Cocoa Krispies – A Salute

When you were a kid, was there a breakfast cereal that stood far above all others? The one you would pick every time if you had free choice? A cereal that had no need to bribe you with toys in the box or offers of treasures in the mail in exchange for a dollar bill and some box tops? A cereal that made your mornings simply perfect? Yeah, me too. And mine was Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies. I started thinking about my old chocolate and rice friend and decided that you should too.

A little research tells me that Cocoa Krispies is actually a little older than I am, having been introduced to the world in 1958 as a chocolatized spinoff of snapping, crackling and popping Rice Krispies. Is there anything that some sugar and some chocolate can’t improve? No, I can’t think of it either.

I cannot remember the first time I convinced my mother to buy a box, but it was a life-changing moment for me. To this day there is not another breakfast cereal that I would choose over Cocoa Krispies if the only criteria is pure, unadulterated joy in the eating. And the bonus payoff comes at the end of the meal when you are left with a bowl of chocolate milk to slurp down – is there anything better than a breakfast that comes with a built-in dessert?

My investigation also makes me conclude that there may never have been a long-lived cereal where the marketing was such a rolling train wreck for so long. Like a slogan. Can you think of the Cocoa Krispies slogan? Yeah, me either. Lucky Charms are “magically delicious”. That annoying bird was always “coo coo for Cocoa Puffs” (despite the fact that they were grossly inferior to Cocoa Krispies). Frosted Flakes were “Grrrr=REAT”. But in the slogan department, Cocoa Krispies was a total fail.

The Kellogg people also had more than a little trouble keeping mascots. Where Snap Crackle and Pop have been stalwarts over on the plain Rice Krispies side of the business since who knows when, finding a pitch-character for Cocoa Krispies has been more of a problem. The original mascot was a monkey named Jose. Jose lasted for less than two years because it appears that the Hispanic community of 1958 liked being depicted as a monkey about as much as the Hispanic community of 2022 likes being compared to a breakfast taco.

So Jose was given the boot some time in the second half of 1959 and replaced with Coco the elephant, who turned in a very inoffensive but forgettable performance for the next few years.

The company went with star power in 1963 when Snagglepuss (a prominent character from the Yogi Bear television show and voiced by Dawes Butler) took over as the face of Cocoa Krispies. This was probably when I was roped in as a fan because I remember liking Yogi and Boo Boo Bear and their pal Snagglepuss on television.

But despite stellar promotional appearances like these, poor Snag got fired in 1967, and was replaced by . . .

. . . Ogg? Yes, Ogg the Caveman got his face on the box in 1967. I had no idea who Ogg the caveman was (and didn’t care) but by then I had become a dedicated CK fan and would have bought the stuff if Charles Manson had been doing the commercials.

Another elephant (this time named Tusk) replaced Ogg in 1973. Because an elephant on the box had worked so well the last time, perhaps? At least the Ben Franklin glasses brought it up to date.

But then Tusk turned all red and his trunk became a trumpet later in his short career.

Tusk got fired in late 1982 and was replaced by – Snap Crackle and Pop? Who says advertising people have no imagination?

And to prove this point the next pitch-creature change in 1991 was – a monkey named Coco. OK, how hard would it have been to just name the first stupid monkey Coco instead of Jose and just be done with it? But ultimately, it didn’t matter because Snap, Crackle and Pop have been back since 2001.

This promotional mess kind of makes my point – would any other cereal have survived these kinds of serial (sorry) marketing debacles and still be found on the shelves today? Of course not. Build a better chocolate flavored rice cereal and the world will beat a path to your door no matter how hard the marketing guys try to screw it up.

At least it wasn’t Kellogg’s who decided to use the little Asian guy as the spokes-cartoon for Rice Krinkles (which were like Cocoa Krispies without the cocoa). There, the character was memorable (though not for very good reasons) while the cereal was forgettable. It was discontinued in 1969, which was not a tremendous loss in my life.

