31 Things You Didn't Know About Your Favorite Childhood Cereals

Childood Cereals

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Childood Cereals
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Fortified With Facts

Cereal is one of those childhood favorites most of us don't outgrow. And why would we? It's cheap, it's versatile — now you can even find portable, packaged bowls of your favorite varieties that offer an unexpected additional layer of convenience— and, if you opt for a less sugary variety, it can even be nutritious. But how much do you really know about your favorite cereal? Here are some of the most interesting tidbits about the brands you know and love. 

Related: 25 Childhood Cereals We Wish They'd Bring Back

Kellogg's Instabowls

You Don't Even Need Milk For Kellogg's Now

Cereal giant Kellogg's new "instabowls" look like the existing single-serve bowls, but contain a milk powder inside along with the cereal, so all you have to do to get a bowl of cereal and milk is add water, offering up the perfect on-the-go solution for cereal fanatics who don't want to fuss over bringing a container of milk to enjoy their small serving of cereal. The ultra-convenient breakfast option is also perfect for hiking, road trips, and they're an ideal emergency ration. You can find them in four different varieties including Frosted Flakes, Raisin Bran Crunch, Froot Loops and Apple Jacks. 

Related: Which Iconic Food Was Launched the Year You Were Born?

Grape-nuts Sponsored An Antarctic Expedition

Grape-Nuts Sponsored an Antarctic Expedition

Post's Grape-Nuts was among the sponsors that helped finance Richard E. Byrd's second expedition to Antarctica in 1933, even putting maps of the journey on the backs of its cereal boxes. Grape-Nuts' adventuring continued in 1953: The cereal helped energize Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay when they became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Today, the adventure is in finding a box of Grape-Nuts on the shelves: The brand struggled with increased demand and production problems during the pandemic. 

Related: Things We Stopped Taking for Granted During the Pandemic

Tony the Tiger Had Competition

Tony the Tiger Had Competition

Close your eyes and picture your Frosted Flakes not with Tony the Tiger, but … Katy the Kangaroo? In 1952, Kellogg's rolled out boxes of the cereal festooned with Tony, Katy, and two other potential mascots: Elmo the Elephant and Newt the Gnu. Tony was the most popular of the four, and the rest is history. 

Mascots Lock Eyes With Kids For A Reason

Mascots Subtly Connect With Kids From the Box

You might notice Tony the Tiger and other advertising icons gazing slightly downward next time you're in the cereal aisle. The reason? Cereal executives want those friendly mascots to make eye contact with your kids. Eye contact promotes trust in a brand, which of course can spur more purchases — or in the case of kids' cereal, more whining and begging for parents to buy a specific variety of sugar-laden goodness. 

Related: 20 Ways Companies Get You to Spend More Without Knowing It


Wheaties Were a Happy Accident

The wheat flakes came about when a clinician accidentally spilled wheat gruel on a hot stove, a mistake that changed the gruel into the eponymous General Mills cereal we know today. Bonus trivia: Michael Jordan is the athlete who's been on Wheaties boxes the most, with a whopping 18 appearances. 

Cap’n Crunch Has A Doozie Of A Name

Cap'n Crunch Has a Doozy of a Name

O Captain! My Captain? A Twitter user questioned whether the mascot is actually Cmdr. Crunch, pointing out that naval captains typically have four stripes on their sleeve, not three. The Cap'n himself decried the charge as "hearsay." In the process, he also revealed his "real" name, and it's quite befitting of a seafaring cereal icon: Horatio Magellan Crunch. 

Related: 40 Breakfast Foods Ranked by Their Calorie Count

Urkel Had His Own Cereal

Steve Urkel Had His Own Cereal

In 1991, Ralston briefly made "Urkel-Os" to capitalize on the fame of the nerdy "Family Matters" star. That’s far from the only TV show or movie to spin off a cereal. The 1980s — the heyday of movie and TV cereals — gave us boxes of sugary stuff based on everything from "Rainbow Brite" and "Transformers" to "E.T." and "Ghostbusters."

Related: 23 Foods We Miss From the '70s and '80s

Corn Flakes Were Invented To Curb ‘Carnal Sins’

Corn Flakes Were Invented to Curb Carnal Sins

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg wanted Americans to eat corn flakes because he thought the bland food would reduce the desire to commit carnal sins. But his brother, William Kellogg, was a lot more interested in selling cereal than repressing our baser instincts. So he founded the Kellogg Co. and started pumping out a different version of corn flakes — with the dreaded addition of sugar, much to his brother’s chagrin. 

Related: The Secret Histories of 25 Popular Brands

Franken Berry

Franken Berry Cereal Caused Pink 'Franken Poop'

The early '70s were a simpler time in a lot of ways, but maybe not for doctors forced to diagnose "Franken Berry Stool." Yep, the neon pink poop was a real condition, caused when kids downed too much of General Mills' new Franken Berry Cereal. Turns out the cereal got its bright hue in part from the indigestible and soon-to-be-banned Red Dye No. 2.

