This autumn, tens of thousands of students will head back to school with great expectations for their upcoming social and academic year. By the end of their first week, though, they’ll have those expectations checked; or as I like to say, completely and miserably crushed.
Such is also the case for millions of Americans, who’ll be reminded that eating something labeled “pumpkin spice” in August or September does not always equate with being served a rich and indulgent slice of pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table. But that doesn’t mean all pumpkin spice products are the equivalent of your 11th hour essay for which you received (and deserved) a D-minus. As a matter of fact, some of these pumpkin spice products are actually pretty good, even good enough to disguise the fact that there’s no actual pumpkin in the product.
Take the new Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice Cereal. When I first heard a mainstream cereal company was doing a pumpkin spice (and not pepita) flavored cereal, I pretty much decided my life was complete. I mean, we’re talking about my two great loves here, and combining them had the potential to answer the “what do you want for breakfast” question for the rest of my life.
But when I finally bought the Mini Wheats and realized there was no pumpkin in their eight layers of whole grains and fiber, I realized I may have fallen into the yearly trap of getting my pumpkin hopes set too high. Sure, there’s cinnamon, allspice, and ginger, but the lack of pumpkin puree gave me second thoughts. Experience tells us the pumpkin spice spectrum ranges are pretty wide with just as many misses as hits. Would this be the pumpkin spice of the excellent Pumpkin Spice Oreo Cookies? Or, as I suddenly feared, a repeat of the Pumpkin Spice M&M’s?
Much to my taste buds’ delight but my guts’ chagrin, those eight layers of fiber coated in pumpkin spice tasted much more like the former. The pumpkin spice is sweet, loud, floral, nutty, and hardly resigned to being the proverbial afterthought of vague cinnamon flavor and orange hue that some products hide behind. I thought the spices complemented each other nicely and tasted extremely fresh when eaten as a dry snack. When I sampled them against an industrial-sized bag of pumpkin spice (eh, like I said, pumpkin is one of my great loves), it compared favorably.
The downside of the cereal is that, like so many other cereals, it just has no way to convey a sense of richness. This is definitely a must for any product trying to capture some of the seasonal synergy of pumpkin, and it would have distracted my taste buds from the much-too-healthy wheat-y underside of each biscuit.
This wheat-y taste was actually more apparent when I ate the cereal in, go figure, whole milk. Unfortunately, the “frosting” of the biscuits is very one-note in sweetness. Unfortunately, the “frosting” of the biscuits is very one-note in sweetness, and it’s not the kind of brown sugar and cream sweetness which, for lack of a better explanation, transforms a squash into the most iconic of fall sweets. Knowing that Frosted Mini Wheats has nailed Cinnamon Roll and Maple flavors before makes accepting the sweetness’ lack of depth all the more disappointing.
Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice Cereal is a reminder that it’s easy to get caught up in unrealistic expectations during pumpkin season, and in hindsight, expecting a pumpkin spice cereal to taste like pumpkin pie is like expecting to graduate summa cum laude while also being an All-American on the football team and Homecoming King.
Possible? Yeah, but no worse for wear if you only nail one of the three honors. Because in capturing the multifaceted spices that make up “pumpkin spice,” Frosted Mini Wheats breaks new ground in a seasonal cereal realm usually reserved for Apple Cinnamon, and kicks off pumpkin spice season with a worthy addition in a saturated market.
(Nutrition Facts – 25 Biscuits – 190 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)
Item: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 15.5 oz box
Purchased at: Giant Food
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Very good representation of pumpkin spice flavor. Doesn’t taste too heavily of cloves, which everyone knows is the most heavy and distracting of fall spices. Crunchy, sweet biscuits with mock icing. Eight layers of fiber and whole grains.
Cons: Getting a B when you’re expecting an A+. Doesn’t taste like pumpkin pie. Lacks richness of cream and maple flavors in milk. Binging on cereal. Back to school.