Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Return of the Monster (Cereals)

This is a post that really should have been written in the month of October...but it wasn't. Anyway, I'm sure that there are many adults out there that have fond memories of the so-called "Monster Cereals" from back in the 1970s (give or take a decade). I know that I certainly do. We didn't always get the sweet sugary cereals in my house when I was a kid, but when we did it was always a special occasion (for me at least). While I've never been much of a breakfast kind of guy, if you were to offer me some Cap'n Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Cookie Crisp, Lucky Charms (the list could go on for a long time), I'd be hard-pressed to turn it down.

The Monster Cereals were Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry. [Franken Berry sometimes seems to be referred to as Frankenberry, but I'll stick with Franken Berry, as that is how it appears on General Mills' website.] These cereals were always a little extra special when they'd appear in the house. I mean, not only were they sweet sugary cereals, but they also featured MONSTERS! What more could a Monster Kid ask for in a breakfast treat as he/she was about to sit down to some Saturday morning cartoons? The three cereals mentioned are the main ones that everyone remembers. Some people seem to have a favorite Monster Cereal, but I've never been able to pick one. They're all yummy. Speaking of "yummy", there were a couple others Monster cereals too (Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy) that came and went while the "big three" were always available. I remember Fruit Brute mainly because the upstairs bathroom in my house had a glow-in-the-dark Fruit Brute light switch sticker on the light switch cover.

Here's the box that the light switch sticker came in back in the 1970s
(Image borrowed from planet-q on flickr)

Here's the sticker that graced our bathroom for many years
(Image borrowed from Zooty the Newt on flickr)

I can't say that I really remember what Fruit Brute tasted like, but I remember the cereal and the character because I'd always see the eponymous Fruit Brute every time I'd have to turn on the light to use the bathroom. On the other hand, I don't really seem to remember Yummy Mummy at all. I'm not an expert on this branch of the cereal world, but have heard that Yummy Mummy replaced Fruit Brute at some point after Fruit Brute was discontinued (possibly after I was of an age to be exposed to it?). Whatever the reason, both of them eventually disappeared altogether. As I hadn't seen any of the three main Monster Cereals on the shelves of grocery stores in quite a few years (though I admittedly wasn't searching for them either) I had assumed that they had also been sent to the great cereal bowl in the sky.

Monster Dad and friends (including Count Chocula) in 1987
Well, it turned out that I was wrong. The Monster Cereals are still around--even if only in a limited release form. Like any good monsters they rise from the grave each October to put fear into the hearts of children everywhere (or at least into the hearts of the mothers who probably fret about the high fructose corn syrup and all the other strange and unnatural ingredients their kids are ingesting from these "Whole Grain" cereals that are "part of a nutritious breakfast")!

It might not be this way everywhere, but in my neck of the woods--the Northeast--the Monster Cereals only appear on shelves in October (obviously to coincide with Halloween). And they can't be found just anywhere. The only place I've been able to spot them close to me is at Target. Last year (2010) I was perusing the aisles of the local Target store picking up fun stuff like diapers, laundry detergent and toilet paper when what to my wondering eyes should appear but three familiar monstrous faces (Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry) gracing the fronts of their respective cereal boxes! The monsters had been given a bit of a modern makeover since I'd last seen them, but there was no mistaking who they were. Knowing full well that The Wife would be hugely disappointed in me for bringing fare of such questionable nutritional value into our house I did what any good husband and Monster Dad would do--I bought them and promptly hid them in the basement upon my return home!

The Little Monster was just about to turn five last October, and was really getting into the whole Halloween thing. I may or may not have encouraged this interest, but either way it was a beautiful thing for a Monster Dad to see. I was excited to be able to share the Monster Cereals with her, especially at that time of the year. We both tried each one. I was brought back to a wondrous taste experience from my youth and The Little Monster simply loved them (naturally).

The Little Monster meeting Franken Berry, Count Chocula and Boo Berry for the first time!

I'm not sure how much they've changed the recipes of these cereals since I was a kid, but they all seemed to taste the same to me. They do seem to have changed the look though. From what I recall the cereals used to be made up of little circular pieces with an "x" in the middle of them, and little marshmallows shaped like...little marshmallows. Now the cereal is shaped like little ghosts and the marshmallows come in different shapes and colors. In the case of Franken Berry those marshmallows are shaped like little blue or purple bats and little pink Franken Berry heads.

