Brand-new snack foods are introduced to the market all the time, and there are others that have been around for as long as you can remember. But you probably didn’t know that some have been around longer than anyone can remember. Thinking back to the snacks and desserts of your childhood will always bring you sweet nostalgia. Of course, some of your favorite brands have probably been discontinued, but other treats manage to live on through the decades. You might find it hard to believe, but these still-popular snack brands are over 100 years old.
Quaker Oats isn’t kidding when they say “Old Fashioned.” The Quaker Mill Company was founded in 1877 and trademarked its classic mascot in the same year — the first trademark ever issued for a breakfast cereal. Over the next few decades, the company merged with other mills — some even older, dating back to the 1850s — but maintained the iconic brand. Contrary to popular belief, Quaker wasn’t founded by Quakers in Pennsylvania. The name was supposedly chosen because of Quakers’ association with “honesty, integrity, purity and strength,” according to the company’s website. At first, marketing was a challenge. In the 19th century, Americans thought of oats solely as livestock feed and had no interest in eating food meant for horses. But Quaker’s impressive marketing schemes (including inventing cereal boxes and selling the first-ever products with a prize inside) were such a success that they’ve lasted over a century.
Kids these days aren’t exactly clamoring for Fig Newtons, but they’ve certainly stood the test of time. The cookies were invented in the 1890s, when eating fruit and biscuits together was thought of as a cure for tummy troubles. Newtons were first sold in 1891 by the Massachusetts-based Kennedy Biscuit Company, which eventually merged with Nabisco. Some stories attribute the recipe for Newtons to an Ohio bakery owner named Charles Roser and the manufacturing process to an inventor named James Henry Mitchell — but Sir Isaac Newton definitely didn’t have anything to do with it. Kennedy Biscuit Company actually named the treats after the nearby town of Newton, Massachusetts.
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Just what is the “fruit” in Juicy Fruit? This is a question that’s plagued consumers for over 100 years. But unlike other snack food mysteries, this one has a potential answer. Allegedly, Wrigley’s has responded to customer emails saying that the gum is meant to taste like a combination of lemon, orange, pineapple and banana, though some people swear Juicy Fruit tastes like jackfruit. William Wrigley Jr., the brains behind Juicy Fruit gum, may be the only one to know for sure. He was actually primarily in the baking soda business until 1893, when he realized that the gum he included free with each package was more popular than the baking soda itself. He introduced Juicy Fruit as his first-ever flavor, and soon after it became the most popular gum in the world.
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Cornflakes cereal may be plain compared to the other wacky cereals, but its origins are anything but bland. John Harvey Kellogg was a Seventh-day Adventist and superintendent of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a “health resort” for mental health patients that functioned on Adventist principles. One of these principles was dietary restriction — avoiding sweet and spicy foods and eating a vegetarian diet was thought to alleviate symptoms. Kellogg’s younger brother Will Keith Kellogg accidentally left out some wheat overnight, and it started to ferment. In an attempt to revive it, he rolled the dough into sheets and toasted the thin flakes. After finding that patients enjoyed the snack, the brothers tinkered with different types of grains — including corn. The result was an unsweetened version of what we now know as cornflakes. John Harvey Kellogg later had a falling out with his little brother because Will sweetened the flakes to sell outside of the sanitarium. But regardless of how sacrilegious sugar was, consumers loved it. Cornflakes were an immediate hit.
You can’t celebrate Halloween without eating one too many Tootsie Roll candies; they’re one of the best things you get while trick or treating! They’ve been a popular treat for longer than you might realize, though. Tootsie Rolls were invented by Leo Hirschfeld, an Austrian immigrant with experience in the candy business. He was hired by a successful Manhattan candy company and invented Tootsie Rolls. The candies weren’t trademarked as “Tootsie” until 1908, but according to Tootsie Roll’s website they had been around since 1896. Hirschfield named the chewy candies after his daughter, Clara, whose nickname was Tootsie. Each Tootsie Roll initially sold for just one penny. Tragically, Hirschfield committed suicide in 1922, a few years after he and the company parted ways under unclear circumstances — but his legacy lives on.
