The Happy Hollisters may have been accustomed to the hot-off-the-griddle flapjacks that their mother lovingly made them for breakfast, but many other American children in the 1950s started off their mornings with cereal. Since the first cold breakfast cereal was invented in 1863, adults and kids alike have enjoyed pairing their favorite cereal with a splash of refreshing milk, but the cereal boxes that color the grocery store aisles have certainly seen a lot of change throughout the years.
In the 1950s, sugar-loving kids were in luck! Some of the most popular cereals of the time were packed with sugar, and people could satisfy their sweet tooth with cereals like Sugar Rice Crinkles and Frosty-O’s, which General Mills marketed in 1959 as “goodness shaped like little frosted donuts.” One of the most sugary cereals of the 1950s, Kellogg’s Sugar Smacks, can still be found in stores today; it has been rebranded as Honey Smacks, but still contains the same amount of sugar (a whopping 56%) that it did in the 1950s. In 1951, Post’s Corn-fetti emerged as the first sugar-coated corn flake cereal, a predecessor to cereals like Frosted Flakes, but its success was short-lived. Corn-fetti flakes were notoriously difficult to chew and quickly fell out of popularity.
For people looking to limit their sugar intake, there were plenty of healthier cereal choices in the supermarkets of the 1950s. Kellogg’s offered a high-protein option with their Corn-Soya, and Nabisco’s Wheat Honeys, marketed as “the original honey flavored cereal,” used natural honey to provide a sweet-but-healthier taste.
Wheat Honeys used a bee to promote their cereal, just as General Mills has done to advertise Honey Nut Cheerios. While a bee makes sense for a honey-flavored cereal, many cereal brands in the 1950s took a more unique approach to their mascots. Sugar Smacks and Sugar Rice Crinkles both featured clowns on their cereal boxes, which might terrify some young children if they appeared in the cereal aisle today. Kellogg’s used a brawny Scotsman dubbed “Big Otis” on their boxes of OKs oat cereal, but he was replaced by popular cartoon character Yogi Bear in the 1960s. Fans of Hearts of Oats got used to seeing a lion mascot named Linus the Lionheart on their cereal boxes, and a jovial pirate and his parrot pal served as the mascot for Corn-fetti during its peak in the early 1950s. Tarzan even made an appearance in the breakfast cereal world and was featured as the mascot of Nabisco’s Cubs shredded wheat cereal in 1957.
If none of these mascots or brand names are ringing a bell, maybe you’ll recall some of their attention-grabbing catchphrases. Using Big Otis the Scotsman, OKs were advertised as a “br-r-awny new oat cereal,” and Corn-fetti enticed fans by describing their cereal as “corn flakes with a magic sugar coat.” Corn-Soya might take the prize for the most unique slogan, however. Their jingle was “when mornings grow crisp, send ‘em off to school feeling o-boya. Give ‘em substantial Corn-Soya!”
Though slogans, mascots, and the sugar content of cereals have changed since the 1950s, one thing still remains the same: a bowl of your favorite cereal is a swell way to start the day! What was your favorite cereal when you were a kid? Let us know in the comments!
By Libby Svenson Kennedy
Which Cereals Have the Most Sugar? Metro Parent for Southeast Michigan
The Cereal Project
12 Long-forgotten Cereals of the 1950s: MeTV Tampa Bay