Here's what the modern Franken Berry looks like

A closer look at the cereal and marshmallows of Franken Berry

...And an even closer look
The cereals were rationed out slowly, as neither of us was really used to eating this caliber of sugary treat in the morning and I didn't want The Little Monster to get addicted or anything. The two of us enjoyed watching fun movies ("Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein", "Young Frankenstein", "Godzilla vs. Mothra"...) and eating Monster Cereals while counting down the days until Halloween and Trick-or-Treating.

Then November arrived. The spooky magic of Halloween gave way to the cold and barren wasteland that is New England in winter. The candy was eaten, the costumes put away...and the Monster Cereals disappeared off the store shelves--once again banished from the world of the living. ...At least until the next year!

I've since learned that the Monster Cereals brand has cashed in on the memories and nostalgia of thirty- and forty-somethings who remember eating them as kids by putting out some new products in addition to the cereals themselves. There are now plush dolls, bobblehead figures, lip balm and other toys and products based the Monsters. They even have Fruit Roll-Ups in Franken Berry and Boo Berry flavors. I haven't tried these, but can just imagine kids begging their parents to buy some when they see them on the shelves of stores.

The Little Monster checking out Monster Cereal plush dolls at the Rock and Shock show in Worcester, MA in October 2011

Fast forward to October 2011. This year I was armed with the knowledge that the Monster Cereals would be available at Target. They were all spotted during a visit I made early in the month (or possibly even at the end of September). I figured I'd wait for a couple weeks to pick up my three boxes. Unfortunately, when I went back later in the month...they were GONE! I don't know if they ran out or if they simply didn't feel like keeping them on the shelves throughout October. Either way I was out of luck, and my new "tradition" of getting a taste of Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry was broken after only one year. I'll have to scoop them up right away if I see them next year.

After scouring the food aisles I did manage to find one end cap that was full of Franken Berry! For whatever reason this was the only flavor they had left--and they had a LOT. They were clearance items and the price was marked down. Apparently Target had a surplus of Franken Berry for whatever reason, and wanted to clear them out before October ended. While I was happy and felt blessed to have found at least one of the cereals I was after, I was also disappointed in what Target considers a clearance price on its items. When I hear "clearance" I generally expect to see deep cuts (40 or 50 percent or more off the original price). Target routinely marks its stuff down ten or fifteen percent, slaps a red sticker on it and calls it "Clearance". Fifteen percent off hardly counts as a very good sale, much less the kind of price slashing I associate with the term "clearance". But I digress... Anyway, I did manage to pick up two boxes of Franken Berry to share with The Little Monster--and saved a whopping forty cents off each box. To be fair, the rather smallish boxes only cost $2.66 to begin with, so getting them for $2.26 wasn't bad.

As I said, I'm no expert on the Monster Cereals or anything--just a long-time fan. For more information on them check out the following:
  • Here's General Mills' own page on the cereals: Monsters.
  • The cereals even have their own Facebook page (naturally): Monster Cereals.

And, finally, here's a few old Monster Cereal commercials that can now be easily found on YouTube:

Here's Count Chocula and Franken Berry showing that they get scared too
(This one has a good look at what the cereals and marshmallows used to look like):

The first Boo Berry commercial:

Fruit Brute makes his first appearance:

Here's when they introduced the monster-shaped marshmallows!:

And here's a rare look at Fruity Yummy Mummy:

THE END least until next year!


  1. ...I always wondered where that light switch cover-up came from! Although I've never tried any of the Monster cereals, Cap'n Crunch still has a place in my heart. <3
    Thanks, Glen
    xoxox dllp

  2. I've seen these cereals about online, but we don't get them in Australia. They're very cute. I thought we had plenty of cereals here, but the US really is the Cereal King!!

  3. A few years ago, Target and General Mills teamed up and had an exclusive run of classic boxes for the GM cereals, and I believe the Monster Cereals were included. I found out after the fact and was quite bummed out that I had missed what will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy back another piece of my childhood. I buy a few boxes every Halloween season and ration them out for several months. Next year, I'm buying all I can (meaning all I can hide from my wife) because rumor has it that the FDA has come down on cereal makers and they won't be able to advertise sugary cereals in 2013, so they would have no incentive to make them at that point. I haven't got any official word from General Mills on this (nor have i asked them), but I'm not taking any chances...

  4. I too remember the Franken Berry, Count Chocula, and Boo Berry cereals. In looking at your pictures, I prefer the old versions of those characters versus the new versions. Glad to see they are at least available in limited editions.

    I also remember the Cocoa Puffs commercials where there was Sonny and his grandfather. His going Coo Coo for Cocoa Puffs always got them out of a jamb. (they weren't monsters, but another example of cereal "mascots" going by the wayside)