John, Please, put that Pop Tart Back You Just Ate a Pack!
I have a 68 year old friend. He is obsessed with Pop Tarts. Yes, you read that correct Pop Tarts. This has been an obsession of his since he was a child. His mother use to have to hide them from him as he would eat the whole box in one sitting.
There is something incredibly strange about Pop-Tarts. They’re packaged like space food, they’re more dessert than breakfast (and, I would argue, more chemical than whole ingredient) and yet, they’re so freaking good.
S’mores is the best flavor. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
There is something so quintessentially American about Pop-Tarts. When Kellogg, the creator of the beloved pastry, released Pop-Tarts in the UK in 1990, sales never exploded to the level that America had reached. Why were we so enamored by it?
Let’s go back to 1963. Kellogg was experiencing overwhelming success in the cereal market: Fruit Loops were gracing shelves as a bright, colorful addition to breakfast, along with Mini-Wheats and Apple Jacks. Cereal had (and still does have) its merits: it can stay on shelves without spoiling for months on end. Post, Kellogg’s main competitor, hadn’t struck the same cereal-gold (we know them nowadays for Fruity Pebbles). But, they had something that would make them breakfast king over Kellogg: they found a way to keep fruit filling fresh without a refrigerator.
Post was about to revolutionize the way families had breakfast. Moms could send their kids off to school with handheld pastries full of fruit filling. Translation: a quick and healthy breakfast for the children. Think of all the time they could save, how much more efficient the family unit could be!
But Post spoke too soon. They announced their foodie invention before their product hit the shelves. What at first had been a sure-fire win for Post now turned into a business opportunity for its competitors.
Thus, the Kellogg Pop-Tart was born. With characters like Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear and Woody Woodpecker gracing its cereal boxes, Kellogg had an “in” with kids. And they had the scoop on something big. In six months, Kellogg unveiled a new pastry that they insisted be put in the baking aisle, far away from the cereal aisle. They called it the Pop-Tart, a tip-of-the-hat to the Pop Art movement started by Andy Warhol and his neon cans of Campbell’s Soup.
The original fab four Pop-Tarts flavors were modest: strawberry, blueberry, apple-currant (a flavor that would later be changed to apple-berry, as no one could really describe what the hell a currant was) and brown sugar cinnamon (a close second, in my mind, to s’mores). I think we would recoil at these originals: they were unfrosted and…well…relatively healthy. There was a scientific reason to explain this blasphemy: frosting melted off the pastries when put in the toaster. It would take another three years for Kellogg to create a frosted Pop-Tart that wouldn’t pose a fire hazard when a kid tried to warm it up.
(The Pop-Tart-toaster relationship would prove to be a hot topic in years to come. In 1994, Patrick Michaud, a professor at Texas A&M, would show that Strawberry Toasted Pop-Tarts proved to be incredibly dangerous. Left in the toaster too long, they would flare up into foot-high flames.)
Kellogg’s competitors tried to match the Pop-Tarts smash hit, but never could quite get there. It took General Mills eighteen years to introduce the Toaster Strudel. But unlike the Pop-Tart, the Toaster Strudel needs to be frozen before dropping it into the toaster. (Though, to be fair, I haven’t heard of any toaster fires from Toaster Strudels.)
Since 1967, Kellogg has released 29 different frosted flavors of Pop-Tarts. Some, like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, sound like a natural dessert-y transition for a pastry to make. Others, like Salt Water Taffy, do not.
And there are bakeries doing their own, homemade versions of Pop-Tarts. But they’re not the same. While homemade Pop-Tarts are buttery and flaky like a pie crust, original Pop-Tarts insist on staying bland and crumbly like a shortbread cookie. And yet, we love them anyways.
Pop-Tarts is Kellogg’s most popular brand to date in the United States, with millions of units sold each year. They are distributed mainly in the United States, but are also available in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Kellogg’s produces some flavors for a short time every year, to coincide with seasonal or holiday events. Some examples include Pumpkin Pie, released every Fall since 2011, and Red White and Blueberry, brought back every Summer since 2012.
