like all of you I went to the grocery store to buy gluten free products and was sucked in by the box only to have put it in my yogurt and find that it turned to mush and it tasted like cardboard. I tried the perky O’s they taste much better. Any other suggestions say for a frozen yogurt or ice cream.

  13. I JUST FOUND OUT I CANNOT HAVE GLUTEN MY STOMACH . I HAVE SO MUCH BLOAT AND AM TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING I CAN EAT I LIKE OATMEAL BUT SOME ONE TOLD ME NOT TO EAT OATMEAL PLEASE I NEED HELP IF SOME ONE OUT THERE WOULD SEND ME SOME IDEA WHAT I CAN EAT WITH OUT GLUTEN IT WOULD BE MUCH APPRECIATED THANKS MUCH DURENETHE QUEEN2@YAHOO.COM

  14. I just made the mistake of buying the Enjoy Life Cranberry Crunch Granola today. I was shocked at the tiny bag inside, and yes, the colour is nothing like what’s on the box. It’s more of a dark, muddy brown, certainly not the golden appetizing look of the picture

  15. Durene — Bob’s Red Mill makes a great gluten-free hot cereal called “Mighty Tasty GF Hot Cereal”. I make it up in my rice cooker every morning and think it’s delicious.

    No one has mentioned EnviroKids line of cereal? I love the crunch and flavor of their Gorilla Munch (peanut butter) and Panda Puffs! I just looked them up for this blog post and realized they are made by Nature’s Path — go figure.

  1. Pingback: Update on my bad review of Enjoy Life's granola « Only Sometimes Clever

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