To put it plainly, cereal and orange juice do not belong in a bowl together, but that doesn’t mean shit to Tropicana. The same company that dabbled in OJ-friendly toothpaste has decided that milk needs a competitor in the breakfast cereal space. Enter: Tropicana Crunch, a honey almond blend designed to pair with orange juice instead of milk. It is a limited-time offering, and that’s probably a good thing.
When it comes to cereal pairings, milk has won the championship game while orange juice doesn’t even attend a Division 1 school. Sports metaphors aside, this was an opportunity for a taste test I have to admit I was initially very intrigued by.
According to a press release shared with The Takeout, Tropicana commissioned a survey and found that 15 million Americans have tried orange juice with their cereal and 52 million are willing to try it out. The funny thing about these facts is that not a single one reveals whether people actually liked the combination of cereal and orange juice. Regardless, Tropicana doesn’t seem to have very high hopes for this limited-time offering anyway. “Whether you loved it or loathed it, at least you can say you tried it,” explains the press release. Not encouraging.
Tasting a spoonful of the dry cereal on its own is comparable to Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds. In fact, what I like about the cereal itself is that it actually has a stronger almond flavor to it than a honey flavor, and it is less sweet than you’d normally expect from breakfast cereal. Perhaps the sweetness factor was dialed down to account for the sweetness in the juice. If so, that was a smart choice—but it’s not enough to save this abomination of a breakfast.
Remember that survey Tropicana was boasting about in its press release? Well, the survey also reveals that half of the adults who poured OJ over their cereal did so because they thought it looked like it would taste good. I can confirm every single one of those adults is dead wrong. I was cautiously optimistic about trying this out, but just looking at the juice as it mingled with the cereal, I couldn’t help but be disgusted on sight. Call me childish, but it looks like pee.
Something within me instinctually said no, and upon first bite those instincts were proven right.
“I don’t even want to swallow it,” said my fellow taste tester, managing editor Marnie Shure, who like me could not ignore her visceral reaction to the combo. It could be purely psychological, but cereal and orange juice in one bite caused a physical repulsion.
Beyond that, the citrus juice combined with the almond crunch led to an oddly bitter mouthful. At first it was too sweet, but then quickly after, the entire spoonful tasted like the white pith that you avoid eating when you peel an orange. And that’s the taste you’re left with in your mouth.
Maybe it was a personal bias at play, but the orange juice didn’t seem to interact with the cereal the way milk does. The mixture stayed solid and crunchy, and the orange juice appeared to make the whole thing denser, almost like the two elements actively did not want to be together.
Hats off to Tropicana for creating a delicious not-too-sweet cereal, and for the continued production of refreshing orange juice, but shame on Tropicana for bringing the two together. To paraphrase the words written on the back of the Tropicana Crunch box itself, this is the first cereal made for OJ and hopefully the last. Good thing all the boxes have been claimed already.