Cap'n Crunch is a product line of sweetened corn and oat breakfast cereals introduced in 1963 and manufactured by Quaker Oats Company, a division of PepsiCo since 2001.
The product line is heralded by a cartoon mascot named Cap'n Crunch. According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, the mascot, whose full name is Horatio Magellan Crunch, was born "on Crunch Island in the Sea of Milk – a magical place with talking trees, crazy creatures and a whole mountain (Mt. Crunchmore) made out of Cap’n Crunch cereal.” The mascot wears a "Napoleon-style" hat, leading to speculation that he may be French.
In 2013, sources including Reddit, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times reported that the number of stripes on the mascot's uniform indicate a rank of Commander and not Captain. In jest, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Navy had no record of Crunch and that NCIS was investigating him for impersonating a naval officer.
Daws Butler provided the original voice of the Cap'n until his death in 1988. Author Philip Wylie wrote a series of short stories, Crunch and Des, beginning in the 1940s, which featured a similarly named Captain Crunch Adams. The Cap'n Crunch commercials have historically used basic cartoon animation by Jay Ward Productions. Vinton Studios produced a claymation ad during the 1980s.
"Grandma would make this concoction with rice and the sauce that she had; it was a combination of brown sugar and butter. It tasted good, obviously. They'd put it over the rice and eat it as a kind of a treat on Sundays..."
Pamela Low, a flavorist at Arthur D. Little and 1951 graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a microbiology degree, developed the original Cap'n Crunch flavor in 1963; recalling a recipe of brown sugar and butter her grandmother Luella Low served over rice at her home in Derry, New Hampshire. In 1965, the Quaker Oats Company awarded Robert Rountree Reinhart, Sr., the Fredus N. Peters Award for his leadership in directing the development team of Cap'n Crunch. Reinhart developed a technique in the manufacture of Cap'n Crunch, using oil in its recipe as a flavor delivery mechanism; which initially presented problems in having the cereal bake properly. Speculation in 2011 that suggested the brand was being retired was denied by Quaker Oats.
- Cap'n Crunch: The original Cap'n Crunch cereal, which at the time was referred to as The Crunchy Captain's Cereal (CCC), is made of sweetened, yellow, square-shaped cereal pieces made by combining corn and oats. The cereal was launched in 1963, bolstered by a successful advertising campaign created by noted animator Jay Ward introducing the cereal's longtime naval mascot, Cap'n Crunch.
- Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries: Cap’n Crunch's Crunch Berries cereal was introduced in 1967 and contained, in addition to the yellow pieces found in the original Cap'n Crunch, spherical red Crunch Berry pieces. There was a version of Crunch Berries available briefly in which the berries, instead of being spherical, were three small berries in a cluster. The Crunch Berry Beast mascot was introduced alongside the cereal. There are currently four Crunch Berry colors: red, green (introduced in 2002), blue, and purple (both introduced in the '90s). All the berry pieces are flavored the same, regardless of color.
- Peanut Butter Crunch: Peanut Butter Crunch was first released in 1969, with a large elephant named Smedley as its mascot; according to sales charts, this version was the most successful at the time. It consists of peanut butter-flavored corn puffs.
- Punch Crunch, Vanilly Crunch, Cinnamon Crunch: Three more editions were issued in the early ’70s -- Punch Crunch, Vanilly Crunch, and Jean LaFoote’s Cinnamon Crunch -- but were later discontinued. Punch Crunch was fruit-flavored cereal rings, and the mascot was sailor-clad hippopotamus named Harry. Jean LaFoote's Cinnamon Crunch has been recently renamed "Cinnamon Roll Crunch" and features cinnamon-roll flavored corn puffs similar to Peanut Butter Crunch.
- Choco Crunch: In 1982, a variant called Choco Crunch, featuring the mascot "Chockle the Blob", was introduced. This version contained the yellow corn squares, plus chocolate flavored pieces similar to Crunch Berries. Recently, the "Choco Crunch" brand was reintroduced as "Chocolatey Crunch", but this time only consisting of chocolate flavored corn squares.
