What Food Product Came Out the Year You Were Born?
From Cheerios to Sour Patch Kids, we're sharing decades of food innovation!
1940: York Peppermint Patties
“When I bite into a York Peppermint Pattie…”
We have Henry Kessler, owner of the York Cone Company in Pennsylvania, to thank for this candy sensation: a cool, peppermint center coated in dark chocolate. Kessler insisted that his candies pass the “snap” test by splitting cleanly down the middle when broken. You can make Creamy Peppermint Patties at home, too.
The cereal got its start as CheeriOats, and was the first ready-to-eat oat cereal made by puffing and shaping the grains. A few years later, after a copyright dispute with Quaker Oats, General Mills changed the name to Cheerios. It’s been a favorite breakfast cereal ever since!
1942: Brooklyn Blackout Cake
Indulgence doesn’t even begin to describe this rich, chocolate layer cake—one of the most popular desserts made by Ebinger’s, a Brooklyn-based bakery chain. Named for the mandatory wartime blackouts in the city, the Brooklyn Blackout Cake is layered with chocolate pudding and fudgy icing. The bakery closed in the 1970s, and the original Ebinger’s recipe still remains a secret.
1943: Deep-Dish Pizza
Looking to distinguish his pizza from the typical thin crust slices available at the time, Ike Sewell, owner of Pizzeria Uno (the original restaurant in Chicago) created something unique. He came up with deep-dish pizza: a thick cake-like crust with a crispy exterior and cheese layered under sauce and veggies. It’s still an iconic regional pizza style beloved by Chicago residents.
1944: Frozen Dinners
Though it would be another decade before they’d be renamed “TV dinners,” frozen prepackaged dinner trays got their start in 1944. They were created by avid inventor William L. Maxson for the U.S. Navy’s transatlantic flights. He also invented the first air fryer, to cook the frozen dinners on those flights.
1945: Nashville Hot Chicken
Nashville-style hot chicken is popular now, but was created decades ago thanks to a lover’s quarrel. When Thornton Prince’s girlfriend found out he was cheating on her, she retaliated by spiking his fried chicken with a hefty dose of spicy cayenne pepper. Her plan backfired—because Prince loved it! He perfected the recipe and opened Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville.
Wartime rations in the ’40s meant that cocoa was scarce, so baker and confectioner Pietro Ferrero got creative. Hazelnuts were grown abundantly where he lived in the Piedmont region of Italy, so Ferrero blended cocoa with hazelnut paste. The delectable spread began as a sliceable loaf called Giandujot, and was renamed Nutella in 1964.
1947: Bazooka Gum
This pink brick of bubble gum debuted after World War II. It had a wrapper of patriotic red, white and blue, with a name likely in homage to the weapon developed during the war. The mascot “Bazooka Joe” and a comic strip inside every piece were added a few years later. Find more candy brands we all loved as kids.
1948: Reddi-wip Whipped Cream
Many thanks to entrepreneur Aaron “Bunny” Lapin, who created the whipped cream we love to spray on sundaes, slices of pie and straight into our mouths! He was the first to use real cream in a pre-packaged whipped cream product, and he also patented his fluted spray nozzle design.
1949: McDonald’s Fries
It’s hard to believe, but McDonald’s hamburgers were originally served with chips! The irresistible, savory flavor of McDonald’s fries came from frying in beef tallow, which continued until 1990 when the public sought to reduce saturated fats in their diets. A switch to vegetable oil accomplished this, but fans still miss that original flavor.
1950: Frozen Pizza
Though we know that the first frozen pizzas were created in 1950, who came up with the idea first is a little fuzzier. Neighborhood pizzerias in both Boston and New York City began selling frozen pies for customers to take home. The earliest brands to appear in stores were De Luca, Celentano Brothers and Pizza-Fro.
1951: Bananas Foster
This boozy, flaming dessert of bananas, brown sugar, rum, liqueur and ice cream was created in New Orleans at the famous Brennan’s Restaurant. The owner wanted a new and unusual dessert—and fortunately, there were heaps of bananas in the kitchen. The inspiration to ignite the dessert came from another popular treat of the time: Baked Alaska.