Related: Beaver Glands, Beetles, and Other Surprising Ingredients in Your Favorite Foods

Count Chocula

Count Chocula Was Accused of Anti-Semitism

In 1987, General Mills came under fire from Jewish groups after using an enhanced image of Bela Lugosi as Dracula on the box. The problem? Many thought it looked like he was wearing a Star of David, making the mascot appear to be some sort of blood-sucking Jewish monster. General Mills apologized and changed the boxes, blaming the error on a computerized design process.  

Cheerios Used To Be ‘Cheerioats’

Cheerios Used to Be 'Cheerioats'

One of America's most ubiquitous breakfast cereals first appeared on grocery shelves in 1941 not as Cheerios but as "Cheerioats." General Mills aimed to highlight the cereal’s main ingredient (oats) at a time when most competitors were still using corn. But that tactic didn’t fly with rival Quaker Oats, which objected to the use of the term "oats" in the new cereal's name. General Mills backed down and switched to "Cheerios" instead.

Honey Smacks Have More Sugar Than A Twinkie

Honey Smacks Have More Sugar Than a Twinkie

No one would mistake most sugary kids' cereals for health foods, but some are worse than others. Kellogg's Honey Smacks is more than half sugar by weight, nutritional watchdog groups have found, placing it atop lists of the worst cereals. A single serving contains more sugar than a Twinkie. 

Related: A History of Dessert Posing as Cereal

The King Of Pop Hawked Alpha-bits

The King of Pop Hawked Alpha-Bits

A young Michael Jackson and the rest of the Jackson 5 starred in five musical Alpha-Bits commercials in 1973, three years after their smash hit "ABC" came out. You can catch a couple of the spots here

Froot Loops Are Just One Flavor

Froot Loops Are All One Flavor

Red, green, blue, purple — all those fruity O's are supposed to represent different fruit flavors, right? That's a negative. Kellogg's itself has confirmed that the colors represent only a single sugary "froot" flavor.

cocoa puffs

General Mills Shot Cereal Out of a Puffing Gun

Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms — these iconic cereals and more owe their existence to the General Mills puffing gun, an invention that helped it produce puffed cereal as quickly and cheaply as possible with the bonus of a loud, impressive "BOOM." The puffing gun evolved over the decades, and today most cereal is not blasted into existence but forced through an extruder barrel

There Was Almost a Fourth Rice Krispies Mascot
Picture Post / Stringer / Picture Post / Getty Images CC

There Was Almost a 4th Rice Krispies Mascot

Rice Krispies' long-standing mascots, the adorable elves Snap, Crackle, and Pop, started appearing in ads for the cereal in the '30s, and came together on the box beginning in 1941. But in the 1950s, Kellogg ad executives used a fourth character named Pow in a couple of commercials. He was a spaceman character who never spoke, instead zipping around on some sort of spacecraft and "adding power" to every box of Rice Krispies.

Frosted Flakes Flew to the Moon
Wikimedia Commons

Frosted Flakes Flew to the Moon

One small step for man, one giant leap for cereal? When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in 1969, Kelloggs made sure they had plenty of fuel for the mission — in the form of cereal, of course. Apollo 11 was stocked with both Frosted Flakes and Corn Flakes, the latter of which were sent as fruit-flavored cubes.

Fruity Pebbles Had A Cringe-worthy Precursor

Fruity Pebbles Had a Cringe-Worthy Precursor

Sold in the '50s and '60s, Post's Sugar Rice Krinkles were basically a sweeter version of Rice Krispies, but the cereal's Asian mascot, So-Hi, would never pass muster among advertising executives today. Post eventually pulled the plug, but used Sugar Rice Krinkles as a base for Fruity Pebbles. That cereal was introduced in 1970 with the help of the less offensive Flintstones, who are still on the box.

Related: Twinkies, Polaroids, and Other Popular Products That Have Been Revived

Early Chex Cereal Was Called ‘Shredded Ralston’
Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks Didn't Kill Life Cereal's 'Mikey'

If you were a '70s kid, you surely remember the Life cereal ad featuring little Mikey. "He likes it! Hey, Mikey!" screams his older brother, pleased that the finicky child approves of the cereal. The spot, one of the longest-running commercials of all time, eventually spurred a pervasive urban legend that the actor who played Mikey had died after Pop Rocks and soda exploded in his stomach. But nope — little Mikey grew up and became, fittingly enough, an advertising executive.

Related: 35 Foods That Are Dangerous If Not Prepared Properly

Kellogg’s First Banana Experiment Was a Dud

Kellogg's First Banana Experiment Was a Dud

In 1964, Kellogg's launched an innovative Corn Flakes With Instant Bananas cereal, but apparently it didn’t go over so well. It lasted just a couple of years, with the not-so-tasty bananas "turning an unappetizing brownish color in milk," according to the site Mr. Breakfast. Never fear, banana fans: Kellogg's isn’t done experimenting with the fruit. Raisin Bran added bananas, and limited-edition Banana Crème Frosted Flakes hit store shelves early in 2019. 

