Same Cereal, Different Name


Cereal is one of the most popular breakfast foods in the United States. With it being simple to prepare, it’s no surprise nearly 50% of Americans start their day with it. But with its popularity comes jealousy. It’s become normalized for companies to make an off-brand version of your favorite breakfast cereal in order to make a quick buck. Question is: are they as bad as we think? 

Some brands don’t believe they’re worth the trouble; many don’t waste time suing. Copyright isn’t as black and white as we’d expect it to be. While a brand can be copyrighted, a recipe or food group cannot. It can be attempted, but the amount of time some believe the pay off wouldn’t be worth it. Out of fear someone will find a loophole, many companies don’t even attempt it. According to the small business website Chron, “it is not necessary to copy an entire work in order to be guilty of copyright infringement under copyright law.” which is a work around off-brand products love to exploit. 

But while their backgrounds can be a bit sketchy, knockoff cereals do some good for customers. KPRC-TV found that off-brand cereals have a price difference ranging from 1-4 dollars from the recipes they’re based on. Multiple food bloggers have stated that there can be as much as a 40% price difference between the original cereals and their knockoffs. 

We’ve been eating knock-off cereal far more often than we thought. With it being the much cheaper alternative to the average breakfast, there are some businesses such as hotels that choose to knock off cereals as opposed to regular. “I’ve had it before, but sometimes it’s hard to tell,” says Joanna Navagh, a senior at Wauconda. “It can taste a little off sometimes, but if you’re not used to the taste, you don’t notice it’s a knock-off.” 

Some people like Katrina Pickup, a former student at Wauconda, say the difference between off-brand and on aren’t so different. “I buy whichever is available, but one isn’t above the other. I buy the on-brand stuff when I can, but I think if push comes to shove them off-brands are decent substitutes. Definitely not the same quality, but when a person has to eat, they gotta eat.” 

Off-brand cereals hold a question: are we in the wrong? Most brand’s recipes aren’t protected by copyright, and their prices can be extreme. Off-brand cereals offer a cheaper alternative with a slight—if any—difference from the original. An argument can be made on whether or not what off-brand cereals are morally wrong, but regardless of opinion, they’re likely to stay in business. The convenience of their product is sometimes too hard to resist.