We must, though, address an unpleasant topic – Cocoa Pebbles. Yes, I know that Cocoa Pebbles have their fans (misguided though they may be) but we all know that Cocoa Pebbles (which did not go into national distribution until 1971) were little more than an attempt by rival Post Cereals to stop feeling bad about itself by offering something as cool as Cocoa Krispies. As if that atoned for the Rice Krinkles thing. Or maybe they figured that going back to the Hanna-Barbera well and getting the Flintstones as their mascot could take advantage of Kellogg’s schizophrenic marketing themes. I will acknowledge that Post has gotten the promotional part right, even if their cereal is a pale (though still chocolaty) imitation of the real thing. (Psst – pay no attention to those unthinking partisans who will try to tell you that Cocoa Pebbles are superior because they stay crunchy longer in the milk. They have just been blinded by Fred Flintstone’s charms (which are different from Lucky Charms) and tricked into some unfortunate and misguided beliefs).

I started thinking about the cereal when I spent a week enjoying a cheap knock-off that I picked up on a whim. Yes, going to the store when you are hungry remains a bad idea. I saw the genuine Cocoa Krispies but they were far above the 10 cents per ounce rule that Marianne has enforced when it comes to cereal (though she has softened with age and inflation (prices, not her) and been cool with 15 cents instead). I was going to be good until I saw the cheap version in the bag that was right in my target range. How bad can the copy cat be? I mean the bagged copy cat, and not Cocoa Pebbles.

I was actually cool with the Brand X variety and managed to pound through it within a week. Yes, diligence is my middle name. And they were quite tasty. And just think, had I splurged on the good stuff, it would have been even better. If Cocoa Krispies had a slogan I would end this blog post with it, but they don’t so I guess I just have to say “The End” instead. And maybe go and buy another bag of the close-enough.

***

COAL update: Last Sunday’s Curbside Classic piece was the second of a two parter about my first car, a 1967 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible, which picks up on an eventful first morning of ownership. You can read it here:

COAL: 1967 Ford Galaxie 500 Convertible – Chapter 1.5, Long Ago In A Galaxie Far, Far Away

29 thoughts on “Cocoa Krispies – A Salute

  1. Now I need to try some Cocoa Krispies. I think it is a delicacy which has eluded me thus far. How weird is that?

    Speaking of knock-offs, Marie has found an alternate version of these in the organic food aisle. They are quite good but do not know how they compare.

    Which reminds me…long ago there was a cereal called Uncle Sam’s. It seemed quite patriotic and in my youthful naivety lobbied my mother for a box. She refused. When I kept it up she grabbed the box and told me to read it, pointing out how it was a laxative laced cereal. Oops. But the company nailed the name.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remembered seeing boxes of Uncle Sam cereal, but never knew about the laxative thing. Sort of like turbocharged fiber?

      I would imagine that CKs would be one thing that could be done quite well organically. Sugar, cocoa and rice are all pretty natural things.

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  2. After spending a lifetime in advertising related businesses, I am red-faced ashamed that I didn’t have even an inkling of this cereal mascot madness! You are correct that if the product is superlative, it can weather any ad agncy malfeasence!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, even I was surprised at the advertising mess. If you had asked me a month ago I might have remembered that Snagglepuss was associated with a cereal, but I probably could not have named it. And the rest of them – I remembered them when I saw them, but that was about it.

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  3. I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to draw swords. I’m Cocoa Pebbles all the way. By all the way, I mean I could eat that stuff three meals a day for the rest of my (significantly shortened) life. Cocoa Krispies just aren’t as chocolatey.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Almost all the vitamins and minerals are just added. Otherwise both are basically rice, cocoa, some sugar, fat, and salt. A key difference would be how much cocoa is in each (and all the copies), maybe shown by the order of ingredients. Must research….

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well this was very interesting from an advertisement point of view. Cocoa Krispies march ahead successfully while the road behind is littered with failed mascots.

    As for the cereal, no idea. Mom would occasionally buy us the Kellogg variety pack but it never came with Cocoa Krispies (although it did come with All Bran, a tough slog to eat) and these days my cereal tastes lie elsewhere.

    In fact, my best cereal experience ever was Anahola Granola at the top of Diamond Head in Hawaii. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

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    • Wouldn’t anything taste good at the top of Diamond Head? Think of how great the experience might have been with better cereal choices. 🙂

      Maybe we ought to do Kelloggs a great service and brainstorm a slogan for them.

