The End of Snap, Crackle, and Pop Culture


Writer Sara Pepitone gets to the bottom of the bowl, only to find the silence deafening:

Organic Rice Krispies were in my life for many months before I acknowledged their silence. In a recent "don't have enough" situation, I added regular Rice Krispies—my cupboard is stocked for such emergencies—to the mix and suddenly I saw the light. I mean, heard the light. Organic Rice Krispies have no Snap, Crackle, and Pop.

I already had my observation and hypothesis, so I was ready to experiment. In two bowls of equal size and shape and design, I put equal amounts of each cereal. I enlisted my boyfriend, an avid cereal fan, and we collected data (i.e., sniffed and poked and tasted). I then poured equal amounts of 2 percent milk over each cereal. Both became audible as soon as the milk hit, but while the organic sounded like the slow, dying end of a fire—a soft crackle with an occasional pop—the regular was roaring, snapping, crackling, popping, blaring. Also, the regular continued to sound for a longer time.

I consulted the labels and came up with a theory: Since regular has High Fructose Corn Syrup and the organic does not, no HFCS = no SCP (snap, crackle, pop). That's when I realized I needed a real scientist. Dr. Ted Labuza, a University of Minnesota Professor of Food Science and Engineering, told me that the SCP phenomenon is like shattering glass. Since regular Krispies—saturated with sugar and HFCS—are cooked and cooled to a glassy state (think candy thermometer), milk essentially pushes the air in the tiny pockets to "break the glass." Organic Rice Krispies are made with evaporated cane-juice syrup and crystals, or sucrose. Sucrose, says Dr. Labuza, has a higher Tg (glass transition temperature). That makes the organic Krispies harder.

"Can we assume," I asked, "that harder means milk isn't strong enough to break the glass? And no break means no noise?' Dr. Labuza's reply was: "Makes sense," adding, "harder may also mean less air bubbles in the starch structure."

There has never been an official scientific study of organic vs. regular Rice Krispies, and there never will be. In the same month my research began, Kellogg's discontinued organic Rice Krispies. Was it the lack of SCP? I explained my theory to someone at Kellogg's customer service. He laughed, but did not concur: "The main reason products are discontinued," he said, "is because of lack of sale." But didn't that exactly prove my point? Who wants Rice Krispies with the volume turned down?

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