Honeycomb: A Tale of Too Many Mascots

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Cereal du Jour: Honeycomb, the New Coke of breakfast cereals. Also, the favorite midnight breakfast of pop-culture nerds and last-call cartoon-watchers.

History: Honeycomb has been in production since 1965. Since 1965, it has been a perennial favorite of some cereal-eaters, an also-ran to others. It was neither loved nor loathed to any significant degree, but held a comfortable slot among the top 20 or so most favored (and recognizable) breakfast cereal brands.

In other words, Honeycomb was doing OK. With it, Post Cereals had a strong mid-list seller with a memorable jingle ("Honeycomb's big, yeah yeah yeah . . . It's not small, no no no") and a unique shape and flavor.

That all changed in 2006.

Why did it change? It's the oldest story in the cereal biz: In an attempt to drive sales and snatch up new markets, Post decided to change the formulation of Honeycomb to make it healthier. And though the new version was tested extensively, what happened as soon as they released the "new and improved" Honeycomb cereal into the market?

People hated it.

Post did a fast 180. Realizing their mistake, they knew something had to be done. But rather than following the Coke/New Coke model (in which a company completely fucks up their core product in an attempt to "improve" it, then re-releases the original again, much to the relief of the original audience), in 2007, they quickly released a second new version which (surprise, surprise . . . ) was also hated by consumers.

Post then went on to release three additional new versions of Honeycomb, each of which sounded grosser than the last. There was Strawberry Blasted Honeycomb, Chocolate Honeycomb, and Cinna-Graham Honeycomb. The one thing they didn't do? Just put the fucking cereal back the way it'd been. And so those who grew up eating Honeycomb are now forever deprived of that taste of their childhood, all because the folks at Post decided that they really really needed to jam a bran blend into the ingredient list that tripled the fiber content of the cereal, thereby making it appear to be a health food.

A honey-sweetened, sugary, honeycomb-shaped health food with a feral child raised by bees as its mascot.

Ugh.

The Box: Over the years, Honeycomb has featured a variety of mascots, from a bunch of kids with a tree fort (the Honeycomb Hideout) who were constantly fighting off a string of hostile visitors by turning them on to Honeycomb cereal (and then, one assumes, killing and eating them) to an illiterate half-rodent with gland issues called "Crazy Craving" whose catchphrase was "Me want Honeycomb" to a feral child named Bernard who was raised by bees and is hopelessly addicted to Honeycomb cereal. To the parents who paid to put the current crop of Honeycomb ad execs through college: This is what you got for your money. You must be so proud.

The Product: Back in the day (pre-2006), Honeycomb tasted like a wonderful blend of corn and honey--a surprisingly restrained and simple cereal that stayed crunchy in milk, filled you up, and didn't make you feel like you were going to hork rainbow sprinkles all over the carpet if you ate three bowls in a row. Now it tastes exactly the same, but also a little bit like licking the floor of a health-food store. And not one of the new, fancy ones, but an old-fashioned one, populated by gentle hippies and smelling powerfully of patchouli and wheat germ. The flavor of the added "bran blend" is mostly noticeable in the aftertaste.

Best Feature: Can make you feel like a seasoned cereal-eating professional by claiming that it (like everything else) was better before "The Man" got his hands on it.

Worst Feature: The fact that it changed at all.

Pop-Culture Cred: Honeycomb cereal and the Honeycomb Hideout has been name-checked in three episodes of Futurama and in the Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Brothers, making it double-awesome.

Is It Better or Worse Than Apple Jacks?: Worse. Even at its best and purest, it was really never a contender--occupying instead that sweet middle ground of cereals that are liked but not loved and remembered but not obsessed over.

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