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I was brushing the cat this morning when it occurred to me that whilst I often clack on about the ethics (or lack of them) associated with big brand name foods and toiletries, I very rarely review ethical food products. 'We'll have to do something about that, won't we Stinks?' I said to the cat before she gave me that 'whatever' look and went off to lick her bottom or such like. I really struggle to find a breakfast cereal that I like enough to keep buying. I guess this isn't that surprising. It's not like we all have exactly the same thing for dinner week in week out so why should breakfast be any different? I have a bit of a sweet tooth at breakfast time. As a child, I was addicted to brands that combined chocolate with cereal; things like Kellogg's Coco Pops and Nestle Coco Shreddies (shudder) for example. It was the way the chocolate would come off the cereal and flavour the milk that I used to like. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to recreate my childhood but, given that I'd rather DIE than buy a Nestle branded product, I was forced to consider the alternatives. Whole Earth Foods was formed back in the late 1960s and based its ethos around natural, healthy foods. They are one of the earliest 'ethical' food manufacturers around and have become increasingly successful in recent years as demand for organic food has soared. Their food is free from artificial colours, preservatives and flavours and they're committed to ensuring that all their food is organic, whether it's an every day product like ketchup or a treat like a cake. One of the company's founders (Craig Sams) now chairs the Soil Association, whose organic food standards are more comprehensive than any other in the world. Whole Earth produced the first organic pasta, the first organic cola and many other organic products that we now take for granted. You can buy certain Whole Earth products in larger supermarkets. Waitrose sells a particularly good range, but I've seen them in Tesco and Sainsburys too. I should add that the Whole Earth web site is particularly useful for this kind of information. If you go to http://www.wholeearthfoods.com/how-and-where-to-buy/ - you will find a chart of which products are sold in which supermarkets. The Cocoa Bears are only sold in Waitrose. This cereal is sold in a relatively small 250g box. Realistically, this wouldn't last the week if you had more than one child, which seems a little bit silly to me, when the target audience comprises young families. The box is, of course, entirely recyclable. I'm assuming that the strange metallic-looking plastic bag can also be recycled (it was certainly accepted by my local collection anyway). The design of this (and indeed all Whole Earth products) is rather retro. It's like they've been caught in a 1960s time warp and I rather like it. This one is, unsurprisingly, targeted more at children but it's not excessively done in the way that Kelloggs do it, for example, and you certainly won't find those nasty free 'complete waste of natural resource' toys that the big manufacturers give away. The 'bears' look almost identical to the savoury Pom Bear crisps that you can buy and are roughly the same shape and size. They don't look _terribly_ bear like, if we're honest, but they're eye-catching and unusual, nonetheless. They're made from maize, wheat, rice and rye and are very thin and light. They're not heavy and solid like a Shreddie and a small quantity simply floats in milk. They don't smell particularly strong. Unlike cereals like Coco Pops that kind of hit you with a strong chocolate odour, these smell a bit like biscuits and only ever so slightly nutty. When you first add the milk, they sort of bob around a bit, and the first thing you notice is that they don't really seem to go soggy. Curiously, they're almost waterproof and unless you stir them around quite vigorously (or leave them a long time) the chocolate doesn't seem to come off in the milk very easily. Certainly, they don't have the same effect as Coco Pops, where the milk turns instantly brown and by the end of the bowl is almost like chocolate milk shake. For my tastes, they're a little bland and I'm quite sure that most children would agree. The texture is a little like polystyrene, but not quite as chewy. The chocolate taste is subtle - you could be forgiven for thinking there is any cocoa content here at all - but then it's a more natural chocolate taste, as opposed to the very artificial taste of other chocolate breakfast cereals. The cereal content is such that you could imagine both a savoury and a sweet variety of these, rather like Snack a Jacks. They're a perfectly adequate, filling breakfast but it must be said that they aren't the most thrilling of taste experiences. They'd probably appeal more to adults than children, in all honesty. The whole point about Whole Earth foods, of course, is that they're not pumped full of nasties and the ingredients list here comprises only: Maize, sugar, flour (wheat and rye), rice, wheat syrup, cocoa