I noticed it immediately.
"Something's wrong with the Rasin Nut Bran cereal," I said to my mother. "Have you noticed anything odd?"
"Oh, I thought it was just me."
We decided to look further into our bowls of breakfast cereal. The flakes had tasted slightly more like sawdust, which I chalked up to cost-cutting, but something else was terribly wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it.
After pouring a bowl from the new box, I probed through the cereal, looking for a golden needle in a haystack of flakes. I didn't see anything and gave up.
Putting the box back, I noticed an older box of cereal on the shelf. Down to the last inch of crushed powder and grainy bits, it had been neglected in favor of this new box. I opened it up and ate a handful. The same old Rasin Nut Bran, for sure.
Then I had an idea. I pulled down both boxes and looked at the ingredient lists. On the left, I could see the ingredients I had always known: flakes, rasin nuts, and almond slivers. On the right, the ingredient list omitted the almond slivers!
I looked at the photographs on the front of the boxes. It was like Stalin's regime all over again. On the left, the photograph featured my beloved cereal, complete with almond slivers. But on the right, the almond slivers, like Trotsky, had been removed from all memory.
Indignant, my mother dialed the customer service number of General Mills.
The person on the other line apologized and suggested that market testing had encouraged them to drop the slivers (i.e. someone looked at how much a billion almond slivers cost and decided to can them).
"Sorry, but our factories have completely retooled to produce Raisin Nut Bran without almonds. In fact, we have been producing this for some months. Your grocery store must have just recently sold all their old stock."
As a consolation gift, General Mills sent us three coupons for The new and unimproved Rasin Nut Bran! Some consolation. It was, I suppose, either an irony too finely distinguished for them to understand or something more sinister. Keep repeating something long enough...
I love General Mills, I love General Mills, I love General Mills.....
My mother was dejected. She started buying other cereal. I started eating fruit, or nothing.
Without the blessed light of a healthy breakfast, our lives started to drift aimlessly, our once-centered selves of cereal harmony drifting to the edge of...??
Then, on Tuesday, we received the following letter from General Mills, dated March 2:
Thank you for contacting us to express your dissatisfaction with the changes we made to Raisin Nut Bran cereal. We have listened to your concerns and are writing to inform you that the almond slivers will be added back to Raisin Nut Bran!
At General Mills, we take our products and our consumers very seriously. When we change any product, we put the reformulated version through a series of consumer performance, taste, and quality tests. However, tests do not always represent the true sentiments of all of our consumers. Many consumers, like you, informed us that you preferred the slivered almonds in the cereal prior to the recent reformulation. Based on your feedback, we decided to add the almonds back.
The new Raisin Nut Bran with almond slivers will be available at stores starting in April. Look for packages with a green banner that reads "with Almond Slivers and Nut-Covered Raisins" to ensure that you are getting the almond slivers you love.
We appreciate when consumers call our attention to what they feel we could do better. Enclosed is a product certificate for a FREE package of Raisin Nut Bran cereal.
We hope you continue to enjoy Raisin Nut Bran cereal.
Big G Team
I Love General Mills, I love General Mills, I love General Mills I love General Mills!I love General Mills!
Aren't they nice? Listening and all that, and so politely calling us "consumers", and even going to the trouble of making a new version of Raisin Nut Bran with the slivered almonds (oooh, it makes me want to shiver with silvery delight) we all enjoy.
There are many lessons about capitalism and marketing somewhere here.