Related: 45 Best Homemade Pancake Recipes

Lucky Charms Has Had A Revolving Slate Of Marshmallows

Lucky Charms' Marshmallows Have Changed

When Lucky Charms debuted in 1963, it was sweetened with four marshmallows: green clovers, pink hearts, orange stars, and yellow moons. Today, only the pink hearts and green clovers remain relatively unchanged. The yellow moons have turned blue, and the orange stars are now orange-and-white shooting stars. Also in the current lineup: rainbows, horseshoes, balloons, and unicorns. Has-beens include hourglasses and blue diamonds.

The Trix Rabbit Has Eaten His Cereal Only Three Times

The Trix Rabbit Has Eaten His Cereal Only 3 Times

"Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids!" So goes one of the most iconic lines in cereal advertising. But it turns out the Trix Rabbit has indeed gotten his paws on a bowl of his favorite fruity cereal three times: in 1976, when he tricked kids by dressing up as a balloon seller; in 1980, when kids took pity on the rabbit during a mail-in vote; and in 1991, after winning the "Tour de Trix" bicycle race.

Corn Flakes Offered the First Cereal 'Prize'

Corn Flakes Offered the First Cereal 'Prize'

You probably have fond childhood memories of digging some sort of trinket out of your favorite cereal. It turns out the first-ever cereal prize came from boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in 1909. It was a book called "Kellogg's Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures," and buyers actually had to send away to get it. Kellogg's continued to give away the same book for 23 years.

There Are Few Real Cereal Toys Anymore

There Are Few Real Cereal Toys Anymore

Speculation about the downfall of cereal toys often includes safety reasons. For instance, in 1988, millions of toy flutes and binoculars found in Kellogg's cereals were recalled for being a choking hazard. In reality, it turns out we can probably blame the internet. After all, telling kids to go online and play a cereal-sponsored game is way cheaper than putting some plastic trinket in the box.

You Can Still Buy Quisp Cereal

You Can Still Buy Quisp Cereal

If you're a baby boomer who fondly remembers eating Quaker's sugary, crunchy Quisp corn cereal in the '60s and '70s, you may be surprised to find that you can still buy it in bulk on Amazon. The alien-festooned box has also popped up sporadically on store shelves over the past several decades, partially thanks to the enthusiasm of devoted fans who will pay four figures for Quisp memorabilia.

Apple Jacks Got In Trouble For Its ‘Bad Apple’

Apple Jacks Got in Trouble for Its 'Bad Apple'

The Apple Jacks kids may be the best-known Apple Jacks mascots, having reigned for more than two decades starting in the '70s. But a more recent campaign, involving a Jamaican cinnamon stick, CinnaMon, and the grouchy Bad Apple, had the cereal in the hot seat. Several groups called on Kellogg's to change the ads because they were disparaging fruit and teaching kids that "apples are not good for them to eat." Though it called the charges unfounded, Kellogg's did agree to stop calling apples "bad."

Related: 20 Things You Didn't Know About Apples

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal
Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal by theimpulsivebuy (CC BY-SA)

Pumpkin Spice Has Spared Few Cereals

When a pumpkin spice latte just isn't enough, never fear: Your favorite childhood cereal also may have hopped on the pumpkin spice bandwagon. Grocery shelves have recently hosted limited-edition pumpkin spice Cheerios, pumpkin spice Frosted Flakes, pumpkin spice Frosted Mini Wheats, and pumpkin spice Life, among other varieties. Most have been well-reviewed, with the Cheerios even receiving a thumbs-up from Bon Appétit.

Related: 25 Pumpkin Spice-Flavored Products You'll Want to Try — and 13 to Skip

Sugar Pops

Corn Pops Used to Be Sugar Pops

If you're a Corn Pops fan, you may remember the cereal having a different name at the breakfast table when you were a kid. Introduced in 1951, this Kellogg's favorite used to be called Sugar Pops. In the '70s, it became Sugar Corn Pops, before losing the word "sugar" altogether in the '80s. It's not the only cereal to ditch the word "sugar" as parents pushed back against unhealthy cereals — for instance, Post's Golden Crisp used to be Sugar Crisp (and it's still known as such in Canada). 

Related: I Banned Sugar From My Diet for a Week and Here's What Happened

The First Raisin Bran Wasn’t Kellogg’s

The First Raisin Bran Wasn't Kellogg's

Though Kellogg's arguably makes the best-known Raisin Bran on store shelves, a company called Skinner introduced the cereal in 1925. But both Kellogg's and Post started making their own versions in 1942, leading Skinner to sue for trademark infringement. It lost, with the court ruling that the name Raisin Bran is "merely descriptive of the ingredients." Today, you can find Raisin Bran from just about every cereal manufacturer, including a ton of generic store brands.

Frosted Mini Wheats Don’t Make You Smarter