This Is What Your Favorite Cereal Brands Used to Look Like
Take a nostalgic breakfast flashback down the cereal aisle.
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With colorful marshmallow bits and a little leprechaun magic, Lucky Charms first captured cereal lovers’ hearts in 1964. According to General Mills, the original cereal included, “oat pieces in shapes of bells, fish, arrowheads, clovers and X’s, and green clovers, pink hearts, orange stars and yellow moons marshmallows.” The idea for the marshmallows, known as marbits, came from product developer John Holahan, who chopped up pieces of circus peanuts candy. Lucky the Leprechaun has been the brand’s mascot since the beginning, except for a brief time in 1975 when he was replaced by Waldo the Wizard. If you love this cereal, try Pillsbury’s new cookie dough packed with Lucky Charms marshmallows!
Born on Crunch Island, Cap’n Horatio Magellan Crunch first set sail in the breakfast aisle in 1963. He’s been sailing on the Sea of Milk, commanding the S.S. Guppy, for more than 50 years. Rocky and Bullwinkle animator Jay Ward designed the character, and the Quaker Oats Company built a crunchy-sweet cereal brand around him. Look for Cotton Candy Cap’N Crunch at a store near you!
General Mills’ cereal Cocoa Puffs debuted in 1958, and was basically a chocolate flavored version of Kix corn puffs. The earliest boxes featured a trio of Cocoa Puff-craving kids. Sonny the Cuckoo Bird flew in as the brand’s mascot a few years later, and he’s still around today. Everyone remembers Sonny’s famous catch phrase, “I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!” Psst—you have to try these mind-blowing ways to use cereal.
In 1965, Kellogg’s launched Apple Jacks, an apple-cinnamon coated cereal. Early commercials promised kids, “A bowl a day keeps the bullies away!” Originally the O-shaped cereal pieces were all orange; now the pieces are a mix of orange and green. The first Apple Jacks mascot was Apple Guy, a smiling apple with cereal eyes. Today the boxes feature two characters, Bad Apple and CinnaMon. By the way, this is what your favorite snack foods used to look like.
Alpha-Bits, made by Post Consumer Brands, has helped kids learn their ABCs since 1958. In the early 1960s, Loveable Truly, a friendly postman mascot, delivered Alpha-Bits’ “letters” to eager kids. He was actually the brand’s second postman, replacing a more gruff character. Post reformulated the recipe in 2017 to have more whole grains and less sugar. These retro breakfast recipes deserve a comeback.
Kaboom and its colorful clown mascot blasted onto the breakfast table in 1969. The toasted oat cereal was promoted as high in vitamins, and it was certainly high in food coloring. In an early commercial, the boisterous clown exclaimed, “Even the candy stars are vitamin charged!” While still remembered by many ’70s and ’80s kids, General Mills officially discontinued Kaboom in 2010. These are the best cereal desserts you haven’t tried yet.
Pink Panther Flakes
Post launched Pink Panther Flakes in the early 1970s as a tie-in to the popular Saturday morning kids’ show. Each pink box contained bright pink frosted corn flakes, which turned your milk pink. The spy-themed toys featured inside are now considered collectors’ items. TV commercials for the cereal featured a catchy jingle about the pink flakes set to Harry Mancini’s famous Pink Panther theme song. These brands are much older than you think.
The first mascot, King Vitaman I, was designed by Jay Ward, who also drew the character for Cap’N Crunch. In an early TV commercial, the king tried to protect his breakfast from the “Not-So-Bright Knight.” Actor George Mann replaced Vitaman I a year later. In 2000, the boxes featured an animated king with a purple robe and long white beard. The “100% vitamin and iron cereal,” discontinued in 2019, was shaped like little crowns. No matter which brand you enjoy, this is why you shouldn’t buy your cereal at Costco.
General Mills created CheeriOats in 1941, the first oat-based, ready-to-eat cereal. The cereal’s name changed to Cheerios four years after its debut. The bright yellow box still looks much the same as in this 1950s ad. And Cheerios are one of the five healthiest cereals you can eat! The toasted round O’s now come in several flavors, including honey nut, frosted, chocolate and apple cinnamon. During a nationwide contest to name Honey Nut Cheerios’ mascot in 1999, Kristine Tong, a fifth-grader from Texas, suggested the winning name, BuzzBee.
C.W. Post, founder of Postum Cereal Co. Ltd., in Battle Creek, Michigan, launched Grape-Nuts in 1897. This cereal certainly has staying power. Despite the name it contains neither grapes nor nuts, but rather wheat and barley. While this ad from 1958 markets Grape-Nuts as a diet food, the brand is now seen as a nutrition-packed meal that can help athletes push through tough physical challenges. Check out these other vintage food ads.
Postum Cereal Co. Ltd. introduced Elijah’s Manna, its second cereal, in 1904. The now-discontinued brand was similar to Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (which was invented by accident!), and boxes featured an image of the Old Testament prophet with a raven. After push back from religious leaders, Post changed the cereal’s name to Post Toasties in 1908. This vintage ad shows how the cereal boxes looked in 1913.