Hay’s Daze: Alpha snits about Alpha-Bits

Here’s a question for you: Why do companies think they have to introduce “new and improved” products to replace your old and excellent products that don’t need to be new or improved and end up being way worse than your original favourite products? And, also: Why did it have to be Alpha-Bits?

True story: I happened to have a hankering for a nice bowl of good ole Alpha-Bits the other day. Not sure why, but I occasionally get these kind of hankerings and I suddenly had a serious craving for some sweet crunchy little letters of the alphabet. And it was a heavy enough hankering that I actually headed to the grocery store and picked up a box of Alpha-Bits. I also carried it to the checkout, paid for it and took it home. But here’s the thing – when I got home, I noticed something I should have noticed before. The box said “New & Improved!” Oh oh.

And my oh oh was, unfortunately, oh no!

They’ve messed with my favourite breakfast cereal. They’ve changed the ingredients, and not only that, they’ve made the delicious little letters bigger. A LOT bigger, and LOT less delicious. I took one spoonful and I immediately wanted to dig into the box and find enough oversized letters to spell out several four-letter words.

Gravely disappointed, I slumped down to my office dungeon and immediately engaged in intensive research by Googling: “What in the world happened to Alpha-Bits??” This led me to a site called “Cerealously” (seriously!) which is a fancy, in depth blog solely dedicated to breakfast cereal (yes, cereal). Cerealously was all over the Alpha-bit controversy. They said: “The letters are jumbo, bloated versions of their former selves… the flavour is stripped down to nearly nothing, too. Sure, the same base, un-toasted oat flavour is there, but the honey butter kiss has been replaced by the faintest vanilla sneeze.”

And they were right on about the sneeze; those folks at Cerealously are certainly serious about their cereal. And the blog includes comments – dozens and dozens of comments – all of which had the same Alpha-Bit angst. Let’s just say people are less than impressed with the Post cereal company and their “new and improved” inflated, oversized Cardboard-Bits.

“Alpha-Bits is a tasteless regression that leaves me borrowing some Cheerios to spell ‘Booooooo!’” read one comment. Others could feel the pain: “The new ones are horrible. My daughter lived them as they were before the change, and so did I! Now I’m just depressed.” Also: “I miss my sweet letters. Do not even waste the coffee sugar on this garbage … how is a small child supposed to eat letters the size of a silver dollar?” “And: Post, you absolute (expletive deleted). I just spent $50 on three boxes getting them in the UK. To my horror, a puffed up flavourless mess has replaced my special Saturday morning regression into childhood. A pox on your house!”

And these are some of the milder reactions from people in the throes of Alpha-Snits. They were even comparing it to one of the greatest debacles in the annals in the history of pigging out – “New Coke.” Remember how the Coca Cola company actually tried to change the taste of the most popular beverage in the world? Some of us barely survived the near catastrophe. And now this.

But as one out-of-control Alpha-Bit fanatic put it: “Maybe a localized space-time anomaly cast me into an alternate universe which reversed good and bad? And who Googles about a cereal on a Sunday morning???”

To which I had to immediately admit: “Who writes an entire column about cereal on a Saturday morning???”

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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