Days Gone Bite: Quake Cereal

Even though I was only 10, I actually cast a ballot in the 1972 election.

You'll recall that it was a landslide. And as with every election in which I could legally vote afterwards--at least until the early 90s--I ended up on the losing end. That's right, I marked the box that would've kept Quake on supermarket shelves.

Quisp and Quake were cereals made by Quaker Oats (mostly from corn meal, oddly enough) starting in 1965. The ingredients were pretty much the same--grain and syrup--although Quisp melted much quicker in milk. Besides their shape, the only real difference was in the cartoon mascot department. Quisp employed a pink, buoy-shaped alien wearing leotards; Quake was promoted by a hardhat miner with massive biceps.

Probably to save money, the company had both fight it out in 30-second spots, one always appearing to disrupt the other's commercial.

I supported Quake in this epic battle. And the ads were--in retrospect--quite impressive: Both the flamboyant alien and the future Village People character were designed by the same people who created Rocky and Bullwinkle. I believe William Conrad, of Cannon fame, provided Quake's booming voice.

Quisp sounded like an adult Steve Urkel with a lozenge lodged in his throat.

Despite the Martian's annoying nature and his/her/its cereal's soggier texture, Quisp consistently outsold Quake. At one point, Quaker gave the miner a makeover, which amounted to narrowing his waistline and changing his wardrobe a bit (think cowboy hat--which now seems even more Village People-ish), but it didn't help.

Because in flavor the two cereals were almost identical, the difference in sales was clearly the result of popular taste for one animated character over another. So when, in 1972, Quaker finally put it to a vote--which cereal should we keep?--Quisp won by a landslide.

By the end of 1973, Quake was gone for good. Years later, when parents and nutritionists decided that a bowl of sugar with some corn holding it together wasn't the best way for kids to start off a day, Quisp disappeared as well.

I've heard that you can still order the latter, online only. But if you've ever tried Cap'N Crunch, you know there's really no need.

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries