Once when I was a kid I dumped some orange juice into a bowl of Sugar Smacks, which I ate for breakfast before they became Honey Smacks. If you’re wondering what I was thinking I can only say I wasn’t. I was, I think, four at the time and while I could say that even at that age I liked experimenting with food, trying different flavors, or that I was trying a novel way to save time by combining breakfast foods the simple fact is I don’t know why I did it. At least I was conscientious enough to eat it, and while most of the other details are fuzzy I distinctly remember that it was, well, not as bad as you might think—it was just a little orange juice so it formed sort of a tingly background note—but it wasn’t good either. It wasn’t an experiment I ever repeated, partly because I knew I’d never get the proportions exactly right ever again but mainly it just wasn’t that good. I’m also pretty sure I knew when I did it that it wouldn’t be good. Still I can retroactively apply the lesson that food is an art form and experimenting is part of every art and with experiments there are hits and there are misses.
And then there’s Tropicana Crunch. The breakfast cereal “made” to have orange juice poured over it.
Admittedly it’s not the weirdest thing in the history of breakfast cereal. The weirdest thing is still that Harvey Kellogg invented corn flakes because he believed a bland, vegetarian diet would prevent masturbation. Tropicana Crunch just comes in a very close second. I can only imagine that the advertising team was sitting around trying to think of something new and someone said, “You know what goes well with orange juice?” Someone else said, “Vodka,” and after several rounds of screwdrivers a third person found a bag of expired granola in the break room, put it in a bowl and poured orange juice over it, and sent the idea to the research and development team as a joke. If you’re old enough to remember when Honey Smacks were still Sugar Smacks you also remember Mikey, the Life cereal kid. And even if you’re younger you’ve probably still heard of him and, no, Pop Rocks didn’t kill him; he’s still alive and works in advertising. Mikey became famous for being the kid who hated everything. Less famous but just as noteworthy is his twin Charlie, the kid who would eat anything. Charlie was probably responsible for those Pop Rocks rumors just because of the number of times he had to have his stomach pumped after the neighborhood kids convinced him to eat actual rocks, a Coke with a rusty nail dissolved in it, acorns, fiberglass, a grasshopper, part of an old tire, a weird mushroom they found in the woods, dried latex paint, and, worst of all, Kevin’s mom’s spinach quiche. Charlie is the only human being known to have a natural immunity to salmonella because he once ate a dozen deviled eggs that had been sitting out all day. In August. In Miami. Charlie’s still alive and works in research and development. And he will still eat anything. So when he got the call to make cereal with orange juice he just shrugged and went with it.
Every party has to end sometime and when the advertising team sobered up and realized, to their horror, what Charlie had made, they did what every good advertiser does and covered up the mistake by selling it.
It’s not surprising but the website for Tropicana Crunch now says it’s no longer available. It was an experiment and like so many experiments it was not a hit and it will not be missed.