1952: Diet Soda
The first sugar-free soda to appear on the scene was No-Cal, which was initially created as a drink for diabetics and later marketed to diet-conscious consumers. Other soft drink companies followed suit, with drinks like Tab, Diet Rite and Diet Pepsi. (Diet Coke wouldn’t appear until a few decades later.)
1953: Eggo Waffles
How did three brothers famous for their mayonnaise business create an iconic frozen waffle? Through a lot of innovation, and a keen understanding of food trends—particularly, consumers’ desire for frozen convenience foods. The original name was “Froffles” (frozen + waffles), but later changed to Eggo for the eggy flavor. The famous catchphrase “L’eggo My Eggo” was coined in the ’70s.
1954: Marshmallow Peeps
Bob Born already had a candy empire in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania when he bought out a small confectionery and its signature marshmallow chicks. The original candies were made by hand, but in 1954 Born invented a machine to mass produce his Peeps. Now the company, Just Born, makes about 4 million Peeps every day!
1955: Green Bean Casserole
Can you believe there used to be Thanksgivings without green bean casseroles? We have home economist Dorcas Reilly, who worked for the Campbell Soup test kitchen, to thank for this recipe. To create an easy dish with ingredients most cooks would have on hand, she chose canned cream of mushroom soup, canned or frozen green beans and fried onions. Her original recipe card now resides in the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame.
1956: Cocoa Puffs
What’s not to love about a sweet cereal that turns the milk chocolaty? General Mills had already given kids tasty cereals like Trix, Chex and Cheerios before introducing these chocolate corn puffs to the breakfast table. The mascot, Sonny the Cuckoo Bird, debuted in the early ’60s.
1957: The Whopper
For only 37 cents, you could enjoy Burger King’s flame-broiled Whopper, a quarter-pound burger with all the fixings. Burger King cofounder Jim McLamore created the Whopper to compete with other local burger joints offering extra-large burgers. (This was more than a decade before McDonald’s offered the Big Mac!)
“The San Francisco treat!” The DeDomenico family founded Golden Grain Pasta Co. in the early 1900s. One of the founders learned a savory rice pilaf recipe from his Armenian landlord: rice and vermicelli sauteed in butter, then simmered in chicken broth. He cleverly turned it into a boxed side dish, and Rice-A-Roni quickly became a household name.
1959: Little Caesar’s Pizza
Mike and Marian Ilitch spent their life savings to open “Little Caesar’s Pizza Treat” in Garden City, Michigan, with a focus on inexpensive pizza made with quality ingredients. By 1969, they had a thriving string of franchises in the U.S. and Canada, and have continued to grow ever since. Here’s a fun fact: “Little Caesar” was Marian’s nickname for her husband!
1960: Oatmeal Creme Pies
The very first Little Debbie snack cake has certainly stood the test of time. The founder of McKee Baking Company, O.D. McKee, spent years perfecting his recipe to get oh-so-soft oatmeal cookies, and he sandwiched them with a sweet, creamy filling. The adorable little girl on the boxes is O.D.’s granddaughter, Debbie. See what other famous food brand figures look like in real life.
The origin of lemon-lime Sprite soda is straightforward: Coca-Cola created it to compete with 7-Up. But did you know the name came from an old Coke character named “Sprite Boy”? The company stopped using this elfin mascot in 1958, but thought the name Sprite was perfect for their new soda.
1962: Goldfish Crackers
Pepperidge Farm was already famous for their breads and cookies when founder Margaret Rudkin traveled to Switzerland and discovered the cutest little fish-shaped crackers. The baker there had created them for his wife, whose zodiac sign was Pisces. Rudkin brought the recipe to the states and cheesy Goldfish crackers quickly won fans—including Julia Child.
1963: Chips Ahoy!
From the beginning, Nabisco promised that every Chips Ahoy! cookie would have 16 chocolate chips. In the ’80s, that number doubled to 32. There have even been nationwide chip challenges to confirm that every bag has at least 1,000 chips.