Cracker Jack have become a snack food as nostalgic as baseball cards and bubble gum, and it’s been an American snack food favorite for well over 100 years. Sugar-coated popcorn wasn’t a new concept when German immigrant Frederick “Fritz” William Rueckheim started selling Cracker Jack, a molasses and caramel-coated mix of peanuts and popcorn. But after the snack was introduced at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893 it became a sensation. “Crackerjack” is a term used to describe something great, inspiring the product’s name. The Cracker Jack name was officially registered in 1896.
With all the cereals that have been discontinued through the ages, it’s a wonder Grape-Nuts have lasted since the 19th century. The origin story of Grape-Nuts is just as nuts as that of cornflakes — and it involves the same Seventh-day Adventist sanitarium. C.W. Post, founder of the company behind Post brand cereal, suffered a mental breakdown in his early 30s and ended up at Battle Creek Sanitarium some years later. There, he was so inspired by Will Kellogg’s creations that he decided to embark on a cereal venture of his own once he got out (making sure to steal some of Kellogg’s recipes before leaving). He founded Postum Cereal Co. in 1895, which sold its first cereal product, Grape-Nuts, in 1897. Post believed that the wholesome cereal had medicinal qualities and could help to boost brain and nerve health. People loved the cereal, and Post went on to sell some of the most popular breakfast cereals of every decade after.
You might think of Jell-O as solely a food trend from the 1970s, but Jell-O first hit shelves over 70 years before that. Gelatin-based foods have been a thing since at least the 1600s, but Jell-O was the first brand to make them so popular. Jell-O was invented by small-time cough syrup manufacturer Pearle B. Wait and his wife May, who added fruit syrups to gelatin, creating a powdered product that was 88 percent sugar. May named it “Jell-O” and, after the couple proved unsuccessful at selling the product themselves, they sold the formula to a neighbor for $450. Needless to say, the new owner had better luck with the product! The original Jell-O flavors were strawberry, raspberry, orange and lemon, but now there are flavors as wildly different as apricot, watermelon and cotton candy.
Sweethearts, also known as conversation hearts, debuted in 1900. They were invented by the same company as Necco Wafers, the New England Confectionery Company. The company had been selling Necco candies with printed phrases on them since 1866, but only by special order. The candies became something of an old-timey wedding trend. Since Valentine’s Day cards were becoming popular, one of the company owners had the idea to print Valentine’s Day-related sayings on the candies. The original Sweethearts were much larger than today’s morsels, and were printed with some quality turn-of-the-century wit. Some examples were “How long shall I have to wait? Please be considerate” and “Married in white you have chosen right.” Today’s Sweethearts? They say things like “Txt me” and “U R hot.” How times have changed.
Triscuits, the wheaty, woven crackers we all know and love, have been around since the turn of the century. The crackers were invented by Henry Perky, who also created shredded wheat. Perky’s Natural Food Company (which was eventually bought by Nabisco) began selling Triscuits in 1903 with the slogan “Baked by Electricity.” Of course, nowadays many things are baked by electricity, but back then this was a novel concept, and the company's gleaming white factory in Niagara Falls, New York, was a noteworthy tourist attraction. The original crackers were much larger than today’s Triscuits, approximately 4 inches long and 2 1/4 inches wide, but the recipe hasn’t changed much.
The chocolatey malted drink mix Ovaltine has been produced since 1904. Swiss chemist Dr. Georg Wander and his son Albert invented Ovaltine (then called Ovomaltine) using egg (“ovum” in Latin) and malt. When the product was sold in Britain, something was lost in translation and the spelling was changed to Ovaltine. Later, Ovaltine was primarily advertised as a before-bed sleep aid for children. But in its early years, you could only buy Ovaltine at pharmacies, where it was sold as an energy boosting agent. The formula has changed throughout the decades, but the basics of malt, milk, eggs and cocoa remain.