- Christmas Crunch: A special edition named Christmas Crunch was first released for the 1988 holiday season and contained Cap’n Crunch's signature yellow corn squares with red and green Crunch Berries in a green box with the Cap’n wearing a Santa Claus hat (originally also containing a toy or Christmas tree ornament inside the box).
- Deep Sea Crunch: A version of the cereal introduced in 1993, which featured Crunch Berries shaped like sea creatures. This version was discontinued but returned in 2009.
- Oops! All Berries: First released in 1997, “Oops! All Berries” contained nothing but the berry flavored Crunch Berries and none of the corn squares. This version was discontinued the following year. In 2008, 2009, and again in 2010, "Oops! All Berries" has made limited time only returns. Recent boxes do not state "Limited Time Only" printed on the box. Current "Oops! All Berries" colors are red, purple, blue and green.
- Halloween Crunch: A limited edition version of the cereal introduced in 2007. This includes green Crunch Berries in the form of ghosts.
- Galactic Crunch: A discontinued version which featured space-related marshmallows.
- Choco Donuts: A discontinued version which featured chocolate flavored doughnut shaped cereal with candy sprinkles.
- Soft Crunch: A discontinued version which featured softer cereal rings, designed to prevent cuts in the roof of consumer's mouths.
- Home Run Crunch: A limited edition version of the cereal, currently available, released in 1995 which featured baseball-related marshmallows, like home plates, caps, and mitts. It has the flavor of Crunch Berries but the pieces of the cereal are shaped as bats and balls. It occasionally comes back during the summer.
- Cap'n Crunch's Mystery Volcano Crunch: Red and yellow fruit flavored berries with "'free' packet of lava rocks that pop in milk!".
- Cap'n Crunch's Oops! Smashed Berries: Oops! All Berries cereal with flat berries that the kids smashed.
- Cap'n Crunch's CoZmic Crunch: Star shaped berries with "'free" orange space dust that turns milk green".
- Polar Crunch: A version of the cereal in which the Crunch Berries change color to blue when milk is poured.
- Cinnamon Roll Crunch: Released in 2013.
- Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Treasures: Star shaped crunchy yellow corn and oat rings. Contains 1/2 the sugar of regular Cap'n Crunch.
Relation to hacking culture
In early 1971, a former Air Force electronics technician named John Draper (later self-nicknamed Captain Crunch, Crunch, Crunchman, or Mr. Crunchtastic) was informed by his phone phreak friend Joe Engressia that a toy whistle that was, at the time, packaged in boxes of the cereal could be easily modified to emit a tone at precisely 2600 Hertz, the same frequency that was used by AT&T long lines to indicate that a trunk line was ready to route a new call. This would effectively disconnect one end of the trunk, allowing the still-connected side to enter an operator mode. This resulted in, among other things, the ability to place free phone calls to anywhere in the world and operator-like control over the phone system. Experimenting with this whistle inspired Draper to build blue boxes, electronic devices capable of reproducing this 2600 Hz tone and other tones required to control trunk lines. After being featured, under his pseudonym of Captain Crunch, in an article in the October 1971 issue of Esquire Magazine titled "Secrets of the Little Blue Box", he was sentenced in 1972 to five years’ probation for toll fraud.
On May 21, 2009, Judge Morrison England, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed the case Sugawara v. PepsiCo, Inc.. The plaintiff, Janine Sugawara, claimed she had purchased the cereal Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries because she believed "crunchberries" indicated she was eating real fruit. Sugawara alleged that after four years of purchasing the product she had only recently discovered to her dismay that said "berries" were in fact simply brightly colored cereal balls. The judge commented "In this case...it is simply impossible for Plaintiff to file an amended complaint stating a claim based upon these facts. The survival of the instant claim would require this Court to ignore all concepts of personal responsibility and common sense. The Court has no intention of allowing that to happen."