This Halloween season, the cereal monsters are on the loose. Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry have consumers in their grasp — for a limited time only.
General Mills' line of "Monster Cereals" originally hit the market in the early '70s, but the company decided in 2010 they would only be available during the Halloween season.
"That was bad news for some people," says Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful food podcast.
Cereal fans found ways to get by. One of Pashman's podcast listeners turned her sister in Tucson, Ariz., into a "Boo Berry mule" by making her cross the border into Mexico to get the cereal.
"This artificial scarcity has kind of galvanized a cult following around this time of year for these cereals," Pashman tells Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin.
This year, Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy are also making a comeback. Frute Brute (formerly "Fruit Brute") went off the market in 1982; Yummy Mummy was pulled in '92.
The boxes aren't collectors' items — consumers do actually eat the cereal. "But not all at once," Pashman says. In fact, he says, cereal hoarders are always checking the expiration dates to see how long the cereal will last.
Pashman himself recently purchased a Boo Berry that's doesn't expire until September 2014. "I'm gonna hang on to that 'til supplies are low," he says, "and then that's my nest egg right there."
Sweetness aside, the Monster Cereals seem to have made a powerful imprint on parents.
"There really is something about these particular artificial flavors that tap into a very specific sense memory," Pashman says.
Sporkful podcast listener Rachel Gonzales told Pashman: "It still reminds me of that Saturday morning special treat that you could only eat every once in a while, and it's something now that I get to share with my own daughter ... It's really kind of nostalgic and exciting to me."
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. There's a little chill in the air. The leaves are changing color. Halloween is just around the corner. But for a select group of cereal eaters out there, that is not all October signifies. It's about hurry up, stock up, before it's too late. Dan Pashman, host of the Sporkful food podcast, is here to explain. Hey, Dan.
DAN PASHMAN: Hey, Rachel.
MARTIN: So who are we talking about here? Cereal hoarders? What are they hoarding?
PASHMAN: Well, in particular, we're talking about fans of the monster cereals. And the big three, you may know as Count Chocula, Boo-Berry and Franken Berry. Now, these cereals came out on the market in the early '70s and were popular for a long time. But then in 2010, General Mills took them off the market and said they're only going to be available now during the Halloween season. And that was bad news for some people. I mean, I spoke to one Sporkful listener, Tamara Cole, in Ann Arbor, Mich. She said that when they took Boo-Berry off the market, she made her sister in Tucson, Ariz., go down into Mexico to get her Boo-Berry. She turned her sister into a Boo-Berry mule.
PASHMAN: And so this artificial scarcity has kind of galvanized a cult following around this time for year, for these cereals. And this year is special 'cause they also brought back Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy, which had been out of production for decades.
MARTIN: Wow. So these people are incredibly committed to this kind of cereal, apparently.
PASHMAN: Yeah. They are very intense. I spoke to a Sporkful listener named Rachel Gonzales in Pottstown, P-A, and she is as passionate as you'd expect. Here she is, taking inventory.
RACHEL GONZALES: I have about eight boxes of Count Chocula, three boxes each of Boo Berry and Franken Berry. I do not have any Frute Brute. That is not a cereal my family has acquired a taste for.
MARTIN: This is not like baseball cards. These do not stay in the wrappers. They eat them.
PASHMAN: Yes. People take them out of their wrappers to eat them, but not all at once. In fact, a big deal, as people hoard them, is they always are checking the expiration dates because they want to see how long it's going to last. The other day, I got a Boo-Berry that's good until September 2014 - 'cause there's a whole resale market here. So that thing, I'm going to hang onto that until supplies are low and then that's my nest egg right there.
MARTIN: So you're a fan. You like these things.
PASHMAN: I mean, I think some are better than others. I'm not much of a fan of Frute Brute. It kind of has an artificial cherry flavor that to me, is reminiscent of cough syrup. Although, one note that I would add was that Frute Brute, when it was brought back now - it's been out of commission since 1982 - they changed the spelling. It used to be spelled Fruit Brute - F-R-U-I-T - and now it's F-R-U-T-E, which apparently...
MARTIN: Which is not a word.
PASHMAN: ...has to do with labeling restrictions and because there's no actual fruit in it, they had to change the spelling.
MARTIN: I imagine this is all - I mean, these things, they're really sugary; kids like them. But it's the adults buying them and, you know, there is an element, I imagine, of nostalgia in this?
PASHMAN: There really is something about these particular artificial flavors that tap into a very specific sense memory. You know, here's Rachel Gonzales again.
GONZALES: It still reminds me of that Saturday morning special treat that you could only eat every once in a while. And it's something that now I get to share with my own daughter. So, it's really kind of nostalgic and exciting to me.
MARTIN: I don't know. I might go out and try to find myself a box of Count Chocula.
PASHMAN: There you go.
MARTIN: Dan Pashman of the Sporkful food podcast. You can find it at Sporkful.com. Thanks so much, Dan.
PASHMAN: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.