Honeycombing for truth

Finally — some real answers about Honeycomb cereal.

For those who don’t remember, Honeycomb boxes appeared on the shelves of fine grocery establishmets with a purple starburst claiming the cereal was “Now Better Tasting!” I thought to myself, “Better tasting than WHAT?”

From there, I went the logical route. I overthought. I analyzed. I wondered how Honeycomb cereal could justify their claims of being “Better Tasting,” how they could slap an subjective claim on their box without any sort of disclaimer. We all figured it was a focus group study or something. We all waited for the silly explanation and typical advertising tomfoolery.

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one concerned. Reader Nathan Murphy sent me an e-mail describing his family’s experience with the Purple Starburst — and, the horrible truth behind the taste. See, it turns out they had royally screwed up the recipe. And they were making it up by going back to the old taste — the Better Taste.

From Nathan Murphy’s e-mail:

Dear Corey,

I read your postings on blackmarks.net concerning the marketing of Post Honeycomb cereal. As it turns out, “Now Better Tasting!” is actually a very truthful, but partial statement. Allow me to explain.

A few months ago, my wife and I bought a box of Honeycomb. Much to our surprise, it tasted like crap. What was wrong with it, you ask?

1. The texture was all wrong. If you’ve ever had Waffle Crisp
cereal, it was similar in that it was very crunchy, but sort of
airy and crumbly.
2. The taste was very different and bad, but hard to describe.
3. The color was more yellow than normal.
4. We could not eat it and resorted to filling the dog treat canister
with it. Considering the crap that dogs eat, we figured they
wouldn’t notice. They didn’t.

For anyone who’s enjoyed the sweet honey goodness before, something sinister had obviously occurred. Suspecting a secretive recipe change scandal (someday to be known as Honeygate), targeted to undermine the taste buds of America, we emailed Kraft and confronted them with the truth: “Honeycomb sucks!”

Here is the response we received from everyone’s favorite Food Network Host……..uhh, sorry, I mean……..everyone’s favorite Kraft Foods Associate Director, Consumer Relations: Kim McMiller!

May 10, 2007

Dear Mrs. Sarah Murphy,

Thank you for recently contacting us at Kraft Foods about our Post Honeycomb cereal. We truly value your feedback and appreciate you taking the time to share your comments.

Over the past few months, Post has been working diligently to address the concerns of our consumers and has been keenly focused on improving the cereal’s taste, texture and appearance while incorporating key nutritional benefits to the product. We appreciate the relationship you have built with the Post Honeycomb brand, and are committed to providing
you with the consistently great tasting cereal you have come to enjoy moving forward.

A better tasting Post Honeycomb cereal will soon be hitting stores shelves, marked with a special purple burst highlighting the improved taste. We are confident that you will be pleased with this Honeycomb product, which is included in the package along with an additional product coupon for a future purchase.

Look out for the specially marked boxes of Post Honeycomb cereal on store shelves in March, and thank you for being a loyal customer.

Kim McMiller
Associate Director, Consumer Relations

As this was the first time we had bought Honeycomb in a while, I don’t know how long the crappy version was out in stores. And unfortunately, we did not keep the box in which the crappy cereal came, so we can’t compare ingredients and nutritional information. Nonetheless, I still suspect that Kraft was monkeying with the recipe, thinking that nobody
would notice. If they indeed had changed the recipe, they have either changed it back to the original, or improved the new recipe to the point where there is little noticeable difference. The box they sent to us, displaying the “purple burst” marketing blurb, does taste very good.

So good, in fact, that we ate it for dinner instead of our planned meal of grilled salmon, fresh green beans, and baked potatoes. OK, so there’s really no way that Honeycomb should have conqured the mighty grilled salmon. Maybe we just needed an evening of emotional recovery and closure.

So I have reached two monumental conclusions:

1. The new “Now Better Tasting!” Honeycomb does indeed taste better;
that is, better than crap.
2. The new “Now Better Tasting!” purple burst blurb should actually
say, “Now Tasting the Same as the Non-Crap Recipe Version!”

To quote your original postings:

So maybe I’m a cynic when I say, “If it’s better tasting now, what was wrong with it before?”

“Why wasn’t it the best it could be previously? And how did you quantify a subjective claim?”

To answer your questions, no, there was nothing wrong with it before, and yes, it was the best it could be. Honeycomb was indeed at the pinnacle of its longstanding reign of supreme honey goodness. The Kraft marketing group isn’t stupid, and they knew they couldn’t put that purple burst on the box unless it was true. And for it to be a truthful statement, the cereal had to get worse before it could get better.


Nathan Murphy, a fellow Honeycomb muncher

So there you have it — the TRUTH about Honeycomb. My favorite part is this side-by-side comparison:

Honeycomb Lineup - Nathan Murphy (c) 2007

See the difference? Honeycomb really DID suck for a few months!
Nathan Murphy (c) 2007

I wonder why my representative didn’t own up to the fact. I didn’t receive a “we screwed up OMG Sorry LOL!” message. Instead, I receieved a pre-packaged response designed by some robot with an archaic sense of “feeling” and “humanity.”

Instead of “Over the past few months, Post has been working diligently to address the concerns of our consumers and has been keenly focused on improving the cereal’s taste, texture and appearance while incorporating key nutritional benefits to the product,” we got:

We draft conclusions from studies that reflect consumers’ opinions on a national basis.

When appropriate, advertising is developed from studies. We take great care in the exact wording and overall impression of our advertising.

All advertising claims are reviewed before approval is given.

Thanks, robots. No fear, however — now, the truth can be known. Oh, Glorious Truth!

Thanks, Nathan.

This was lovingly handwritten on May 30th, 2007