Which is the Best Raisin Bran Cereal Brand?

Post, Kellogg's, Kirkland, Skinner Brands

Raisin Bran Breakfast Cereals

Raisin bran, also known as sultana bran in some countries, is a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal consisting of bran flakes and raisins. Bran flakes are typically made with whole wheat and wheat bran, plus some added sugar and other ingredients. Bran is the hard outer layer of the wheat grain, which is high in dietary fiber and other beneficial nutrients.

Kellogg's Post Kirkland Skinner

In the U.S., the most popular brands of raisin bran are Kellogg's and Post. Kellogg promotes its brand with the "smiling sun" mascot and advertises "two scoops of raisins in every box." Since there's no actual "scoop" measuring unit, the promotional claim is absurd. Post advertises their usage of Sun-Maid® brand raisins, although the raisin quality in the box bears no resemblance to genuine Sun-Maid raisins.

Another cereal brand is Kirkland, sold at Costco, which offers bulk (2-box) Post Raisin Bran under the Kirkland label, and sometimes their own (non-Post) Kirkland Signature organic raisin bran. Raisin bran cereal is also made by by Skinner, the company that originally invented the cereal. The Skinner company lost their trademark ownership of the Raisin Bran name in a 1944 court case against Kellogg, due to the fact that the name is simply a generic list of ingredients.

Raisin Brans 20162016 Update: My local Safeway store ran out of Safeway Kitchens house brand of bran flakes. I saw that Kellogg's Raisin Bran was on sale for about $3, so I got a box to try. I also got a box of Trader Joe's bran flakes, $3.

The Kellogg's cereal had thin, somewhat limp flakes and rather hard raisins with a sugary coating; I give them a grade of C+. The Trader Joe's flakes were thick, firm, and crunchy, and since there are no raisins, didn't suffer from the usual soggy flakes / hard raisins dilemma; I give them a grade of B+, but only because I like thin flakes better. If you like thick crunchy flakes, I recommend Trader Joe's for good quality and consistently low price.

Raisin bran cereals are typically enriched with vitamins, making your cereal nutritionally equivalent to some whole grain, some dried fruit, and a multivitamin pill with iron. Raisin bran cereals are all rather high in sugar due to the natural sugar in raisins and added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. The added folate and iron are beneficial, especially if you are a woman of child-bearing age, but too much supplemental folate can be undesirable if you are older. Check the nutrition label to make sure that the cereal meets your needs.

Which Brand Is Best?

So which brand of raisin bran tastes the best, offers the best nutrition, and has the best value? As far as taste is concerned, you'll have to try the cereals and decide for yourself, since there are no objective standards.

Here are two review websites that might help you decide:
In my opinion, the bran flakes should be thin and easily crushed, not thick or rigid; lightly crispy but not heavily crunchy. When milk is added, the flakes should stay crispy for a short time, and then become soggy if not eaten within a few minutes. This is not because sogginess is desirable, but because a truly thin, crispy flake will not hold up in a liquid. If you can't finish your bowl of cereal in a few minutes, then you should pour out a smaller serving, add the milk, and eat it. Then, if you want more, pour out another small serving.

The raisins should be moist and lightly chewy, not dry, dense, or hard; and there should be no obvious additives such as sugar or oil coating. In other words, they should be just like raisins that you buy in the store. The number of raisins should be enough for one or two raisins per spoonful of cereal at the most; more than that will overpower the main ingredient, bran flakes.

Basic Problem: Dry Flakes, Moist Raisins

This brings us to the basic problem with all raisin bran cereals. The flakes are dry and the raisins are moist, or they ought to be. So if you mix plain raisins with bran flakes and store them in a box, the moisture leaves the raisins and migrates to the flakes. This makes the raisins dry and tough, and the flakes halfway-soggy and un-crisp.

To mitigate this quality problem, cereal manufacturers treat the raisins with ingredients to help retain moisture, such as sugar-based and oil-based coatings, which affect the taste and mouth-feel of the raisins. None of these techniques are 100% effective, so you typically have raisins that are dryer and harder than fresh raisins.

Simple Solution: Bran Flakes and Added Raisins

There's a simple solution to the problem. Instead of a pre-mixed raisin bran cereal, buy a box of plain bran flakes and a package of fresh raisins, and store them separately.

Safeway plain bran flakes Raisins -- any good brand

At breakfast time, pour out a serving of bran flakes, sprinkle the desired number of fresh raisins, add the milk, and eat. You get crispy flakes and moist raisins, in just the perfect ratio for you. I like the Safeway house brand of bran flakes, which you can get for about $2 per box when they go on sale. There may be others that are equally good or better; give them a try and let me know how you like them.

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