By Erika Scopino
The other day I was at the grocery store having my usual cereal aisle dilemma. I’m not picky about my cereal and certainly wouldn’t call myself brand loyal. What I buy typically depends on whether a) I’m trying to eat healthy or b) something’s on sale. Often, the latter wins out.
With the average box of cereal running around three or four bucks (sometimes five for the real healthy stuff), “2 for $5” or “2 for $4” can sound pretty convincing. So, given that I’m not too particular, a good deal is often enough to seal the deal.
A few weeks ago, I discovered a new competitor (I use that term loosely) in the cereal aisle. In addition to the brand name and store brand cereals, there was now what I’d describe as a super-cheap option. The problem? The box was super-bare. I recall just an orange background and standard white writing – no fun font, no exclamations like “half the sugar!” or “mom approved!” – and most notable of all, no image.
The name of the cereal was self-explanatory so there was no confusion as to what was inside. I knew what I was getting. But I didn’t want it. Not even for a $1.
Like many shoppers who love a good deal, I have my limits. Sometimes I’ll see a price that appears too good to be true, causing me to question the quality of the product or service at hand. And while cereal with a $1 price tag might cause me to question quality, I honestly think the no-frills, zero-image box was simply too jolting for my normally over-stimulated eyes to handle. I needed to see that cereal in all its photo-shopped glory, with a waterfall of creamy whole milk splashing onto glistening flakes or oat clusters and perhaps some plump strawberries thrown in for good measure.
Of course, a beautiful (or in this case delicious-looking) image will help sell an otherwise hidden product. But I think cereal suggests a special case of image addiction. When I turn into the cereal aisle, I’ve already anticipated the rainbow of colors, cartoon mascots, close-ups of grain and friendly USDA food pyramid graphics. If you have any recollection of going grocery shopping as a young child, the cereal aisle is probably a large part of that memory.
So if you’re frugal, you’ll be happy to know that $1 cereal exists and you can find it in some mainstream grocery stores. But if, like me, you need that classic cereal close-up that makes you think “yep, that’ll be good in the morning,” you’ll probably end up paying a few extra bucks for something with more visual appeal. As cereal commercials so eloquently suggest, your breakfast choices dictate how the rest of your day will go. I guess I just need to know my day will be slightly more interesting than an orange box.