Popsicles, now a popular summertime treat, were invented accidentally by an 11-year-old boy, according to the brand’s official story. In 1905, Frank Epperson was playing outside and made himself a drink from a powdered mix. He promptly forgot about it and left the cup outside in the cold overnight, stirrer and all. In the morning, he awoke to the frozen mixture and ran the cup under warm water. He took a lick from the resulting pop, and intuition told him he’d stumbled upon something fantastic. Epperson didn’t patent his claimed invention until 1923, at which time he was selling his frozen pops around the San Francisco Bay area as “Epsicles.” Eventually, the story goes, his children convinced him they should be called “Popsicles.” They sold for five cents each and came in seven flavors, the most popular of which was cherry. According to Popsicle’s website, cherry is still the most popular flavor to this day.
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There’s no cookie brand quite so iconic as the Oreo, so it’s surprising that the brand was originally a copycat. Oreos were trademarked and put on the market in 1912 by the National Biscuit Company as a direct imitation of Hydrox cookies, which debuted in 1908. The first-ever Oreo cookies were called “Oreo Biscuits,” and though the recipe was slightly different, they looked nearly identical to the Oreos you can buy today. The only difference in appearance is the imprint on the chocolate cookies. (The imprint currently used has not changed since 1952.) After their debut, Oreos quickly became one of the decade’s favorite snack foods — and they remain an American favorite. In fact, Oreos were the best-selling cookie brand of the entire 20th century.
In March of 1912, Oreos weren’t the only cookie the National Biscuit Company introduced. They also sent into circulation the now-famous Lorna Doone cookie, a simple shortbread recipe bought from a small bakery in Chicago. Despite their simplicity, the cookies were wildly successful, and have been around ever since. The cookies were most likely named after the title character in the 1869 novel by R. D. Blackmore, “Lorna Doone.” Lorna Doone, a woman tragically betrothed to marry the evil and wealthy heir of Doone Valley, is the primary love interest of humble farmer John Ridd. In the end, (spoiler alert) the two escape her family’s menacing clutches and live happily ever after. It makes for an ending almost as sweet as the cookie itself!
Walk into almost any convenience store and you’ll see boxes of Whitman’s Samplers for sale. Now owned by Russell Stover, Whitman’s has been around since 1842 and sells assortments of boxed chocolates. By the 1900s, Whitman’s chocolates were already in drugstores across America, and the Sampler debuted in 1912. The cross-stitch package design was inspired by a cross-stitch sampler sewed by the company president’s great aunt. By 1915, the Whitman’s Sampler was one of the best-selling chocolate products in the U.S., and while they may pale in comparison to high-quality truffles from the best chocolate shop in your state, Whitman’s Samplers are a timeless tradition to gift for holidays, birthdays and other celebrations.
Life Savers have been around for well over 100 years, having been invented in 1912. Clarence Crane, a candymaker in Ohio, noticed that his sales of chocolate and maple candies plummeted in the summer months, possibly due to them melting. So using a machine pharmacies used to make round pills, Crane made round mints and punched a hole in the middle to shape them like a life preserver, naming them “Life Savers” after the flotation device. Crane sold his candy idea to a wealthy New Yorker named Edward Noble, who then started his own company selling “Pep-O-Mint Life Savers.” By 1919, Noble had expanded to six other flavors (Wint-O-Green, Cl-O-ve, Lic-O-Rice, Cinn-O-Mon, Vi-O-Let and Choc-O-Late). One of the most popular Halloween candies in America, Life Savers today come in mint and fruity flavors, as well as gummies, sour candies and many other varieties.
