In the third and final part of this serial on cereal we take a look at the lovable cereal mascots that have come to dominate the industry. If you’ve missed the earlier sections to this feature: go here for PART 1 and go here for PART 2
In the wake of C.W Post’s marketing ingenuity came an advertising standard that would see cereals become a childhood staple – the mascot.
As early as the 30’s, lovable cartoon mascots were being paired with cereals. Breakfast cereal started to veer away from its healthy beginnings, becoming increasingly sugary; it would soon be aimed at children. Bug eyed caricatures looked longingly out from flashy boxes, urging customers in for another spoonful.
The following are some of the more noteworthy cereal mascots to have graced our breakfast tables. Interestingly, most are American mascots with only a few ever making it to Australian shores.
Snap, Crackle and Pop
The oldest and most iconic of cereal mascots would have to be Rice Bubbles’ (Rice Krispies in the US) Snap, Crackle and Pop. These elvan brothers were the first cereal mascots to be created. Back in the early 1930’s famous illustrator Vernon Grant created the gnome-like Snap who first appeared on a packet of Kellogg’s Rice Bubbles in 1933. Snap was soon accompanied by his two brothers Crackle and Pop. Snap, the oldest brother, has always worn a baker’s hat. Crackle, the middle of the two, has always worn a strange unidentifiable red and white striped beanie. The youngest brother Pop has always worn a military marching band cap. For a brief period of time a fourth elf was introduced named Pow. According to commercials he represented the powerful nutritional punch that Rice Bubbles can deliver. Not surprisingly he was dropped as kids don’t really want to hear about the awesome power of nutrition.
The big marketing draw that Rice Bubbles has always drawn on is the interesting sound the cereal makes when milk is added. The following are the different onomatopoeic noises used to describe Rice Bubbles’ Snap, Crackle and Pop in various countries:
Belgium – Pif! Paf! Pof!
Denmark – Pif! Paf! Puf!
Finland – Poks! Riks! Raks!
Germany – Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!
Holland – Pif! Paf! Pof!
Italy – Pif! Paf! Pof!
Norway – Piff! Paff! Puff!
Sweden – Piff! Paff! Puff!
Switzerland – Piff! Paff! Poff!
South Africa – Knap! Knaetter! Knak!
Canadian French – Cric! Crac! Croc!
Mexico – Pim! Pum! Pam!
Toucan Sam is a cartoon bird that has an impeccable sense of smell corresponding to his catch phrase: ‘Follow my nose! It always knows! The flavour of fruit! Where ever it grows!’ Toucan Sam has been the mascot for Froot Loops since the early 60’s, and has been voiced by a number of different actors, most notably Mel Blanc who is famous for voicing a host of Warner Bros characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig etc.
Originally Toucan Sam’s beak featured two pink stripes, until the early 70’s when red, yellow and orange were introduced, supposedly representing the coloured pieces of the cereal.
Since 1994, Toucan Sam has been foiling evil cereal thieves in a series of exploits featuring his nephews, Puey, Susey and Louie; an almost blatant rip off of Scrooge McDuck’s nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie who featured in the mid 90’s cartoon, Duck Tales.
Coco the monkey
Arguably the most famous Australian cereal mascot is Coco the monkey, the brand ambassador for Kellogg’s Coco Pops. For nearly four decades Coco has been gracing our mornings with his cheeky grin and his willingness to turn a blind eye to basic nutrition. Recently in the United States, Coco Pops, known as Cocoa Rice Crispies, have come under fire for their new slogan: ‘Now helps your child’s immunity.’ Despite the fact that the cereal is nearly one-third sugar and contains nearly a third of a child’s daily intake of sodium in just one 30 gram serving.
When the cereal was first released in America, a number of different mascots vied for the number one spot. The cartoon leaders changed so often it reads like a Tudor power struggle. The first mascot in 1958, Jose the chimpanzee, came under fire from Mexican-Americans who believed the figure was a racial stereotype. In a bid to smooth things over, Kellogg’s employed the lovable Hannah-Barbera character Snagglepuss to take the lead. Snugglepuss was soon overthrown by Ogg the caveman who briefly championed the cereal before Tusk the elephant reined for some ten years from 1971 to 1981. Tusk hung up his crown when the young Snap, Crackle and Pop kids (The rice bubbles mascots) held joint rule for a further nine years. In 1991, like King Arthur rising to his call, Coco the monkey finally took his rightful place as true king of breakfast cereals. He ruled and surveyed his kingdom for a prosperous ten years before being savagely avenged by Snap, Crackle and Pop, who took back their crown and till this very day command the land of fair Cocoa Rice Crispies. Although here in Australia Coco the monkey still reigns supreme.
Mister Coffee Nerves
As a sort of anti-mascot, Post’s coffee replacement Postum touted Mister Coffee Nerves, a sinister trouble maker. In a series of 1950’s propaganda comics designed to publicise the evils of coffee, Mister Coffee Nerves would go about ruining marriages, possessing housewives and forcing their children to run away to a life of vagrancy. In each episode a trusted professional would diagnose them as having ‘coffee nerves’. One particular scene finishes with: ‘Let your lawyer give you some good advice… You and George need a divorce from coffee – not from each other! Caffeine in coffee can cause nervousness, indigestion, sleepless nights… Try Postum – it’s 100% caffeine-free!’
What happened to you cereal? You’ve changed man
It’s interesting to see how much cereal has changed in just over 100 years. From its humble beginnings as a proponent of God and good health to what it has become today – a bug-eyed sugar fiend, luring kids into a life of syringe dependent diabetes.
The Australian Cancer Council, backed by the Obesity Coalition and The Parents’ Jury are seeking a ban on mascots, movie tie-ins and athletes who are promoting food products aimed at children that are over loaded with fat, sugar and salt – no surprises, cereal being one of the major culprits.
According to a recent article in the Herald Sun ‘the University of Sydney’s Prevention Research Collaboration found nearly 74 per cent of promotional characters on Australian food packets promoted products to children that would fail healthy nutritional standards.’
Obesity Policy Coalition senior adviser Jane Martin has stated that Toucan Sam, Snap, Crackle and Pop, and Coco the monkey need to go. Truly a sad day for cereal lovers, but a necessary move if we’re to control the growing obesity issue.
Has cereal gone too far? Could it ever revert back to the wholly nutritious meal it was intended to be? Not likely. One thing is for sure though; John Harvey Kellogg has set up a special Sanitarium in Hell for all those over-weight, masturbating children of the world.
Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!