Students respond to changes to cereal at dining halls

South Campus Marketplace (Courtesy/UConn Dining Services)

Students at the University of Connecticut have noticed changes to the selections of cereals in the dining halls after Dining Services switched over to a dispenser system.

Dining Services reached out to Post Consumer Brands and General Mills cereal companies and ultimately made the change with Post. Post offered Dining Services the dispensers for no additional cost and will cover the cost of replacing dispensers, Michael White, the Assistant Director of Residential Dining, said.

Dining Services surveyed 150 students about their favorite cereals last year. The top five were, in order of preference, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cheerios, Cap’n Crunch, Apple Jacks and Cocoa Krispies.  

Dining halls now serve Post-brand equivalents of most of the top-voted cereals such as Cinnamon Toasters in place of the more-recognizable Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Marshmallow Mateys instead of Lucky Charms.  

“They’re not the [name] brands,” Charith Tirumani, a third-semester actuarial science major, said of the change. “I feel like they do [taste] a little bit [different].”

Before implementing the change, Dining Services conducted a taste test with students and members of the management team over the summer.  

“From a taste standpoint, it’s pretty neutral. I know some students would disagree,” White said.

Dining Services has continued to stock some non-Post cereals such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.

“This wasn’t going to be Post across the board, we wanted to keep some (other brands) due to their popularity or their uniqueness,” White said.

White said Dining Services will be returning the Post products of Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles, replacing their current equivalents.

Dining Services now offers a selection of 20 cereals, decreased from 35 last year.

“It [was] kind of a big number, almost an unnecessary number.,” White said. “Now it’s really based on shelf-space, where we could fit the dispensers.”

One student noticed an apparent decrease in the number of “healthy cereals”.

“There’s not as much healthy cereal,” Chloe Ludden, a first-semester exercise science major, said.

South Dining Unit has the most variety with 16 dispensers. The contents of all dispensers may be rotated to increase students’ options.

White said, in addition to cutting costs, questions of sustainability played a role in the decision to switch to the dispensers.

“This is not an elimination of cardboard and bags, but now, instead of 16 boxes of cereal, it’s one box with two bags,” White said. “Those [questions of sustainability] have always been important things to me when it comes to how we handle our waste, those were a part of the conversation.”

Dining Services is also looking to include nutritional information about the cereals via a scannable QR code on the labels on the front of the dispensers.

White said Dining Services is always looking to manage costs in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the quality of their services.

“We’re always looking at ways to manage costs in an effective manner that doesn’t reduce quality,” White said. “We don’t want to be known as the department that is cutting cost at the expense of the meals [or] the food that we offer.”



Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anna.aldrich@uconn.edu. She tweets @ZarraAnna.