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  5. I love chocolate cereals in general but I agree, CK is definitely the best. Ah, Snagglepuss, what a great actor. Coco Puffs don’t even come close but the bagged brands are quite good too. Pebbles will do or even pouring chocolate milk on regular Rice Krispies works, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. JP, I had no idea that Cocoa Krispies went through so many iterations with its mascots through the years. I’m glad they just settled on Snap, Crackle and Pop (who were probably miffed they were never chosen earlier). Corporate messed up bigtime! Although I was not allowed fun cereal growing up, I’ve eaten these as an adult and now could go for a bowl and that lovely chocolate milk “residue” treat. I just hopped onto Meijer and the “Family Size” is out of stock but the regular size is $4.19 for a 15.5 ounce box.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Chocolate. Covered. Rice. That ends up like chocolate milk. I’ll look for it the next grocery run. The marketing history was too funny. I do buy the generic/store brand of Raisin Bran and it is far superior – there are so many raisins (far more than two scoops of raisins) in it I have to pick some of them out. As for the car blog – I can’t believe you had it repainted the same color…..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I cannot remember eating much Cocoa Krispies in my youth. I was addicted to Sugar Pops (which I added sugar to for some reason). But three of my grandchildren love Cocoa Krispies. They don’t want Cocoa Pops or any of the organic healthy chocolate krispie imitator products their mothers buy. So I have been sampling Cocoa Krispies these days. Yep, good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Cocoa Krispies makes the pantheon of classic kid cereals, no question. I’d be hard-pressed to keep the number to ten or less but I’d certainly include Lucky Charms, Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops, Trix, Sugar Smacks, Apple Jacks, Alpha Bits, and Cocoa Puffs. So many choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would indeed be a tough job – assembly of the ultimate list of sugar-fortified cereals. You remind me that I have not had Apple Jacks in ages. Hmmm.

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  10. Stop and Shop (and others) had a not house and not major brand of cereal that made fake Cocoa Krispies and fake Raisin Bran that were better and cheaper than the real stuff, but it disappeared a couple years ago. Many other Brand X versions around, including at Aldi. Try ’em all, kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Bought some Cocoa Krispies, (family-sized box, even though I live alone) at Meijer this past week; they were as wonderful and chocolatety as I recall.

    JP, I forgot to mention at this post publishing about my recent bizarre cereal experience. I bought some Cheerios, the boring plain Cheerios in the yellow box, to mix in with yogurt for a snack. I usually put nuts in my yogurt, but thought I’d add some Cheerios for a change of pace. I am a healthy person, but within a few hours I had these horrible pains in my stomach, so much so it felt like someone kicked me in the gut. I am a stickler for never using food/beverages past their use by date and the milk was not sour and I felt fine before. I thought “Cheerios – I’ve been eating them for years?!” I still felt a little wobbly the next morning but stupidly had some Cheerios with milk rather than my usual oatmeal – same horrible stomachache within hours.

    Decided to Google “Cheerios gastric distress” and guess what? Cheerios are also made by General Mills and General Mills had just had the big brouhaha over its Lucky Charms cereal causing the same symptoms. General Mills never issued a recall over Lucky Charms, though by April there were over 500 incidents of gastric issues, nausea, etc. I never associated Cheerios with Lucky Charms, however, I found an internet site “iwaspoisoneddotcom” where scores of people complained of the same issue as me. I suspected it was a law firm collecting the info, though they never said at that time. I posted my symptoms and was invited to join a Facebook Cheerios group for those with similar symptoms, then I was e-mailed and asked if I would like to be interviewed and if I would like to sue General Mills. I said “no” to all their questions and never divulged that I had kept the box and remaining cereal and took pictures of the box, UPC code and best buy date. Once I realized it was the Cheerios, I stopped eating them – no permanent harm done. A little scary though – better to eat chocolate rice cereal. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, I had not heard that about the Cheerios. I guess we never know what food will be a problem. And as you note, this is just one more reason to eat Cocoa Krispies. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was not publicized as much as the Lucky Charms – neither were ever recalled. There was an article in “The New York Post” referencing the poison report site. Evidently someone at General Mills did good damage control.

        Liked by 1 person

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