Alumni Profiles

Meet the Mother of Cap'n Crunch

Pam Low '51 bounces from here to there and back again on the brand new flat screen on her computer like a, well, kid in a cereal aisle. Here she's looking at the Cap'n Crunch Adventure Club, there a Quisp cereal cartoon. Next it's back to a site featuring one of the latest offerings from Quaker Oats, the folks who brought the world Cap'n Crunch: Choco Donuts.

"I'll have to go out and buy some of this when I go shopping this week," said Low, after first chiding her visitor for spurring her onto this Web site that threatens to take over her afternoon.

Funny thing is, Pam Low doesn't eat cereal. She never much liked the stuff. Oh, she has a stuffed Cap'n Crunch doll in a rocking chair in her bedroom and another on the shelf in the study. She gets a box of the cereal every Christmas. And she is definitely getting a kick out of the cereal material on the Internet. But eat it? Naah.

Pam Low '51 with the cereal she developed for Quaker Oats. Photo by Lisa Nugent, UNH Photographic Services

She does have a Cap'n Crunch connection, though. She created it. Not the whole thing, mind you, but certainly a key part. The part that kept the kids-actually it was more the big kids and parents who started to go crazy for Cap'n Crunch, eating it as much as a snack food as a breakfast cereal-coming back for more.

"I developed the flavoring," she explains, "the coating."

Thank Grammy Low, too. Pam Low may not like cereal, but she knows something about taste, and she knew the caramel taste of the butter-and-brown-sugar sauce that Luella Low served on rice in Derry on Sundays. It had that-and excuse the technical jargon here-"want-more-ishness" taste, Low says. Manufacturers want nothing more than to capture "want-more-ishness."

So Pam Low, who left UNH with a degree in microbiology and went straight to the Arthur D. Little research firm in Cambridge, Mass., thanks in large part to UNH connections, set out to team the flavor of her grandmother's tasty treat with a cereal that already had a marketing plan.

It worked, so well that Cap'n Crunch became the number two seller behind Tony the Tiger's Frosted Flakes. Cap'n Crunch was only one of the hundreds of products Low worked on in her 34 years at the consulting firm Arthur D. Little. There was work with Peter Paul Almond Joy and Mounds as Arthur D. Little tried to help them regain their market share. There was the time she and a team had to hustle to Illinois to help the manufacturers of Heath Bar candy recover after the switch from butter to margarine flopped.

The fun thing about Cap'n Crunch, Low says, was that she and Little were in at the start. When the Quaker Oats executives insisted that oats had to be in the mix, Low helped make that mix work.

Low lives in New London, N.H., now and maintains close ties to UNH. She talks of professor Clara Bartley, her bacteriology classes, Theta Upsilon and her many friends from those days. She's long supported the school and proudly sponsors several scholarships each year in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture and the School of Health and Human Services.

The Cap'n Crunch legacy? "Personally, I think it's fun," she says. "It's not much. But it's something that I was able to accomplish. Put the flavors together. It showed what you can do."

And to those people out there who don't like the idea of pre-sweetened cereal: "I pooh-pooh that," Low says. "Give the kids plain cereal and see how much sugar they put on it."

With that, she fired up the computer and headed to the Cap'n Crunch Adventure. ~

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