10 Facts About America's Most Popular Breakfast Cereals
Cereal companies may be turning to healthier formulas and trendy ingredients these days, but in terms of overall sales, it’s the sweet, sweet legacy brands that continue to dominate. Here are a few notable facts about America’s most beloved cereal brands.
1. HONEY NUT CHEERIOS
Introduced in 1979, this Cheerios offshoot soared in popularity thanks in part to its cartoon bee mascot. But for more than two decades, he didn’t have a name. In 2000, General Mills launched a national naming contest, eventually landing on the name "BuzzBee" or "Buzz" for short [PDF].
2. FROSTED FLAKES
Frosted Flakes were introduced in 1952, and its popular mascot, Tony the Tiger, was voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft for more than 50 years. A Nebraska native who left for Hollywood as a teenager, Ravenscroft provided voiceovers for many Disneyland rides, including the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. He also sang, uncredited, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" in the famed cartoon film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
3. HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS
Vernon J. Herzing, a manager at Post’s Battle Creek, Michigan cereal production facility, designed this kid and adult favorite using ingredients from the cereals already being manufactured at his facility—including Toasties, Sugar Sparkle Flakes, and Grape-Nuts Flakes. Working at home with his teenage daughter in the late 1980s, he finally hit on the winning combination of flakes, granola, and honey, which he originally called "Battle Creek Cereal."
4. CINNAMON TOAST CRUNCH
CTC, as it’s known by cereal aficionados, debuted in 1984 and gained widespread attention with three cartoon bakers that appeared in its ads, named Wendell, Bob, and Quello. In 1991, the company did away with Bob and Quello, leading to some wild speculation, though in truth, parent company General Mills pulled the two because they weren’t testing well with audiences. Wendell, the fan favorite, remained on CTC boxes until 2009, when the brand replaced him with the Crazy Squares.
Lester Borchardt, a physicist working for General Mills, spent many months and more than $150,000 trying to get a puffing machine to quickly turn out grain cereal. His bosses told him to pull the plug, but Borchardt pressed on, and finally got the machine to make tasty little "o"s. Cheerioats, as they were first known, hit shelves in 1941. After Quaker Oats claimed trademark infringement, General Mills changed the name to Cheerios.
6. FROOT LOOPS
Introduced in 1963, Froot Loops originally only came in three colors: red, orange, and yellow. The additions of green, purple, and blue didn't happen until the '90s, and sadly these various colors don’t indicate flavor variations: Kellogg recently admitted all Froot Loops are made from the same flavoring concoction, known as "Froot."
7. FROSTED MINI-WHEATS
When they were introduced in 1969, the original mini wheats were much larger than today’s version. In 1988, Kellogg came out with a bite-sized variety that was so popular, it became the de facto Frosted Mini-Wheats. Years later, Kellogg would introduce the original mini wheat size as "Big Bites."
8. LUCKY CHARMS
Charged with developing a one-of-a-kind cereal for General Mills, developer John Holahan came up with a prototype that combined Cheerios with circus peanuts. The circus peanuts became marshmallows—or "marbits"—and the cereal adopted a leprechaun mascot named Lucky, who has been the face of Lucky Charms for more than 50 years—with one exception. For a brief spell in 1975, Waldo the Wizard graced the boxes of Lucky Charms in the New England market.
9. RAISIN BRAN
This household favorite might have a different name but for a key legal ruling. In 1944, Skinner’s Raisin Bran, which came out 20 years earlier, sued Kellogg for trademark infringement. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, ruled that a company could not trademark a name that was essentially describing the product’s ingredients.
10. SPECIAL K
The brand that began in 1955 as a humble rice and wheat cereal has become a dieting empire. Special K’s hot streak started when it introduced the Special K Challenge, a weight loss program Kellogg initially developed as a way for Kellogg to save money over broadcast advertising.