Breakfast Squares, Crazy Cow, Body Buddies
An ode to the 1970s and being a test subject for processed breakfast foods
My father’s job with General Mills in the 1970s and 1980s was mostly in finance though anyone who peaked in our cupboards could have easily mistaken us for an R&D test kitchen. It seemed he always brought home some not-yet-ready-for-market item. We were constant human subjects for burgeoning, or failed, boxed food designed to be healthy and make life easier.
Breakfast cereals were a staple around our house. Sure, we had the “healthy” cereals such as Wheaties and Cheerios, but it was the exotic and strange cereals we ate each morning which have left the strongest memory. Even as an adult I still eat cereal most weekdays and occasionally on weekends, although I now gravitate toward granolas or Grape-Nuts. As a child we rarely, if ever, had cereals manufactured by Kellogg’s or Post. We did have Frosted Flakes because baseball cards were packaged in them. Today, Grape-Nuts represents my own private cereal rebellion.
Because this was the 70s and early 80s, it was the era of peak “fortified with vitamins and minerals” and General Mills had target marketing down to a science. What better way to tackle a rigorous day of second grade than to begin it with a bowl full of processed puffs, which turn your milk chocolaty or strawberry-y, pitched by a cow from outer space.
Thank goodness for the dude cast as the astronaut in the commercial nodding his head as if to suggest the cereal is approved by astronauts.
For the more health-conscious kid, Body Buddies provided 16 vitamins and minerals for the physically active kid, and a handy calculator for the academic kid. I imagine the creatives behind the advertisement saying, “Finally, there is a cereal jocks and nerds can agree on. Body Buddies.”
One of the few brands to survive the past half century are the Monster Cereals - Count Chocula, BooBerry and FrankenBerry, once it got past the issue of turning children’s poop pink. One of the failed monster cereals was Fruit Brute and its vitamin charged marshmallows, which seems kind of like eating Skittles in milk. The wolf-esqe Fruit Brute was so scary he frightened his fellow monsters.
The list of sugar-soaked cereals was endless. None of these, however, rivaled the pleasant memories of Breakfast Squares, an initial foray into the meal replacement space. General Mills invested nine years, between 1962 and 1971, and one million dollars creating these processed squares of delicious goodness. Unfortunately, the company pulled the plug before the decade was out.
Marketed to adults, these cake-like bars were purported to offer as much energy as a traditional bacon, egg, and toast breakfast. And, as the commercial testifies, it was the perfect morning pick-me-up or little something to go along with your morning coffee.
And therein lies the problem. These are not for adults. They are, as the Trix rabbit knows, for kids. The variety box came with chocolate malt, vanilla, and, the best flavor, frosted cinnamon (a fact confirmed by my sister). Those are kid flavors, not adult flavors. No wonder the butter pecan failed - that is an adult flavor. Nothing in my childhood was so disheartening than to grab the box and find only the red wrapper vanilla squares left. Thanks, sis. You owe me a package of cinnamon Breakfast Squares.
Today’s kids have it rough with a pandemic and TikTok. Their lives could be made so much better by starting each day with a savory package of Breakfast Squares. Thankfully, a petition exists to bring Breakfast Squares back to market. I mean, what business invests nine years in creating such a tasty, and, um, healthy, handcake, and then completely abandons it? In so doing, General Mills has subjected generations to breakfast consisting of earthy sounding Nutri-Grain bars or oatmeal squares.
Instead of cereal that magically creates chocolate milk, or cinnamon-y cakes, today’s kid is sent off with, “Here is your packaged dirt, son. Have a great day at school.”