How very special (K)

Mr. Tidbit knows he has already ranted -- frequently -- about wildly overpriced packaging of grocery products in boxes of single-portion or 100-calorie (or 90-calorie) packs. And he also knows he has already ranted -- frequently (but not recently) -- about Kellogg's Special K products. In those "Special K" rants, he points out that "Special K" does not signify that the product in question is similar nutritionally to Kellogg's vitamin- and mineral-enhanced Special K cereal. "Special K," Mr. Tidbit notes, is simply a brand name, and it implies nothing about the nutritional profile of the various products so named.

Today Mr. Tidbit is delighted to report on a new product, Special K crackers, that allows him to do a rare combined double-rant.

Let's take the brand-name thing first: A serving of original Special K cereal is fortified with 35 to 100 percent of the daily values of nine vitamins and minerals and from 4 to 15 percent of four others. A serving of Special K crackers has 4 percent of the daily value of one of those vitamins and minerals and 0 percent of 12 of them.

And: Special K crackers are available in an 8-ounce box or a box of six 90-calorie bags (totaling 4.62 ounces). They sell for the same price, so the 90-calorie bags cost 73 percent more per ounce.

But that's not all. The front of the 8-ounce box carries a "90 calories" badge, which adds, in smaller type, "per 17 crackers." But the side of the box has two sets of nutrition information -- for a serving of 17 crackers (22 grams) and for a serving of 24 crackers (30 grams, which contains 120 calories).

A note on the side panel offers this puzzling explanation: "Why two serving sizes? We suggest a 90-calorie serving for a satisfying snack to keep you on track." Apparently they had to offer the 24-cracker analysis, for gluttons.

AL SICHERMAN