Ever heard the phrase “like a kid in a candy store?” Well you should see a cereal and Pop-Tart blogger in Kellogg’s headquarters.
Earlier this month, I was generously invited to tour Kellogg’s command center in Battle Creek, Michigan. And from the minute I stepped into their twinkling castle of brick and glass, I had to resist every urge to swoon head over heels like a ’50s sitcom romantic.
With a colorful Kellogg’s timeline on the wall, a dedicated Eggo Waffle showcase, a 24-hour cereal bar in full view, and an overhead Snap, Crackle, and Pop banner so large it’d put Citizen Kane to shame, this place was pretty much a cereal Xanadu.
But that was just the beginning: as the kind brand marketer and PR representative who led my tour quickly assured me, I would soon be traveling through Kellogg’s past, as well as its present.
But first, I got to geek out about some modern breakfast classics with the people who actually make them.
The Frosted Flakes team was quick to tell me the extended origin story of their newest Cinnamon Frosted Flakes. It’s been publicized that the flavor scientists behind this spicy–sweet cereal tested 100 different cinnamon flavor variations with consumers, before deciding on the floral, malted cinnamon winning formula you can eat today.
But the truth is that they only stopped counting at 100. In reality, Kellogg’s tried countless ingredient permutations before finding the best recipe—one that bakes the cinnamon into the frosting instead of dusting it on, so that all the cinnamon powder doesn’t wash off in milk or end up on your nice dress pants.
It’s also worth noting that Cinnamon Frosted Flakes came into reality largely because of mass social media demand. So if you’ve ever requested a new product online, only to get the ambiguous “we’ll tell our team” response, know that someone’s actually tallying the popular vote. Whether your heart’s wildest desire is Pumpkin Spice Frosted Flakes, Gingerbread Frosted Flakes, or Glazed Doughnut Frosted Flakes, it can’t hurt to voice your imagination.
Next up was a quick trip to the Kellogg’s cereal bar and the world of Pop-Tarts, where—over a bowl of Krave—I got to admire the current family tree of Kellogg’s toaster pastries, and try the latest genealogical additions to the Pop-Tarts lineage: Vanilla Latte and Chocolate Mocha!
Most importantly, the Pop-Tarts brand marketer I spoke to tempted my Pavlovian taste buds with a story about his own visit to the Pop-Tarts factory. The factory no longer gives public tours, but I was assured that, if I ever get the opportunity to try a “fresh off the line” Pop-Tart, it will be the best, warmest, purest, and most life-changing-est Pop-Tart I ever eat.
“Fresh off the line Pop-Tarts” have since joined Oreo Cakesters and Cosmic Brownies in the “Brotherhood of Snacks That Appear in My Nightly Dreams.”
Eager to revisit decades of colorful Kellogg’s fun, I then dove deep into the promised company archives. This magical place is filled to the brim with Kellogg’s memorabilia, and it probably contains more cereal boxes than the sum total of Raisin Bran raisins I’ve ever eaten.
Okay, regardless of whether or not that’s true, this place is still impressive: with retro boxes sorted neatly by decade, cardboard celebrity standees peeking out from behind shelves, and a conspicuously massive foam Eggo Waffle, I could easily lose more hours studying the Kellogg’s archives than a Parisian researcher could in the catacombs.
The friendly archivists showed me a lot of cool relics, and now I want to share my five favorites. Do you have your trusty time traveling socks on? Good. Because they’re about to be knocked off.
#5: Apple Currant Pop-Tarts Box
When Pop-Tarts first debuted in 1964, they came in four flavors. Three of them—Strawberry, Blueberry, and Brown Sugar Cinnamon—are still 21st century mainstays. But the elusive fourth, Apple Currant, has remained lost to history.
Sure, there have been Apple Strudel, Apple Blast, Apple Cinnamon, Apple Cinnamon Muffin, Caramel Apple, and even American Apple Pie Pop-Tarts since, but no pastry as oddly specific as Apple Currant. Heck, I had to Google the word “Currant” just to learn that it’s a dried grape and not the name of a Star Wars planet.
I doubt today’s youth are clamoring for a Currant Pop-Tart—even a Fig Newton Pop-Tart would be more likely—but I guess I could still re-create it by sandwiching some apple butter between two Grape Pop-Tarts.
Also interesting is this retro Pop-Tarts advertisement, from back when all Pop-Tarts came unfrosted and diagonally segmented for easy access to the gooey filling. And check out those hot coupon savings: eight cents!
This advertisement came around the same time as Pop-Tarts famous “Oops! We goofed” promotion—my personal favorite. Unable to keep up with mass demand for their doughy rectangles, Kellogg’s had to confess that they simply didn’t make enough Pop-Tarts.
It’s charming in retrospect, but I think a Pop-Tarts shortage today might very well cause the end of modern civilization. Keep ’em comin’, Kellogg’s!
#4: Kellogg’s Silver & Gold Corn Flakes Trophy
Believe it or not, this trophy, crafted by Tiffany and priced at $1,000.00 back in 1909, once graced the homestead of America’s King Corn.
Okay, okay: let me explain. Back in the heyday of W.K. Kellogg’s Toasted Corn Flakes, the brand wanted to encourage farmers to produce only the highest quality bushels for its milled and rolled flakes.
