The Great Saturday Morning Experience

Cereal Spotlight: Lucky Charms

L to R: Lucky Charms as it first appeared, the box I mainly remember, and as it looks today.

Lucky Charms has always been one of my all time favorite cereals. Its history began in 1964 when General Mills executive VP John Holahan came up with the idea to mix Cheerios and chopped up pieces of circus peanuts when tasked with coming up with a new cereal for kids. It became the first cereal with marshmallows. I wonder how bizarre the idea must have seemed back then since it had never been tried before. The marshmallow pieces by the way are officially referred to as marbits by General Mills. The first marbit line up consisted of green clovers, pink hearts, orange stars, and yellow moons. Instead of just using Cheerios, they shaped the oat pieces into bells, fish, arrowheads, clovers and X’s. The marbits have changed often through the years. Of the original marbits, only the pink heart remains.

They started off with an expensive ad campaign that included ads in comic books and animated commercials featuring Lucky the Leprechaun with his catch phrase “They’re magically delicious!”. His shtick was to use magic powers to get away from hungry children who were always, as he put it, “after me Lucky Charms!”  Arthur Anderson was the original voice of Lucky the Leprechaun. He voiced the character from 1963 until 1992. He appeared on TV shows such as “The Defenders”, “Car 54 Where Are You”, “Route  66”, “Dark Shadows” and in movies like “Midnight Cowboy”, “Zelig”, and “Green Card”. He was also the voice of Eustace Bagge on “Courage the Cowardly Dog”.

That first year kids could order Lucky’s 25-piece coffee set featuring everything from cups to silverware for 75¢ and two box tops. Numerous premiums would come throughout the years until fears of choking hazards made them pretty much a thing of the past for all cereals. Games and puzzles on the back of the box have taken over for the most part. There have still been many off the box offers like  a plush version of Lucky in 1987 and a free live tree in 1990.

The first major change to Lucky Charms came in 1967 when a sugar coating was added to the oat bits to make them sweeter. That change proved to be a big hit and increased sales. That would be the classic version of the cereal in terms of the longest stretch without any major changes. Then, in 1975 they added blue diamonds which remained until 1995. Also in 1975 Lucky was briefly replaced by Waldo the Wizard, whose catch phrase was “ibbledebibbledelicious”. Try saying that ten times fast. Waldo was a forgetful wizard who always lost his box of Lucky Charms and had to find it. He was apparently a big hit in the eastern part of the country but Lucky wasn’t replaced nationwide and replaced his replacement so that eventually Waldo and his bad memory would become just that.

More changes would come throughout the years, mostly revolving around new marbits. In 1983 we got purple horseshoes and in 1984 an error at the factory led to swirled marbits. Dozens of new marbits followed. They’ve had everything from rainbow marbits, to unicorn marbits, to holiday marbits, to Olympic marbits, to traveling around the world marbits (shaped like famous landmarks).  In 2005, they introduced a Chocolate Lucky Charms which proved so popular that the company tweaked the recipe yet again in 2006 when it introduced Berry Lucky Charms. There’s also been a Fruity version, along with a limited edition Cinnamon Vanilla flavor and one with Honey Clovers. They’ve had green, blue, and purple boxes for various limited editions and contests but when it all comes down to it, the tried and true red box with Lucky, the sweetened oat bits, and those colorful marbits, are the ones we’ll most remember and will most likely attract us older consumers to bring out the kid in us once more.

2 thoughts on “Cereal Spotlight: Lucky Charms

    1. My mom really loved circus peanuts so I had them many times as a kid. I can sort of see the connection to the marbits and how he was inspired with them as a version of a marshmallow that would work in cereal. It still seems odd to me that he came up with the idea of marshmallows and cereal together in the first place. Of course I’m glad he did!

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