Behind every iconic, household-favorite product lies a fascinating backstory, and this statement holds true for Kellogg’s popular breakfast item of Pop-Tarts.
Ever wondered how these sweetly-filled toaster pastries, loved by kids and adults alike, came to be? It may surprise you to know that Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts have a somewhat controversial past, with their invention largely inspired by a dog food innovation back in the ‘60s, according to VinePair.
The “no-one’s-got-time-for-that” attitude held by many Americans today toward breakfast also existed in households following the Second World War. With no on-the-go breakfast options at the time, most men and women in the workforce had to leave their homes in the wee morning hours on an empty stomach. It was around this time that Kellogg’s hit the breakfast scene with Pop-Tarts, a food item whose development closely resembled that of their competitor’s dog food.
That said, by no means should Pop-Tarts be fed to your dog. However, it’s totally safe to name your pup after your favorite toaster pastry.
Rival company’s dog food behind Pop-Tarts invention
Kellogg’s major competitor since the ’20s and ’30s has been another popular food brand: Post, currently known as Post Consumers Brands. Given their close proximity in Battle Creek, Michigan, both companies regularly spied on one another.
In 1961, Post — which also had a pet food division — developed an innovative dog food product called Gaines-Burgers. What made this product unique was that it was a shelf-stable, semi-moist product that didn’t require refrigeration. Many households back then desired breakfast foods that offered this kind of convenience.
Unwrapping innovation, one foil packet at a time
Post used foil packaging, which kept the dog food fresh and unspoiled while on store shelves. Interestingly, the dog food’s convenience pushed Post engineers to begin trials for a similar breakfast item for humans, which they named Country Squares. The fruit-filled pastry product was innovative because it could sit on shelves or be stored without refrigeration.
Post unveiled their upcoming breakfast pastry idea to the American public before they could begin mass production. Unfortunately, Post encountered production problems that delayed the timely release of County Squares. Kellogg’s took advantage of this and swiftly started working on a breakfast item using their rival’s concept.
As such, in 1964, Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts hit the shelves way before Post’s Country Squares’ debut. Originally unveiled as “Fruit Scones,” the manufacturer quickly opted to change the item’s name. In light of the growing pop art movement — made famous by the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and others — the brand renamed the then-unfrosted pastry.
Pop-Tarts’ popularity took off from day one at the expense of Country Squares. In particular, the breakfast food completely sold out two weeks after its initial release, and Kellogg’s knew they had a hit on their hands. What didn’t get the credit it deserved, at least not until now, was an incredibly innovative dog food that contributed to the birth of this now-famous, grab-and-go staple.