Consumer Watchdog: Hunt for a cereal killer

By Kathryn Powley

What has happened to those favourite Kiwi breakfast biscuits?

Joan Rogers no longer likes Weet-Bix.  Photo / Michael Craig
Joan Rogers no longer likes Weet-Bix. Photo / Michael Craig

It's been said loud and clear: Weet-Bix ain't what it used to be.

So say the many Herald on Sunday readers who swamped us with letters and emails after a story in last week's paper. Thirteen-year-old Baje Charman reckoned something had definitely changed in her favourite breakfast cereal. It tasted different and was soaking up more milk than previously.

"I think I might actually stop eating it because, personally, I don't really like it," said the Flatbush, Auckland teen, who launched a Facebook page called "No More Australian Weet-Bix".

Joan Rogers of Bucklands Beach agreed with Baje. She has always been a big fan of Weet-Bix but believed it was now lighter, flakier and crumblier.

"I enjoyed it as a snack. Cutting it in half and spreading it with butter and Vegemite, but alas no longer, it just breaks up. There's no way it is the same as it used to be."

About three months ago she thought, "Why am I putting up with this?" and wrote to the manufacturer, Sanitarium, to find out what had happened.

The company replied saying Weet-Bix was just the same as always and sent her a voucher to spend at the supermarket.

But Joan was adamant. "It has definitely been changed and not for the better."

She said Weet-Bix was a healthy, affordable food and an "institution", so it was disappointing that she couldn't find out what was really going on.

Her concerns were supported by other Herald on Sunday readers, such as Kerry, no surname supplied, who wrote to say Weet-Bix "now have as much flavour as the cardboard box they come in". Kerry believed the biscuits were paler than before, and told Sanitarium so.

"I spoke to an officious-sounding lady in customer services who told me I was imagining things and Sanitarium had never, and would never, change the recipe of Weet-Bix. I told her several of my friends had also noticed a change in Weet-Bix. I got the same curt reply. I got the impression this was not the first time she had been asked."

Kerry had now switched to Vita-Brits, also made by Sanitarium, but wondered: "What are they hiding, and why?".

Well, Sanitarium has again said it has nothing to hide. An investigation is under way to get to the bottom of what's going on. General manager Pierre van Heerden said there'd been no change in the recipe. However, with the closure of its Christchurch plant, some product was being brought in from Australia, and more made in Auckland. The company said it was taking the matter seriously and was tracking batch numbers.

The Herald on Sunday will keep boxing on for answers.

Taste and crunch missing from morning feed

Missing malt

I agree about Weet-Bix soaking up far more milk than before and sometimes being like a brick to break up (Soggy Weet-Bix a puzzle, November 4). I have been eating these Weet-Bix with hot milk for 55 years now and they have definitely changed lately. They also don't have the same nice malty taste I used to enjoy. Until the last couple of months I was using cup of milk on my two Weet-Bix but now I am having to use a cup, otherwise they are just a couple of dry lumps. I am thinking of trying other brands as I no longer enjoy them but they are one of the healthiest breakfast cereals at a reasonable price.
Sandra Reid, Whangarei

Crunch gone

I too think that Weet-Bix have changed. I have been making a Weet-Bix slice for years and recently the Weet-Bix have felt like they are stale when I crunch them up. Definitely a different feel than they used to be.
Nicola Thomas, Auckland

Bring back Bix

I agree with Baje regarding her comments on Weet-Bix.
I have been eating them for more than 40 years and started as a small kid. When I was aged between 14 and 16, I used to eat 13 Weet-Bix for my breakfast. I was a very fit and athletic youngster and I needed all the energy. I remember in those days the biscuits were fresh and crispy and had some crunch to them. I have noticed for the last 18 months or so that the Weet-Bix of today are nothing like the old type. I still eat Weet-Bix (only three a day now) and probably won't ever give them up but I am disappointed with the quality.
Reece Hood

Conspiracy theory

Thought I was going around the bend here. The current Weet-Bix are definitely absorbing more milk really quickly. Do Sanitarium have a joint venture going with Fonterra then?
Kevin Murphy, via email

kathryn.powley@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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