Columns

Cereal inconvenient? There's always donuts 2016.07.07

By RICH FOLEY

If any of you happened to be in New York City on Monday, I hope you had a chance to stop by the grand opening of Kellogg’s NYC, as the cereal maker began to sell cereal as a premium experience in a fancy setting located in Times Square. If successful, maybe it will help stop the slump in the cereal business.

In recent years, sales in the United States have slipped, with totals dropping over eight percent between 2010 and 2015. Projections are that things will get worse as market research shows that almost 40 percent of millennials think cereal is too inconvenient.

Too inconvenient? Yes, it turns out some younger folks are put off by the need to wash the bowl after they are finished with their Cap’n Crunch. That is part of the explanation for the rising sales of yogurt and breakfast bars. 

Of course, yogurt eaters still have that pesky dirty spoon to deal with, unless they punch a hole through the foil cover with a straw and suck the yogurt out. Then they can leave their garbage for someone else to deal with and get back to their lives of texting.

Meanwhile, back at Kellogg’s NYC, diners can try concoctions of various Kellogg cereals and other, much odder, ingredients. Say, for example, a combination of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Kellogg’s Special K, lemon zest, pistachios and, of all things, thyme. I’ll let someone else try that first.

I suppose if they also added parsley, sage and rosemary to the thyme, there’s always a chance that Paul Simon, or, more likely,  Art Garfunkel, might stop in for a bowl. If the cereal alone isn’t enough to attract them, maybe Kellogg’s plan to give away several tickets to the Broadway show “Hamilton” might drag them in. Or maybe dessert will be enough.

Among the dessert choices is ice cream, topped with Rice Krispies, strawberries and matcha powder. I have to admit I’ve never heard of matcha, either powdered or in original form. The fact that it’s not even in my gigantic dictionary makes me feel a little bit better. If anyone reading this knows what it is, congratulations.

But for a simple breakfast that doesn’t require any washing of bowls or utensils, it doesn’t get much easier than a donut. One town in Illinois even features them in an annual sporting event.

The town of Staunton (about 30 miles northeast of St. Louis) will be holding its 28th annual “Tour de Donut” on Saturday. It’s actually two sporting events in one. It combines a bicycle race (30 miles long according to Wikipedia, 34 miles according to a story in Men’s Health magazine) with a donut eating contest.

Riders receive a five minute reduction in their total elapsed time for each donut consumed at checkpoints. Any rider unable to keep his donuts down loses his or her time reduction so there’s no advantage to overstuffing yourself.

You’re probably shaking your head in disbelief by now, but last year there were about 1,200 participants. In 2011, over 1,600 riders actually finished the race. Similar copycat events have popped up in Michigan, Ohio, California, Utah and Texas. 

Last year’s Illinois winner was 39-year-old New Yorker Yasir Salem. After subtracting 250 minutes from his time due to successfully eating (and retaining) 50 donuts during the ride, Salem finished with a time of minus 96 minutes, blowing away, or perhaps more accurately, scarfing his way past his competitors. Despite the fact that he’s won five other donut races, Salem claims that he’s not especially athletic and he doesn’t really care for donuts. If nothing else, you have to admire his modesty.

If this sounds like a lot of trouble just to get a few donuts, I’ve got another idea. The last time I looked, the legendary box of Miracle Donuts is still residing under the dust bunnies in the Observer back room. Last December, they blew by their 16th birthday and are now more than halfway to number 17.

I’m thinking maybe we should have a Tour de Morenci consisting of a few blocks up North Street and back to the Observer office. Walk, run or bike, your choice. First ten finishers get a famous donut, guaranteed NOT suitable for eating. In fact, because of liability considerations, maybe winners should get matcha instead, if only I knew what it was.