Limited flavors are produced for a short time, a few months or less, and usually have a “Limited Edition” banner on the box. They are sometimes made in cooperation with another food brand. Dunkin Donuts, Jolly Rancher, and A&W Root Beer have collaborated with Kellogg’s to create limited-edition branded Pop-Tart flavors. They have also worked with other Kellogg’s brands to make Froot Loops and Eggo flavored Pop-Tarts.
Occasionally a limited flavor will sell so well that Kellogg’s will keep producing it longer or make it a regular flavor. Red Velvet was initially released as a limited flavor in 2013, but sold so well that it was kept in production until 2017 and returned as a standard flavor in 2021.
At least one flavor, Mister-E, was discontinued shortly after its two-month marketing in Summer 2021 as Kellogg’s pulled the plug on the flavor after receiving numerous complaints. It was confirmed to be known as “Everything Bagel” on the Pop-Tart website prior to its conclusion.
Outside the United States
A much more limited number of flavors are available outside the US. This is due to local laws that may prohibit the use of specific food dyes, or the use of high fructose corn syrup.
Only three flavors are available in Europe:
Frosted Apple Blast
Frosted Strawberry Sensation
IN THE BEGINNING …
Kellogg chairman William E. LaMothe, a.k.a Bill, had a vision. A vision of transforming a delicious breakfast into a toaster-ready rectangle that could go anywhere. So he hit up “Doc” Joe Thompson, and his kitchen crew to create an ingenious hack on toast and jam.
It was called “Fruit Scone.” But that sounded terrible. So we took inspiration from the Pop Culture movement of the day and renamed it “Pop-Tarts.”
THE OHIO PLAYERS
Cleveland, Ohio, hit the world with the orig Fab Four when we released our four original flavors: Strawberry, Blueberry, Brown Sugar Cinnamon & Apple-Currant.
Since literally no one has ever seen a currant, we dropped that flavor. Years later it came back as the fan favorite Apple Pop-Tarts.
Pop-Tarts were too big for one city to hold. So after a year at the center of the Pop-Tartsiverse, Cleveland shared the love with the rest of the country and went back to just being a dope Ohio spot.
POP-TARTS GET ICY
The year we cracked how to deck Pop-Tarts toaster pastries out in frosting that kept its cool when toasted.
TIME TO SHINE
The latest stop at innovation station was the introduction of “Sugar Sparkled Frosting.” You know ‘em better as sprinkles!
Kellogg was looking for the perfect mascot to rally our fans so they introduced Milton the Toaster! While his star shined bright, he didn’t last long
Over the years, our world-changing frosted poems to snacking, grew from four delicious flavors to the sweet addition of 19. The glow-up was real!
BIG, BIGGER, BIGGEST
Our frosted icons became so popular that 8 in a box just wasn’t enough anymore. So what did we do? We hit ‘em with 12. Boom. Then 24. Boom.
THE CEREAL THE WORLD DESERVED
Word on the street was people were breaking their Pop-Tarts toaster pastries into pieces and eating them with milk. So we decided to release a cereal toasted to perfection and true to its taste. Boom.
THE TASTIEST TAGLINE
“Crazy Good” was developed as an ode to the new generation’s passion for Pop-Tarts. Before we knew it, everyone was using the phrase
VORACIOUSLY DEVOURED VISUALS
From the logos of your favorite sports teams to copyrighted characters whose names we can no longer actually use, our next innovation of printed fun frosting Pop-Tarts really was a sight to behold
50 AND FROSTIN’ FABULOUS
Half a century in the game and still shaking things up! It was an anniversary to remember, and a signal to our fans that we’re nowhere near slowing down.
TINY BITES, MASSIVE TASTE
Pop-Tarts were already amazing, but what if you could hold more in your hand? Problem solved. Don’t be fooled by these snackable Pop-Tarts Bites. They may be tiny, but they’re packed with big-flavor energy.
So there you have it! Pop Tarts yesterday, today and who knows what tomorrow will bring!