Puffins: More Delicious Than a Box of Penguins

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Cereal du Jour: Puffins, America's favorite Icelandic-waterfowl-based cereal.

History: I swear to God, I am taking this straight from the Barbara's Bakery website: "We got the name for our cereals from a long-time employee who fell in love with puffins (the birds) on an Alaskan trip. They inspired us to fledge a flock of delicious wheat-free Puffins cereals with a crunch that's almost as amazing as the birds they were named for! The best part of a Puffins breakfast is the hearty crunch, followed by a satisfied morning powered by naturally sweet grains. Playful as their namesake, Puffins cereals are equally delicious swimming in a bowl of milk or scooped up by the handful."

What can we learn from this? That Barbara's Bakery has no marketing department. That naming consumer products after some animal that one of your employees thinks is cute is not an effective branding strategy. That anthropomorphizing cereal is creepy (grain puffs are never "playful," no matter how much acid you're on). And that according to the phrase "delicious wheat-free Puffins cereals with a crunch that's almost as amazing as the birds they were named for," that employee's trip to Alaska obviously involved the eating of several puffins, which apparently are quite crunchy.

The Box: It has a picture of a puffin on it. Those not up on the taxonomy of pelagic seabirds might mistake this for a penguin, but those people are just stupid and shouldn't be trusted. As anyone knows, a puffin can be differentiated from a penguin by its functional wings, colorful beak, haughty bearing, stocky build, and the giant word PUFFINS written on the box above its image. The only excuse for mistaking a penguin for a puffin is finding one's self blind drunk at 2 a.m. in the health-food section of a 24-hour grocery store and trying to make good on a bar bet involving eating a whole penguin before sunrise.

Oddly, Barbara's Bakery's own financials and internal marketing memos make clear that fully 40 percent of all Puffins cereal purchases related to exactly these circumstances, which tells us two things:

1) Irresponsible drunks love the taste of fresh penguin meat.

2) The remaining 60 percent of purchases are made by hippies who deserve exactly what they get.

The Product: Contrary to popular belief, no puffins are used in the manufacture of Puffins cereal. Which is a shame because puffins are widely known as supercilious jerks, and turning them into an unpopular breakfast cereal would be just the thing to take those dicks down a peg.

What Puffins really are is nothing more than another corn-and-oat puffed cereal sweetened (barely) with molasses, making them the missionary position of cereals--effective but nothing special and a little dull after the first time. In the full cereal spectrum, they fall in the low-middle range: better than Corn Flakes but not as good as Rice Krispies.

Among hippie cereals, though? That's where they shine. That's where they're like eating magical candy sprinkled with rainbows, mostly because they don't smell of wheat germ, the box isn't all full of weird twigs and cereal flakes that taste like drywall chips, and eating a bowl of Puffins won't immediately cause you to shit yourself inside out. What's more, there are many varieties of Puffins (cinnamon and peanut butter and chocolate and such), and some of them even taste vaguely like the thing they're trying to mimic.

Best Feature: Tastes better than a box of penguin meat.

Worst Feature: Doesn't taste much better than a box of penguin meat.

Is it Better or Worse Than Apple Jacks?: Worse by every conceivable measure, unless you're a kid with hippie parents who won't buy you real breakfast cereal. In that case, talking your mom into buying you a box of peanut butter Puffins as opposed to, say, another recycled burlap sack of Dr. Phineas Cornbuckle's Wheat-o-Bolic 30-Grain Digestive Flakes is a victory on par with the Spartans' at Thermopylae.

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