For decades, foods that were kid-oriented have had the potential to be serious gold mines, with breakfast cereals at the top of the heap. But for every Golden Grahams and Lucky Charms, there have been dozens that have been forgotten to history, many with good reason. Some of these cereals were just plain bizarre, even bordering on disturbing, and we’ve tracked down 13 of them.
The earliest breakfast cereals were rather utilitarian affairs. Cold cereal as we know it was invented by John Harvey Kellogg (a name you might recognize) for patients at his sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, a place where they could go for rest, exercise, water therapy, a vegetarian diet, and abstinence from caffeine and alcohol. In 1891, he acquired a patent for his corn flakes, a more austere and healthy alternative to the usual hearty breakfasts of the day, which included ham, eggs, biscuits, and the like. In 1895, he took it national, and it took off.
Almost immediately, other companies started turning out their own breakfast cereals. In 1898, a former patient of Kellogg’s named Charles W. Post introduced his own invention, which he called Grape-Nuts, and that was a hit as well. In 1924, the newly consolidated General Mills introduced Wheaties, and in the 1930s, a puffed rice cereal (the first) named Kix went on the market.
In later decades manufacturers began to realize that they were neglecting arguably their biggest market: kids. So they boosted the sugar content, introduced a wacky mascot, and voilà. They were really off to the races: hundreds of different children’s cereals were rolled out from the 1950s onwards, with no real template for what would work and what wouldn’t. Marketing teams and ad agencies devised elaborate storylines for the mascots, often played out over decades-long advertising campaigns. For example, in the 1970s, it was revealed that Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger was Italian-American, and audiences were introduced to Mama Tony, Mrs. Tony, and even his daughter, Antoinette; Toucan Sam’s cousin, Arty Artin, was also featured in several commercials.
It’s a long, strange trip through the decades of failed breakfast cereals; it really seems like they threw everything they could think of at the wall and waited to see what stuck. Many of the ones that didn’t stick are hilariously bizarre, so read on to learn about 13 of them.