Word about the futuristic treat spread internally and became all the rage among the company’s food-science geeks, who called it atomic candy. "I thought it was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen," says Rudolph. "If your kid had a birthday party, you'd say, 'Bill, make me a batch!'"
Executives at General Foods, however, were not as impressed. The company mostly sold cereal and other dry foods, so it had little interest investing in candy, let alone one so strange. "It was considered a freak lab curiosity," Rudolph says. "They'd say, 'That’s nice, but can’t you move onto something useful?'" Meanwhile, Mitchell -- who later invented Tang and Cool Whip -- quietly filed patent papers the same year to protect his secret formula.
The recipe gathered dust until the early '70s, when Herman Neff was hired as a new company vice president for General Foods. On a tour of technical center in Tarrytown, New York, Neff met Mitchell, who offered the VP a handful of the popping pebbles, which he kept around the office for fun, according to Rudolph. Neff’s eyes lit up. Kids would flip for this stuff, he said, and ordered it be mass produced. He launched a small promotional campaign to give it away with packs of chips in 1974.