If you've never had a Pop-Tart, some may question whether you ever had a childhood (not us, but surely, someone). They're one of those quintessential childhood foods, like squiggly-frosting topped Hostess cupcakes or Lunchables.
In recent years, though, the brand's getting more innovative than ever, releasing all kinds of crazy new flavors—frosted watermelon, maple-bacon and chocolate chip cookie dough, for example—which made us do a deep-dive into the classic to get the story behind the iconic toaster pastries.
1. They're Dabbling in Drinks.
No, we're not talking Pop-Tart-flavored liquor (those Pinnacle-esque images circulating online are, sadly, a joke), but the brand has been working on a drink partnership, releasing two new flavors of Pop-Tarts with A&W this May: Root Beer and Orange Crush.
Both frosting-topped treats have a soda-infused filling, which took a while to get just right.
"That's one of the things we're starting to explore—more flavor mashups that are interesting and unique," says marketing director Angela Gusse. "We know consumers, especially teens, love unexpected flavors."
2. They've Also Inspired A Shot.
Though Pop-Tarts may not officially have its own liquor, that doesn't mean clever bartenders haven't tried to make their own pastry-inspired blend. Multiple sites list the recipe for a "Wild Berry Pop-Tart Shot," which is essentially an even mix of wildberry vodka, Smirnoff vodka and strawberry schnapps.
3. Three Flavors Outsell The Rest.
Over the years, Pop-Tart has released dozens of flavors, but two classics have outperformed the rest: Frosted Strawberry and Brown Sugar Cinnamon. A more recent addition, S'mores, rounds out the top three best-selling flavors in the company's history, Gusse says.
4. There Was A Pop-Tart-Themed Restaurant in NYC.
In 2010, the company opened Pop-Tarts World in Times Square, a temporary pop-up shop selling all sorts of Pop-Tarts-based treats, like sushi (three flavors of the pastry wrapped in a fruit roll-up) and cinnamon rolls topped with crumbled Pop-Tarts, the New York Times reported.
5. Some Stores Sell Flavors You Can't Find Anywhere Else.
Like M&Ms and Oreo, Pop-Tart often works with retailers to create limited-edition flavors you can only find at that store. At Sam's Club, for example, you can snag a patriotic Red, White and Berry toaster pastry, which features a cherry filling, blue frosting and white star-shaped sprinkles on top.
6. People REALLY Debate How to Eat Them.
At the Pop-Tarts HQ in Michigan, there's one question that divides the company like no other: Should Pop-Tarts be toasted?
"We have heated debates about this," Gusse laughs. "About half swear they should be toasted, and the other half says they absolutely shouldn't be. People can be very passionate about it."
7. Pop-Tarts Inspired A 'Family Guy' Song.
The cartoon famously celebrates and pokes fun at pop culture, and Pop-Tarts are no exception. In 2014, two of the show's stars, Peter Griffin and Quagmire, start a folk band and have an entire song devoted to how "freakin' good" it is to put butter on a Pop-Tart.
We could elaborate further, but you might as well see it for yourself:
8. Where You Live Plays a Big Role in Choosing New Flavors.
Coming up with the Maple Bacon-flavored Pop-Tart proved challenging—and not for the reason you'd think. Getting that salty, bacon-y flavor wasn't so tricky; it was choosing the right kind of maple.
"There are so many regional preferences when it comes to what kind of syrup people like," Gusse says. "In different parts of the U.S., people are used to different levels of sweetness, so it took some testing to get that right."
The company uses a mix of focus groups, online polling, taste tests and other strategies to figure out what people really want.
9. They Launch Multiple New Flavors at Once for a Reason.
You may have noticed that Pop-Tart often releases two or more flavors at a time. That's not to save on shipping costs, sending everything to stores at once—it's so that the brand can hedge its bets with a variety of new offerings to appeal to all tastes.
"If we're releasing something with a bright burst of flavor, like Blue Raspberry, we'll also try to come out with something that appeals to a more traditional flavor profile, like Chocolatey Caramel," Gusse explains.
10. Andy Warhol Inspired the Name.
Pop-Tarts debuted in 1964—beating rival Post's "Country Squares" to market—and were named after the pop art movement, according to the book American Food by the Decades.
11. Three Flavors Are Vegan-Friendly.
We've learned that some bacon-flavored treats don't actually contain meat, but sadly, Pop-Tart's maple-bacon flavor isn't considered vegan. The frosting contains dairy, but that means some unfrosted varieties are okay: blueberry, strawberry and brown sugar-cinnamon are all on PETA's list of "accidentally vegan" foods.
12. They Can Shoot Flames Out of Your Toaster.
Back in 1994, Texas A&M professor Patrick Michaud tested Dave Barry's assessment that Pop-Tarts could burst in flames like a "blow torch" when left in a toaster for too long. He set the toaster to its highest setting, jammed the lever down, and watched as the pastries caught fire, sending up to 18-inch flames from the appliance.
Clearly, the whole experiment falls under the "don't try this at home" category, but it also serves as a warning that if your toaster starts jamming, consider replacing it. And don't leave it cooking unattended.
13. Pop-Tarts Had Its Own Cereal Back in the Day.
Back in the early '90s, Pop-Tarts decided to help out anyone who's ever craved a toaster pastry AND a bowl of cereal for breakfast, launching Pop-Tart Crunch. It came in two flavors, Brown Sugar Cinnamon and Strawberry, according to Mr. Breakfast, though both were eventually discontinued.
Thankfully, though, you can make your own version:
14. Pop-Tarts Used to Have a Mascot.
His name was Milton the Toaster, and he's pretty freaking adorable.
While some sites say the mascot was phased out of commercials sometime in the late 1970s, you can still find traces of him online. Kellogg's sells a ceramic canister with Milton's face on it to this day.
15. The Brand's Expanded Well Beyond Its Original Four Flavors.
Pop-Tarts launched with four unfrosted flavors, including strawberry, blueberry and brown sugar cinnamon (the fourth, apple currant, is the only one no longer sold). Nowadays, the brand has 22-25 varieties sold in stores at any given time, Gusse says, and releases 5-8 new flavors a year.
"We'll rotate out certain flavors to make room for the new ones," Gusse explains. "Figuring out which flavors to launch is really part art, part science."
Delicious, delicious science.
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