powder, chocolate powder, honest and salt Of course, all the ingredients are organic (or are approved non-organic, like salt) but whilst they're suitable for vegetarians, allergists should note the wheat, rye, gluten and soya content. I like the fact that the nutritional information is shown compared to the GDA for a 5-10 year old child. This is a more realistic representation of the sort of person who would be eating this cereal. The fat content is extremely low at 1.5% overall and comprises only 4% of the child's GDA. The sugar content is higher, however, at 36% overall, 20% of the child's GDA. Realistically, it strikes me that a child having consumed 20% of his/her daily allowance before he/she even leaves the house is off to a bad start but within the boundaries of a balanced diet this might be OK. These are OK. Full marks to Whole Earth for the company's ongoing ethics and for maintaining high natural standards in the food. However, my personal belief is that there shouldn't really be a need to play to the traditional idea that children need specific, sugary breakfast cereals and these bears do start to go down that route, with limited effect. I'm not sure the taste of these is enough for the average child OR adult and whilst they're certainly not unpleasant, they won't have you rushing for the next bowl. They're also impractical. At £2.49 for 250g, they're understandably more expensive than non-organic brands but the small box size (which seems to be Whole Earth's attempt to make them seem less expensive) wouldn't even last a week in the average household. So although I appreciate the company food ethics here, I'd struggle to recommend these to your average busy family with hungry children wanting tasty breakfasts.
I love these little "Cocoa Bears" made by Whole Earth! My son does too and he is 17 so you don't need to be a tot to appreciate them. Wholeearth is a well established company who specialise in the production of really healthy whole foods and have done for over 40 years. Their origins were in a small restaurant called Seed in London back in 1967 when two brothers who owned it got together to form the company. They even managed to invent the vegeburger along the way! The brothers Craig and Gregory Sams can claim great things as it was Gregory who invented the vegeburger, and Craig went on to chair the Soil Association, which is the watchdog for organic farming standards. In between this they also ran "Ceres Grain" a natural food store. Wholeearth make lots of products including fruit spreads and peanut butter, and they do so with a passion for the environment (even their offices are carbon neutral). These "Tasty Cocoa Bears" are simply divine little multigrain teddies that lie together in the packet like identical jackstraws, and when you pour them they become a gorgeous little bowl of childhood waiting for the milk, or whatever adornment you fancy to go on top. They also make a great film snack instead of popcorn too! Grown organically and not containing any artificial colours, preservatives, or flavourings, these are appealing to all the family. The packet is attractively designed and the front has an image of a rather friendly looking brown bear. The cereal is low in fat but it does contain honey. Each little teddy is crunchy and tastes really chocolaty, and as long as you fold down the inner bag the cereal stays nice and crisp until you have finished the packet, which is not long in our house! My son says he thinks they are very similar to Weetos, but less sugary, and he loves the chocolate flavour which lies between dark and milk chocolate, giving them appeal to all ages, not just young children who are obviously the target market for this product. They turn the milk a lovely chocolate brown and the bears stay crunchy for quite a while in the murky pool. You can use hot milk and I like them with Alpro Soya milk which seems to compliment the flavour really well. Ideal for vegetarians but not for those with an allergy to wheat, rye, gluten, soya or nuts-not that it contains nuts but it is made in a factory in Switzerland which handles them. I compared the calories and the fat and sugar content to Kellogg's Coco Pops and to be honest the values are almost identical, except that of course this is organic and the Kellogg's cereals have added vitamins which is either a good or bad thing depending on whether you are happy to eat fortified products. I buy ours from Waitrose for £2.29 for a 250g packet, and you can buy it from other outlets which sell Wholeearth products and they are often on offer. To summarise I think they are a lovely cereal which we love but I can't give them 5* as they are expensive and actually share the same fat and sugar content as the normal cereals. High marks though for being organic and wholegrain (and for cuteness!) They are like the Pombears of the cereal world, and like the crisps really have that lovely carefree days feel about them. I must confess I enjoy a good film with a bowl of these quite often and I love the company who make them because their heart is in the right place.