Jell-O Pudding Pops Were A Classic '90s Treat. Why Were They Discontinued?

If you browse the snack aisle or the frozen food section in any grocery store today, you'll see many of the items that were first introduced to consumers in the 1990s. Whether it be Fruit Roll-Ups, Cosmic Brownies, Totino's Pizza Rolls, or Bagel Bites, plenty of the foods '90s kids grew up eating are still readily available. However, there are several others that didn't stand the test of time. You won't be able to find Philadelphia Cheesecake Bars, Crystal Pepsi, or Cheetos Cracker Trax anymore, for example. Still, the discontinuation of these products probably went unnoticed because they weren't exactly most people's favorite. The same can't be said for Jell-O Pudding Pops.

The frozen treat was widespread and popular throughout the 90s and is still remembered with fondness. But unlike the quiet disappearance of Crystal Pepsi and the like, when Jell-O Pudding Pops were pulled from shelves, they left an average of 3,600 people per month Googling where they went.

Jell-O Pudding Pops were never a sure thing

Jell-O Pudding Pops may have been a hit when they first came out, but that's largely because General Foods — the company that used to own the Jell-O brand — did everything it could to ensure they wouldn't flop. Though Jell-O was a household name, it wasn't in its prime in the 1990s when Pudding Pops launched. Back in the 1960s, Jell-O had been so popular that it even released savory flavors for the now-outdated Jell-O salad recipes. But sales started to plummet in 1974, and in 1978, General Foods saw an opportunity.

During this time, the "afternoon snacks" category was growing in popularity, and General Foods began developing what would eventually become pudding pops. "The question was, 'How can we put pudding in the path of the afternoon snack opportunity?' What we did was to freeze it and put it on a stick," General Foods General Manager Peter Rosow told The New York Times. This was followed by a few years of test marketing, plus a major advertising campaign with Bill Cosby as the spokesperson. Being backed by someone who was a big celebrity at the time made the product seem like a commercial success to consumers, but the numbers told a different story.

Why did they stop making Jell-O Pudding Pops?

Thanks to General Foods' marketing efforts, Jell-O Pudding Pops generated a whopping $100 million in sales in their first year. Popularity continued soaring, and in five years' time, Jell-O Pudding Pops became the number one brand in the frozen treats category. While $300 million within five years was a high sales figure, the company didn't see a huge profit, as Robert McMath explained in the book "What Were They Thinking? Marketing Lessons You Can Learn From Products That Flopped." Not only did General Foods spend a great deal of money on advertising, but popsicles weren't the company's forte — gelatin powder was. Manufacturing, therefore, wasn't efficient, and as copycat products began to pop up, it got harder for General Foods to keep up. Profit margins for the pudding pops remained low, despite how popular the product was.

In 2004, licensing rights were sold to Popsicle, who began making a new and improved version of the product. By 2011, Popsicle decided to phase them out once again. Jell-O offered up an explanation on Twitter in 2018, saying "This product has been discontinued due to not enough consumers purchasing it." And crushing the hopes of anyone who might be banking on a comeback, the brand also clarified that there weren't any future plans to bring it back.