Maybe you ate them every day as a kid. Maybe you ate them straight through the hungrier stage of your adolescence. Maybe you're eating one right now! Regardless of the timeline, you've tangoed with a Pop-Tart at some stage of your life. But did you ever stop to think how this portable miracle got into your hands? While it has a little something to do with Andy Warhol, it has a lot more to do with a complete meltdown at Post. We've gathered the facts for you below so you can catch up on 50 years of history. After you're done, please pour one out for Pop-Tarts World. Gone too soon.
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1. They only exist because Post messed up a marketing campaign
When 1964 began, Kellogg had no plans to make Pop-Tarts. But then, archrival Post announced an exciting new product. It was a fruit-filled pastry that wouldn't spoil and didn't even need to go in the fridge. Kellogg should've been cursing heavily under its breath, only Post botched the product rollout in two major ways. One: after promising the pastry, Post took months tinkering with it in the lab, allowing Kellogg plenty of time to concoct its own version. Two: some Post exec decided to name the things "Country Squares." Sounds dumb now, right? In the '60s, "squares" were also "dweebs," so customers immediately thought of lame bumpkins, making the name even more disastrous. As you'll see in the ad above, Post tried to rechristen them "Toast'ems," but it was far too late.
Not wanting to repeat Post's "Country Squares" fiasco, Kellogg turned to a hip cultural scene for name ideas for its new product. Specifically, Andy Warhol's Pop Art Movement. Considering his Campbell's series and general obsession with consumerism, we have a feeling Warhol was quite pleased.
3. The first flavors were Strawberry, Blueberry, Brown Sugar Cinnamon, and Apple-Currant
That Apple-Currant changed quickly, though, as Kellogg soon discovered that no one knew what the hell a currant was and switched the flavor to "Apple-Berry" instead. Because if Americans are constantly befuddled by anything, it's plant-based foods.
4. Milton the Toaster was the original spokesman
Before it had those cartoons that scream, "Craaaaazy good," Pop-Tarts employed Milton as its pitchman. Milton was an animated toaster, but he was neither brave nor little, and had no lamp friends to speak of, so he was eventually canned.
5. There used to be Grape and French Toast flavors
Pop-Tarts has sadly locked several old flavors in the crypt. Some took another breakfast staple (French toast) and made it portable. Others were Grape. They are all dearly missed.
6. There was briefly a Times Square store that sold sushi
In 2010, Pop-Tarts joined peers like M&M's in New York's premiere sensory overload, Times Square. Pop-Tarts World was 3,200sqft of relentless pastry action -- it had hourly light shows, a vending machine that let you build your own Pop-Tart pack, and a cafe that served "sushi." (Three Pop-Tart flavors mashed up and turned into a roll.) It closed the next year, because somehow the public wasn't into strawberry frosted sashimi.
7. Seinfeld took two years to write a joke about them
We can only imagine what kind of toaster-themed scripts Jerry and Larry left on the NBC floor. (Also, if you're interested in the complete bit, it's here.)
8. They make excellent donuts and ice cream sandwiches
Carl's Jr. took Pop-Tarts one step further in 2013 with Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwiches, and just this year, Donut Bar blessed SoCal with 1lb donut hybrid Poppa-Tarts (gaze upon their splendor above). Cronut man, we're still waiting on your reply.
9. Sales have gone up for 32 years straight
Since the early '80s, Pop-Tarts have been on a hot streak. Business minds attribute it to an increase in working moms and a focus on a quicker breakfast. More speculative scholars point to millennials' refusal to stop eating s'mores breakfast pastries. Either way, these things aren't slowing down.
10. The unfrosted ones are actually worse for you
It's long been a matter of Internet debate: how are Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts 200 calories while the unfrosted are 210?? Clearly this is just another sign you should stop messing around with the bare pastries and eat Pop-Tarts as nature intended. With lots of sugary icing.
Kristin Huntis a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and thinks Country Squares sounds like a solid sitcom name. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.