Simplicity, as I’ve often stated, is sometimes the most defining element in what makes a cereal good. Try too much, or stick in too many mix-ins, and a cereal suddenly runs the gammit of losing its identity. For the ubiquitous fruit flavored ring, that identity is unmistakable: sugar, an ambiguous berry flavor, and a solid crunch which renders a smooth, fruity flavor in milk.
Froot Loops, adorned in its red box with the iconic, if not lovable, Tucan Sam, has long been the standard. But it hasn’t been the only attempt at fruit flavored rings. Cheerios makes an arguably “healthier” version of the Kellogg’s classic, while every grocery chain and natural food company in America has attempted to copy the classic. Most, I’ve found, come up short.
Which leads me to the curious case of Malt-O-Meal’s Tootie Fruities.
I’ve opined previously about my sentimental love affair with Malt-o-Meal cereals. It goes beyond pure nostalgia, however. Truth be told, Malt-O-Meal’s ‘knockoffs’ are pretty good, and their natural line — Mom’s Best — is incredibly affordable. The fact that Malt-O-Meal produces a clone of virtually every iconic General Mills and Kellogg’s cereal is a well-known fact, and one the company touts extensively in their marketing attempts to compare costs.
But what about taste? I recently picked up a bag of Malt-O-Meal’s Tootie Fruties to see if the berry flavors and sturdy crunch could match that of one of my all-time favorites, Froot Loops.
Froot Loops definitely has a crunchier texture. It’s a bit more difficult to suck the life out of it, so to speak, hinting at a higher moisture content. The mouthfeel is smoother if not a bit oily, but it’s also more pleasing, as well. Both cereals are exceptionally sweet and single flavored (I know, I know, it bummed me out when I found out too) but there is a slightly saccharine aftertaste to Tootie Fruities. It’s not enough to be bothersome for some one used to hyper-sweet cereals, but if you’ve been chowing down on the fruit rings in the organic section, I’m guessing it won’t be you’re cup of nectar. Now, on to fruit flavors, you ask? Believe it or not there is an interesting and fruity astringency to Froot Loops, or, rather, as much as you can imagine a nutritionally worthless concoction of natural flavors and food coloring to have. While I like Tootie Fruities, they come off as “aged” as a dry snacking cereal, almost as if they were once great but, after months of abuse from shipping and Walmart warehouses, have lost some of their vital crunch and flavor. Froot Loops, meanwhile, never ceases to delight, remaining impossibly and irreconcilably complex for its simple arrangement of fake food dyes and sugar.
Edge: My man Sam.
This is where things start to get interesting. I’ve actually never had Froot Loops in milk, and only had Tootie Fruities in milk on one occasion. It was in Mississippi on a church mission trip, and I had it with coconut milk. It was FREAKING AWSOME (caps intended.) This time around I checked out both cereals in Skim Plus Milk (decent, but not great.)
Fruit Loops once again had a smoother overall mouthfeel. It doesn’t become saturated with milk, but at the same time takes in enough to develop a light and fruity crunch. I thought Froot Loops held up, and held its color, better in milk than Tootie Fruities. That being said, Tootie Fruities receives what can only be described as a transcendent burst of sugar in milk. It’s incredibly intense, and while not as fruity as Froot Loops, leaves a more satisfying, slurp-the-bowl-full end-milk than anything Tucan Sam would offer. The best analogy I have is the difference between drinking regular soda vs. Diet.
Edge: Tootie Fruities
Price wise, Tootie Fruties is clearly the better buy. I won’t lie — the .50 cent bag I snagged at Big Lots was pretty great, but even at its retail price, any Malt-O-Meal cereal will best it’s name-brand counterpart.
From a nutrition perspective, Froot Loops has less sugar per serving (12 grams) than Tootie Fruties (15 grams), although Tootie Fruities has a larger serving size at 32 grams, compared to Froot Loops’ 29 grams. Froot Loops has more fiber (3 grams) but it also has partially hydrogenated oil in its ingredients.
Malt-O-Meal cereals have nothing on the back-of-the-box games Kellogg’s can provide, including the “make your own Tucan Sam” cutout currently on Froot Loops boxes. Likewise, the box configuration of Froot Loops makes it easier to close and keep fresh than the bulky, sometimes odd bag of Tooty Fruities.
Edge: I can’t lie. I’m cheap. Tootie Frooties wins.
Tootie Fruities takes two out of three, so it’s the winner, right? In the words of Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.” Like any cereal buying option, the question of Froot Loops or Tootie Fruities comes down to how you prefer your morning (or 1 p.m., or midnight) bowl. If you’re looking for a dry snacking cereal, you cannot beat Froot Loops. It has enough fruit flavor and crunch to keep you interested, and the kind of structure that can hold up in any ziplock bag. But if you’re an end-milk junkie who lives for the nectar left behind from your cereal, Tootie Frooties provides the kind of sugar rush that transforms milk into a slightly healtheir version of fruit juice.
With conundrums such as this, I am quite sure the wisdom of King Solomon would direct us to simply combine the two cereals in a single container, and enjoy the uncomplicated joys of ambiguous “natural and artificial” fruit flavors in ring form.
- Ranking: 8/10
- Chances I’d Buy Again: 75%
- Ranking: 9/10
- Chances I’d Buy Again: 100%
Food for Thought: I’m not being facetious when I say that I like the ambiguous, artificial taste and cloying sweetness of both these cereals. To a certain extent I can’t explain why I like them so much. Do you have a cereal, or any food, that you like and don’t know how to explain?