You can only find Mallomars for about seven months out of the year, and there’s no good reason for that besides marketing. But back when Mallomars were introduced by Nabisco in 1913, the seasonality of these cookies was necessary. During the months of September through March, or sometimes October through April, it was cold enough outside to transport these confections without them melting. Though they’re available nationwide, most Mallomars are sold in the Northeast — over 70 percent of them are sold to the New York metropolitan area.
Tastykakes are a popular lunchbox treat, but you might not realize that your grandparents might have eaten these when they were kids, too, especially if they grew up near Philadelphia. The original Tastykake (which was a generic snack cake no longer offered by Tastykake) was first invented in 1914 by baker Philip J. Baur and egg salesman Herbert T. Morris. Morris’ wife supposedly inspired the name when she taste-tested the snack and exclaimed, “What a tasty cake!” The individually wrapped cakes were an immediate hit, and were delivered (often by horse and buggy!) to restock local stores. Each cake cost just a dime. “Tastykake Juniors,” which were produced in the 1920s, were just five cents.
MoonPies are made of two graham cracker cookies sandwiching a marshmallow filling, all dipped in chocolate. If you’re from the South, you’ve definitely eaten one. MoonPies were first produced in 1917 by Chattanooga Bakery in Tennessee, where they’re still manufactured today. They supposedly got their name because a Kentucky coal miner asked Earl Mitchell (a salesman from Chattanooga Bakery) for a snack “as big as the moon.” The bakery sent back the first-ever MoonPie, and it was such a hit with the group of miners — and with everyone — that soon the bakery stopped making anything else.
It’s hard to believe there was a time when kids never knew the joy of biting into a Fluffernutter sandwich. But that time was thankfully long, long ago — over 100 years ago, in fact. In 1913, the brother-and-sister team of Amory and Emma Curtis invented a substance they called “Snowflake Marshmallow Creme.” Emma published a recipe in a promotional booklet for a “Liberty Sandwich” peanut butter and Snowflake Marshmallow Creme spread on oat or barley bread. Their product was a regional success in New England until their marshmallow factory finally closed in 1962. But the formula that really took off, Marshmallow Fluff, was invented separately in 1917 by a confectioner in Somerville, Massachusetts, named Archibald Query. He sold his marshmallow creme recipe for $500 to two candy makers, H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower (which, considering how much a dollar could buy back then, probably seemed like a good deal at the time). The pair began selling “Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff,” which people began using on Curtis’ sandwich recipe. Around 1960, the Durkee-Mower advertising department renamed it the “Fluffernutter,” and an icon was born.
Smooth, extra-processed Velveeta cheese may seem like a modern invention, but it’s been around for over a century. And unlike some other accidental processed products, this one was invented very much on purpose. In 1918, the Monroe Cheese Company in New York had encountered a problem. They found that many of their wheels of high-quality Swiss cheese ended up broken or misshapen. Unsure of how to repurpose the cheese deemed unfit for sale, the company sent a bunch of the cheese to one of their employees, Emil Frey. Frey had previously invented an American spin on Limburger called Liederkranz (which can still be found), and the Monroe Cheese Company asked if he could do it again. He messed around a bit on his stove at home, using the cheese and ingredients such as whey and other add-ons. The end result was a smooth, malleable cheese product with a velvety texture. Frey called it “Velveeta,” and it ended up being even more popular than the original cheese it was made from.
Hostess is the company behind sweet treats such as Twinkies, Donettes, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Zingers… You get the picture. But the Hostess cake empire began with the Hostess CupCake. Continental Baking created its original CupCake (which looked almost identical, just without the classic white swirl you’ll now see on top) in 1919, claiming it was the first-ever individually packaged snack cake. (Whoever made this claim forgot to fact-check; the real winner of this title was Tastykake in 1914.) Consumers loved the new treats, and the brand quickly expanded to add more flavors and products. Originally, a package of two snack cakes sold for just five cents. Those plush, sugary cakes are a guilty pleasure food you shouldn’t apologize for loving.
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