Dan, the sergeant major of mascots.
They don’t make mascots like Sergeant Dan the Creamoata Man any more. A recent survey of a reasonably stocked pantry produced only a few holdouts. Those rascals Snap, Crackle and Pop still adorn packets of Rice Bubbles, and Cookie Bear remains active on the biscuit scene. There’s Frosty Boy, who could be Dan’s brother. And there’s Charlie the Four Square guy. But there’s no Captain Cola the Soft Drink Man, no Mrs Marmite the Spread Lady, no Wally the Weet-Bix Weta, no Vanessa the Virgin Olive Oil Virgin or Donald the Confit Duck.
Sergeant Dan is semi-retired but by no means forgotten. The Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre held an exhibition last year to mark the centenary of the Fleming’s Creamoata mascot.
Creamoata was an easy-to-prepare version of porridge, and Sergeant Dan was a doughty little fellow – part boy soldier, part boy scout – embodying in his cartoon form all the pluck and resilience that would presumably accrue to you if you ate the eponymous breakfast.
He is believed to have been born around 1915, his creation credited to one Charlotte Lilian Lawlor, who worked for the advertising agency that handled the Creamoata account, although there are other versions of his origin myth.
What little is known about mystery man Dan’s personal life must be deduced from such brand-extending products as a cereal bowl showing him playing rugby. According to the verse on the plate, “Sergeant Dan, the Creamoata Man/scores football tries with ease/Like All Blacks when it’s breakfast time/he says, ‘Creamoata, please!’”
In civilian life, he was also seen driving a tractor and he may have been a keen cook as he features throughout the book Stirring Times: Creamoata Recipes, published in 1927. At one time, you could buy recipe cards (for a period, contained in your pack of Creamoata) for the likes of Sergeant Dan’s Favourite Sweet Heart of Wheat Custard, which was almost certainly as delicious as it sounds.
Fleming’s’ marketing initiatives didn’t stop at Sergeant Dan. They also played a small part in the histories of New Zealand aviation and spoon collecting. The slogan “Eat Creamoata with a silver spoon” was adopted and when Fleming’s sponsored the first flight between Invercargill and Auckland, in 1920, silver spoons attached to tiny parachutes were dropped from the plane as it flew over towns.
According to the Longwhitekid blog, the company also produced over the years, “Fleming wholemeal and white flours, Thistle brand rolled oats and oatmeal, breakfast foods and cereals such as Cream O’ Groats, Milk Oaties, Oatie-Nuts and Sweet Heart o’ Wheat (a semolina product also popular for desserts), and the Snowball brand wheatmeal and white flours.” There was also something called Doctor’s Cream o’ Groats, although it’s hard to imagine anyone’s mouth watering at the sound of that name.
Goodman Fielder bought the Fleming’s brand and moved it to Australia in 2006, before closing it down two years later. The Fleming’s factory, Dan’s spiritual home and the place where Creamoata used to be made, was and is a Gore landmark. The factory now produces Sergeant Dan Stockfoods and his figure still adorns their packaging.