Obama Killed Cap’n Crunch
Cap’n Crunch is going the way of Joe Camel.
MSNBC (“Cap’n Crunch sails into obscurity“):
Long derided by health experts for its high sugar content – a single serving contains 12 grams – the cereal is no longer being actively marketed by Quaker,DailyFinance reports. It appears parent company PepsiCo is forcing the good Cap’n to walk the plank.
Cap’n Crunch was once the No. 1 breakfast cereal, but pressure from the White House and health activists is having an effect on how PepsiCo and other food companies peddle their products to kids. Sales of the cereal were down 6.8 percent in 2010.
Suspicious MSNBC was hyping the political connection, I checked the Daily Finance original (“Is Cap’n Crunch Easing Quietly into Retirement?“). They’re taking the same tack:
Cap’n Horatio Magellan Crunch, who has sailed the Seven Seas for Quaker Oats since 1963, has fallen into the brand equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle.
The cartoon sailor is nowhere to be found on the Quaker website. Quaker’s corporate parent, PepsiCo (PEP), doesn’t go out of its way to trumpet its association with the Good Cap’n, either. He doesn’t even make an appearance in recipes for yummy treats such as Cap’n Crunch French Toast or Cap’n Crunch Ice Cream Pie.
The last press release I could find about the brand was in 2007 on a not-too-surprising survey that found that 83% percent of kids ages 8 to 13 thought it would be fun to be a pirate. For generations of children, Cap’n Crunch made eating cereal fun. According to nutritionists, this kind of food association is one of the reasons behind America’s soaring childhood obesity rates, which have doubled over the past 20 years.
Pressure from Washington
PepsiCo. and other food companies are under pressure from the White House — especially from First Lady Michelle Obama — to make their products healthier. Activists have long been irate over the marketing of sweetened cereals such as Cap’n Crunch to children. Last year, PepsiCo vowed to reduce added sugar per serving by 25% and saturated fat by 15% in its products over the next 10 years. This pressure may explain why the Cap’n is less visible than he was in years past. A company spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
“Our research shows that PepsiCo is no longer marketing Cap’n Crunch cereal directly to children. In a sense, you could say that they have retired Cap’n Crunch, and that’s a good thing,” writes Jennifer Harris, director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, in an email. “Unfortunately, children continue to view hundreds of ads per year for high-sugar cereals from General Mills, Kellogg’s and Post Foods.”
No Longer No. 1 Kids’ Brand
Cap’n Crunch generated more than $118.6 million in sales last year from supermarkets, drugstores and mass-market retailers, down 6.8% from a year earlier, according to data from Symphony Group/IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, which excludes sales from Walmart Stores (WMT), club stores and convenience stores. Overall cereal sales were $6.42 billion, down 3.25% versus 2009, the market researcher says. In 2007, PepsiCo called it “the number one kids, presweetened brand in the ready-to-eat cereals category.” That’s not the case now as private-label brands and competitors such as Cheerios are bigger sellers.
“No, [Cap’n Crunch] is not close to the top,” says Ryan Stredney, a spokesman for Symphony Group/IRI, in an email. “The whole brand line has under 2% market share of cold cereal.”
The cereal sailor is hardly the only underemployed spokesman. Ronald McDonald, too, has been sidelined by McDonald’s (MCD) as the fast-food giant tries to present a more sophisticated image to market expensive coffee drinks instead of Happy Meals, Bloomberg News recently reported.
The beloved cereal spokesman may be fading, but PepsiCo still keeps him around. The company includes Cap’n Crunch cereal on its list of brands both on its corporate website and annual report. And his image continues to appear on the cereal boxes. The company also maintains a Cap’n Crunch website, which trumpets that “It’s an excellent source of seven essential vitamins and minerals, is low in fat, and contains zero grams of trans fat per serving.”
Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries is tied for first on Rudd’s list of the least nutritional cereals marketed to children and families. Perhaps it’s time for the good Cap’n to retire from the cereal navy to avoid walking the plank.
A sign of the times, I suppose.
I ate various sugary cereals growing up, including all manner of Cap’n Crunch products that came and went (I seem to recall cinnamon and vanilla varieties; the peanut butter variety remains a very occasional indulgence), various chocolate flavored cereals that turned the milk brown, and cereals with cartoon characters like the Flintstones, Count Chocula, Frankenberry, Booberry, and others.
Somehow, I survived the experience thin and healthy. Perhaps it has something to do with another bygone tradition of youth: going outside to play.
UPDATE: The newly launched Cap’n Crunch website has “A special message from the Cap’n: Thanks to everyone who was asking about me! I was out on the seas, but don’t worry, i’m back and not going anywhere!”
The FAQs include an interesting bit of trivia: “The well known animator, Jay Ward created the Cap’n and his friends. Mr. Ward is also known for his other creations such as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, and George of the Jungle.”
Top image courtesy The Captains Memos, which I wouldn’t recommend for office viewing.