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|In 1964, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun began urging moms, “laddies” and “lassies” to buy Lucky Charms, a “most exciting cereal.”|
In honor of the beloved cereal hitting the Big 5-0, and for a little St. Patrick's Day fun, here are seven things you never knew about Lucky Charms:
1. The formula was inspired by Cheerios and Circus Peanuts
In 1964, John Holahan, a vice president and developer at General Mills, took Cheerios, added Brach's Circus Peanuts candy, and then he poured the milk.
He may as well have dropped the mic, because a star was born.
2. Lucky Charms was the first-ever cereal to include marshmallows
The freeze-dried marshmallow bits that put the charm in Lucky Charms are referred to in the cereal biz as marbits. Boxes of Lucky Charms are 25% marbit.
The original lineup consisted of pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars and green clovers. In 1975, blue diamonds were introduced. Then in 1983 came purple horseshoes, and in 1989, red balloons floated in.
Since then, the roster has periodically phased out certain marshmallows, brought some back, and added new ones, such as rainbows and leprechaun hats. Temporary charms such as a pine tree, a star-balloon combo and (very briefly) a whale, have been introduced as well.
In 2004, General Mills made the marshmallows bigger and brighter, and they have remained that way since.
"Throughout the years we've introduced new marshmallows to keep the cereal new and fun," said Zechmeister. "We've not only offered marshmallows but also added innovation to our marshmallows; we've done magical hidden keys where you unlock the door with the milk, we've done double-shooting stars, we've done crystal balls and all of these are part of Lucky's great adventures."
Throughout the marbits' odyssey, the one marshmallow that has never, ever been phased out is the pink heart.
3. Almost half of all Lucky Charms are consumed by adults
Forty-eight percent of all Lucky Charms consumed are enjoyed by those 18 or over. Adult fans of Lucky Charms tend to wax nostalgic about their favorite breakfast cereal.
"There are not many cereal brands that have been around for 50 years," said Zechmeister, "so that is really something to be proud of. So many consumers have memories of Saturday mornings, watching cartoons and eating Lucky Charms, and it's wonderful they can now share that with the next generation."
4. Enthusiasts are fanatic about the way they eat their Lucky Charms
If you eat the toasted oats first and save the marshmallows for "breakfast dessert," you're not alone.
"The great thing about Lucky Charms is there are so many fun ways to eat it," Zechmeister continued. "Sometimes they eat the marshmallows first, sometimes they eat them last, and sometimes they have to have the exact ratio of marshmallow-to-oat piece on their spoon."
5. The five oat-piece shapes have not changed since 1964
Unlike the marbits, which have varied greatly in shape and hue, the toasted oat portion of the cereal has never changed shape.
6. That one time the prize inside the box was a tree
Sort of. In 1991, General Mills gave away a free tree with proof-of-purchase mailed in from the back of the box.
Another fun fact: The industry actually refers cereal box prizes as "premium items," not prizes.
7. Lucky the Leprechaun's birthday really is on St. Patrick's Day
"Lucky was born in a magical forest on March 17 in 1964, and that is why you see that same setting of a magical forest in all of our current ads," said Zechmeister.
A special 50th anniversary edition of Lucky Charms tied to the holiday contains all green clovers.