Famous Food Mascots

Part of the M&M'S collection at KaTom.

Part of the M&M’S collection at KaTom.

One of my colleagues has amassed dozens of cardboard cutouts, plushies, and other M&M’S memorabilia that now cheerfully greet passersby from the shelves of his office. This collection, and the hundreds of other collections like it, are testaments to the popularity the candy has experienced since the colorful spokescharacters were introduced around the turn of the century, achieving the kind of success every company hopes to bite into when unveiling a new brand mascot.

Although unpopular spokespersons do little to help a brand’s growth, those that connect with an audience become iconic characters that propel their companies forward. Some of the most recognizable brand mascots were created by food companies, and although the anthropomorphic M&M’S Red, Blue, Yellow, Orange, Green, and Ms. Brown are simply named after their corresponding shell colors, other food mascots are instantly recognizable – but their names and histories have faded into pop culture obscurity.

From Sailor Jack to the Doughboy

Everyone knows that when you go to a baseball game, you chow down on Cracker Jack, especially since it’s in the ubiquitous seventh-inning stretch song. A boy sailor, dubbed Sailor Jack, and his dog, Bingo, have smiled back at baseball fans and other snackers since the early 1900s, and as the story goes, they were based on the founder’s grandson and adopted dog. The company recently made headlines for removing the prize from every box in favor of a digital surprise, but Sailor Jack and Bingo, redesigned for new packaging, don’t seem upset by the change.

Though he might lack the quotable catchphrases of his competitors, Cap’n Crunch is another seafaring mascot that has become the face of his product. That might have something to do with the cereal sharing his name, although his full name, Horatio Magellan Crunch, probably wouldn’t fit on the box. Back in 2013, the Cap’n had to fight off accusations that he isn’t actually a captain, but the scandal hasn’t seemed to faze him. He spends his days tweeting (presumably from the comfort of the S.S. Guppy) with his own canine sidekick, Sea Dog.

A rambunctious trio of elves named Snap, Crackle, and Pop are the well-known faces of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal, but they were briefly a quartet before a fourth brother, Pow, was scrapped from the cereal’s promotions. Despite their elfish appearance, they apparently aren’t related to Ernest J. “Ernie” Keebler, the face of Keebler cookies and leader of the Keebler Elves. In addition to appearing on branding and packaging, Ernie runs the Keebler Elves Twitter account, which the company recently used to show off hashtag cookies that were made for National Hashtag Day. It’s unclear if Ernie’s middle initial stands for anything.

Mr. Peanut just celebrated his 100th birthday with another redesign, but the refined nut hasn’t shed his elegant clothing or his impressive name: Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe. He was actually created by the winner of a 1916 contest, but his defining accessories – the cane, monocle, spats, and top hat – were added later.

The Pillsbury Doughboy, whose real name is Poppin’ Fresh, hasn’t been around as long as some other food mascots, but his consistent appearances on branding and packaging, along with use in commercials since his 1965 debut helped him become an easily recognized ambassador for the brand. His appearance hasn’t changed much through redesigns over the years, but he has been given a family, complete with his wife, Poppie Fresh, and their kids, Popper and Bun-Bun. And, of course, everyone knows that he can’t help but giggle if you poke his belly.

Big Boy, Umbrella Girl, and More

Many food mascots are inspired by real people, although they aren’t always given real names. The Big Boy mascot was modeled after, well, a big boy, Rick Woodruff, who loved visiting the burger chain. The founder of Famous Amos, Wally Amos, used his name and likeness to build a successful cookie empire, though he lost the company and later tried again as the less conspicuous Cookie Kahuna. Italian-born Ettore Boiardi became Chef Hector Boy-ar-dee, after realizing that consumers struggled with the original pronunciation of his name, and his smiling portrait remains on the company’s packaging today.

The Sun-Maid Girl has represented the brand since 1916 and, although she may lack a real name, was based on a painting of a young woman named Lorraine Collett Petersen. The smiling Quaker Oats man is unofficially named Larry, and although it’s been said that he resembles famous Quaker William Penn, he was given a flattering makeover in 2012. Perhaps the most mysterious of all brand mascots, the Morton Salt Girl, who’s been shielded by her umbrella for more than a century, doesn’t have any nicknames. According to the company, she also wasn’t based on anyone’s likeness, but exists today as an example of genuine marketing genius.

For a dash of nostalgia, check out this MasterCard commercial, which brought some of these classic characters to the dinner table in 2005.

Ariana Keller
Ariana Keller

Ariana Keller was raised on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in south Alabama, where she learned to fish and love football. She moved to Knoxville with her family when she was 12 and later graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English. Passionate about Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and all things geeky, she spends her free time playing tabletop and video games, collecting beer caps from craft breweries around the country, and celebrating the Cubs' 2016 World Series win. She is an advocate for animal rescue and lives in Knoxville with her husband and their two adopted pets: a hound dog named Beau and a Maine Coon mix named Vesper.

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