So to incentivize corn growing, Kellogg’s offered this towering trophy—big and sparkly enough to make the Stanley Cup feel inadequate—to the man, woman, child, or (presumably) cow who grew the best ear of corn in America.
Awarded annually at the Omaha Corn Exposition Festival, this trophy had to be returned to Kellogg’s the following year, unless the same farmer won again. According to Kellogg’s archivist—who tells me this is the one piece in the building he’d save over all others in the event of a calamity—the company promised permanent trophy ownership to anyone who won three times in a row, but the contest ended after, you guessed it, three years.
Just as dazzling as it was over a century ago, this Corn Flakes trophy is a reflective piece of history. I can only assume that its gold and silver body is stuffed with cereal crafted from America’s finest corn—and those flakes are probably preserved forever in platinum, too.
#3: Crunchy Loggs, Triple Snack, and Most Cereal
Okay, this one’s kind of cheating, because there are three distinct cereals here. But each is so obscure and largely forgotten that I had to include it here.
1978’s Crunchy Loggs was a corn and oat cereal, shaped like actual hunks of tree and designed to stay crunchy even after prolonged milk dunking. Even though the cereal had a strawberry variety and an adorable mascot (Bixby Beaver) it didn’t last long. Maybe the idea of eating wooden cylinders didn’t stimulate as many appetites as ol’ Bixby had hoped.
Confession: it took me way too long to realize that Crunchy Loggs has two g’s in its name because of Kellogg’s. I’m not the tallest redwood in the forest, am I?
1963’s Triple Snack is even more unique—and I’m not saying that because of its biologically impossible blue giraffe mascot. The three snacks alluded to by this cereal’s name are puffed corn, puffed wheat, and roasted peanuts, making Triple Snack one of very few cereals to feature bona fide peanuts.
Amongst the others is Crunchy Nut, another Kellogg’s cereal that was taken from us too soon. As I mentioned this aloud at the archives, several of the nearby Kellogg’s employees joined me in mourning Crunchy Nut’s untimely disappearance.
The last one, 1979’s Most Cereal, wasn’t very memorably flavored—though this ad claims that Most’s bran fiber and wheat germ combo was the first of its kind—but I’m including it here just because of how unheard of it is.
If someone today said, “I loved Most Cereal,” the logical response would be, “Well if you liked most cereals, what cereal didn’t you like?” This would then begin a vicious conversational cycle worthy of Abbott & Costello.
I was also told that somewhere, deep in the archives, were a number of planned but ultimately unreleased Kellogg’s cereal experiments, but those were kept tightly under wraps. That must be where they’re keeping the Glazed Doughnut Frosted Flakes!
#2: Pokémon Cereal Goodies!
Judging by eBay standards, a box of Pokémon Cereal isn’t exactly rare—even though this one is strangely missing the cereal’s iconic holographic embossment.
The cereal was released alongside a number of other awesome Pokémon products in 2000 to promote Pokémon: The Movie 2000. The line included Eggo Waffles, Pop-Tarts, and Nutri-Grain Twists, all of which appear in my happiest, most nostalgic memories. I was (and am) a not-so-secret Pokémaniac, so when Pikachu-branded snacks started rolling out, you’d better believe I caught ’em all.
What is rare are these premiums from Kellogg’s “Be the Ultimate Pokémon Master” promotion. This campaign involved everything from small, exclusive figurines tucked into Pop-Tart boxes (the above Charmander was later released in stores, and I think I have one in my basement), to an actual “Ultimate Pokémon Master Camp” held in New York City.
I can’t confirm whether this shirt came from that camp or not, but a lack of online information makes me want to believe it. This tee is like candy for my eyes, and I’m not sure if I’d rather have it sewn into a quilt or flown in front of my house like the world’s geekiest pennant.
#1: Kream Krunch Cereal Box
You thought I was done naming obscure vintage cereals? Trust me, #3 was just an appetizer compared to Kream Krunch, arguably one of the most innovative and tragically short-lived (not to mention under-appreciated) cereals of the 21st century.
Debuting in 1965, Kream Krunch paired corn, wheat, and oat rings with—deep breaths, everyone—actual bits of freeze-dried ice cream: just like astronauts eat!*
*Although it turns out that “astronaut ice cream” has never been actually taken into space. Talk about childhood-spoiling news!
Kream Krunch cereal came in orange, vanilla, and strawberry flavors, and even though it only lasted a year, it deserves the top spot on this list. It had an awesome—if slightly creepy—anthropomophized ice cream scoop mascot, and it took a tasty risk that would be borderline unimaginable in today’s economy.*
*Though I will say that the consensus in the archives was that, if any old cereal deserves to be revived, it’s this one. So if we do end up seeing Kream Krunch’s scoop-headed spokesmen grinning on stores shelves again, the breakfast world will be made so joyous that not even a Pop-Tart shortage could bring it down.
Okay, the ride’s over. Feel free to put those knocked-off socks back on.
I want to sincerely thank the good people at Kellogg’s for inviting me out. From PR and marketing to the archives and beyond, they’re committed to keeping the nostalgic (and tasty) spirits of their beloved brands alive, well into the 21st century. While some may doubt the future relevance of packaged breakfasts, Kellogg’s will be sure to find the next Cinnamon Frosted Flakes or coffee-flavored Pop-Tart that’ll keep the world’s spoons scooping and toasters popping.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some dehydrated astronaut ice cream I need to slice, dice, and serve on Rice Krispies.