Manufactured by General Mills, Cheerios is one of the bestselling brands of breakfast cereal. The puffed oats have been around for more than 75 years, and millions of people start their day with a bowl of the cereal.
1. CHEERIOS ENTERED THE WORLD IN 1941, BUT THEY WERE CALLED CHEERIOATS.
In 1941, Lester Borchardt was a physicist working for General Mills in Minnesota. He and his team invented Cheerios by developing a puffing gun machine that puffed oats into a small "o" shape. Quaker Oats, however, claimed that the "oats" in the name Cheerioats was a trademark infringement, so General Mills changed the name to Cheerios in 1945.
2. CHEERI O'LEARY AND THE CHEERIOS KID STARRED IN EARLY CHEERIOS COMMERCIALS.
Cheerios’ first mascot, a little girl named Cheeri O’Leary, appeared in printed Cheerios ads in the 1940s. In the 1950s (and again in the 1980s), televised commercials featured the animated Cheerios Kid and his sidekick, Sue. In these commercials, the Cheerios Kid gained the power to solve problems and save the day after eating Cheerios. In 2012, Cheerios revived these characters in a commercial to explain how Cheerios can lower cholesterol.
3. THE OTHER POPULAR ANIMATED CHARACTERS BEGAN APPEARING IN THE 1960S.
In the 1960s, popular animated characters that appealed to children appeared in Cheerios commercials. The infamous moose and squirrel, Rocky and Bullwinkle, appeared in a number of Cheerios commercials (though Bullwinkle did most of the heavy lifting). Hoppity Hooper, the animated frog, also advertised games and other kid-friendly activities on the cereal boxes.
4. CHEERIOS BOXES WERE EARLY EXAMPLES OF EFFECTIVE CROSS-MARKETING CAMPAIGNS.
General Mills partnered with Disney to co-brand Cheerios boxes with comic books and the Mickey Mouse Club. Action figures of the Lone Ranger as well as small toys were also packaged inside Cheerios boxes.
5. CINNAMON NUT CHEERIOS WERE THE FIRST FLAVOR VARIATION.
For the first 30 or so years, eating a bowl of Cheerios meant eating the original, classic recipe. But in 1976, Cinnamon Nut Cheerios came on the market, followed by Honey Nut Cheerios three years later. Honey Nut Cheerios were instantly popular, and the bumblebee (named BuzzBee) that appeared on each box became a recognizable mascot for Cheerios. Honey Nut Cheerios has become such a favorite, in fact, that not only does it outsell the original Cheerios flavor, it has been the No. 1 cereal in America every year since 2009.
6. OTHER CHEERIOS VARIETIES CONTINUE TO BE INTRODUCED.
After the success of Honey Nut Cheerios, General Mills consistently introduced new flavors, like Apple Cinnamon in 1988, Multigrain in 1992, Frosted in 1995, Fruity in 2006, Banana Nut in 2009, and Chocolate in 2010. Most recently, 2015 saw the arrival of Cheerios + Ancient Grains, which contains oats, spelt, and quinoa. But for all of the flavors that did catch on, Berry Burst and Dulce de Leche were both discontinued shortly after they were introduced.
7. THE FDA ACCUSED GENERAL MILLS OF MISLEADING CUSTOMERS ABOUT CHEERIOS' ABILITY TO LOWER CHOLESTEROL.
In 2009, the FDA took issue with the claim on Cheerios boxes that Cheerios can lower bad cholesterol by four percent in six weeks. In a letter, the FDA told General Mills that it either needed to change the print on Cheerios boxes or apply to get Cheerios classified as a cholesterol-lowering drug. The label on all Cheerios boxes changed to clarify that eating Cheerios as part of a healthy diet may help lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
8. CHEERIOS ARE NOW GMO-FREE AND GLUTEN-FREE.
In the last couple years, Cheerios have made strides to be even more healthy. In 2014, General Mills revealed that Cheerios would no longer contain any genetically modified ingredients. The next year, Cheerios became gluten-free after General Mills removed cross-contamination (which occurs during the manufacturing process) between wheat and the oats used to make Cheerios, though that hasn't been without incident. It has, however, helped the bottom line. Reports indicated that going gluten-free improved first quarter cereal sales by six percent last year.