Cap’n Crunch Will Not Retire, But He Probably Should

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Is Cap’n Crunch retiring or not? Earlier this week, news reports noted that parent company PepsiCo had quietly removed the Quaker Oats spokescartoon from its first-string marketing roster — possibly under pressure from the White House and obesity experts to make kids’ food healthier. Then, on Thursday, Quaker Oats suddenly reinvigorated the Cap’n’s presence online.

The Cap’n Crunch family of cereals are still absent from the Quaker Oats website, but they do have their own homepage, which has been newly revamped. “Thanks to everyone who was asking about me!” Cap’n Horatio Magellan Crunch declares. “I was out on the high seas, but I’m back and not going anywhere!” He even has a new Twitter feed (“I’m hearing the rumors. I would never retire. I love being a captain too much!” the Cap’n tweeted Thursday) and Facebook page.

Until the recent flurry of Cap’n activity, his last major appearance was in a PepsiCo press release in 2007, which reported a survey that found that 83% percent of kids ages 8 to 13 thought it would be fun to be a pirate, according to Jonathan Berr of Daily Finance. Berr suggested that criticism from First Lady Michelle Obama and from child obesity experts over the high sugar content in foods — especially breakfast cereals — marketed directly to children may explain why the Cap’n has become less visible than in the past.

Berr reported:

“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.”

But it turns out, the Cap’n’s not going anywhere, because, as the cereal’s website suggests, it’s a nutritious choice for breakfast: “Cap’n Crunch is a great-tasting, crunchy sweetened corn and oat cereal your whole family will love. It’s an excellent source of seven essential vitamins and minerals, is low in fat, and contains zero grams of trans fat per serving.”

Of course, this is precisely the kind of health-washing that researchers at Rudd and others are trying to minimize. Quaker Oats’ description of Cap’n Crunch conveniently omits information regarding sugar content, though sugar is the second ingredient listed on the box. One serving of Cap’n Crunch contains 110 calories and 12 g of sugar, which means that nearly half of the calories in Cap’n Crunch come from added sugar.

Certainly, Cap’n Crunch isn’t the only food brand guilty of exaggerating its “nutritional” value. A recent study found that 84% of kids’ foods that made front-of-package health claims didn’t even meet basic nutritional criteria. So it’s no surprise that the average American child currently gets 365 calories — or nearly one-third of total calories — from added sugar, even though the government recommends that it account for no more than 6% to 8% of children’s daily calories.

Need some healthier breakfast alternatives? Healthland is more than happy to help out.