Cereal Killer

With generic brands, HUDS opts for health over taste

Students who take for granted that a bowl of Cheerios or Cinnamon Toast Crunch tastes the same in the dining hall and at home have been met with a back-to-school surprise.

Gone are the Kelloggs and General Mills. Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) has replaced their old selection of brand name cereals with less expensive and, in some cases, organic alternatives made by Malt-O-Meal and Nature’s Path.

“These cereals are so healthy that after a few bites your body starts to shiver,” joked Rudolf Gautschi, assistant director of residential dining.

He said HUDS decided to switch cereal providers in response to surveys in which students requested more organic and soy-based options.

The switch also has allowed HUDS to cut costs.

“We did save some money in the switch,” Gautschi said. “And we will be able to make some tradeoffs with that money, like featuring fair trade bananas on Fridays.”

Gautschi said HUDS planned the switch over the summer.

“We had a blind tasting where we put the cereals we used to offer next to the new product and the result was that there was no difference,” he said.

The panel of tasters included members of the HUDS purchasing department, HUDS chefs, and a group of student interns.

But for some, the new cereals did not fare so well at their first real test—their dining hall debut.

“I’m so angry about the fake cereal,” Aneil K. Kovvali ’07 said during dinner last night. “The Honey Graham Squares just don’t taste like the real thing.”

His companions seemed less concerned with the switch, even when Kovvali reminded them that breakfast is the “most important meal of the day.”

At another table, Miranda E. Dugi ’05, said “I think if they had left the names the same on the bins, then no one would have noticed.”

After hearing about the change, Lisa Y. Leung ’07 left the table and came back with a bowl full of Hemp Granola. “It’s disgusting,” she said upon her first bite. But she kept munching. “It’s actually okay,” she said after a few more handfuls. “But it does taste different than what I’m used to.”

Though Leung needed to adjust to the new crunch, Gautschi said the granola is his favorite of the new cereals. “I’d almost put the soy granola side by side with our granola,” he said, referring to the granola that HUDS bakes–and will continue to bake—from scratch. “It’s a little lighter, a little healthier.”

Student diners, however, seemed indifferent to the health benefits of the new cereal. Flax, quinoa and soy didn’t evoke any strong reactions from diners last night, who were more concerned with whether or not Lucky Charms would still be available.

Not quite.

But Marshmallow Mateys purportedly taste the same.

—Staff Writer Wendy D. Widman can be reached at widman@fas.harvard.edu.