This is every kid’s favorite breakfast! Post and Kellogg’s were racing to be the first to introduce this morning treat to the market, and Kellogg’s won. Pop-Tarts were a big hit with busy kids—and parents. The name was inspired by Andy Warhol’s pop art movement of the 1960s.
1965: Kraft Singles
Canadian brothers James and Norman Kraft had already spent 50 years perfecting their processed, pasteurized, shelf-stable cheese. In 1950, they invented a method to sell presliced loaves of cheese product, and 15 years later added the convenience we now take for granted: individually wrapped slices.
You might be surprised to learn that when Doritos were first released by Frito Lay, they didn’t have that famous Doritos flavor—they were just tortilla chips! The nacho cheese flavoring was introduced six years later, and snack lovers were hooked. We’ve had orange, Doritos-stained fingers ever since.
Slurpees appeared in a few 7-Eleven stores in 1966, but by 1967 were available in every location. They became wildly popular thanks to novelty flavor names like Sticky Icky and Pink Fink, plus promotions that included comic book characters and prizes in every cup.
1968: Big Mac
The only thing more popular at McDonald’s than the fries? The iconic Big Mac. The sandwich made its debut in 1968, invented by a Pennsylvania franchisee to feed bigger appetites than a single cheeseburger could satisfy. It boasts two burger patties and buns with all the fixings and, of course, that special sauce.
1969: Tic Tacs
Did you know that Ferrero, the company behind Nutella, also brought Tic Tacs to the world? They were originally sold under the less-than-exciting name of “Refreshing Mints.” Within a year they were renamed for the sound the mints make when they rattle inside the box.
1970: Orville Redenbacher Popping Corn
Indiana corn grower Orville Redenbacher had such a wholesome name and look (it was that bow tie!) that people didn’t believe he was an actual person. So he appeared in commercials to prove he was real—and promote his gourmet popping corn. He developed a special variety for the fluffiest, most tender homemade popcorn. See how Orville Redenbacher stacks up in our popcorn taste test.
1971: Starbucks Coffee
What do you get when three roommates share a passion for fine coffee? A world-famous coffee shop empire! The first Starbucks store opened this year in Seattle, selling specialty coffee beans and fine teas. Remarkably, it took 13 years for the business to become what Starbucks is known for today: coffee bars and gourmet coffee drinks.
1972: McDonald’s Egg McMuffin
McDonald’s owes a lot to the creativity of their franchise owners. To entice breakfast customers, owner Herb Peterson layered Canadian bacon, eggs and cheese on an English muffin. He even created the mold for that innovative round egg. Learn how to make a copycat Egg McMuffin at home.
1973: Cup Noodles
Japanese entrepreneur Momofuku Ando created ramen noodles in 1958 by flash-frying noodles to make them shelf-stable and easy to rehydrate with boiling water. Fifteen years later, he created Cup Noodles: those same ramen noodles with dehydrated vegetables in a convenient cup. Hungry, cash-strapped college students will forever be grateful.
1974: Pop Rocks
A research chemist at General Mills was trying to create instant soda by trapping carbon dioxide in candy. He didn’t get his soda, but he instead invented Pop Rocks. Though it took almost 20 years for the crackling candy to be released, kids loved it immediately. Pop Rocks also created an urban legend that persists even today!
1975: Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies
When former talent agent Wally Amos wanted to sell his “famous” chocolate chip cookies, he got some high-profile help—from singers and friends Marvin Gaye and Helen Reddy. He based his recipe on the cookies his Aunt Della used to make: a simple but satisfying cookie, just like homemade. See what ’70s food home cooks were making.
1976: Jelly Belly Jelly Beans
Before this year, jelly beans were a little… meh. Then nut and candy distributor David Klein created gourmet jelly beans with all-natural and intense flavors. He worked with Goetlitz Candy Company to create the first Jelly Belly jelly beans, including Very Cherry and Cream Soda. Did you know Jelly Bellys were a favorite of Ronald Reagan?
1977: Bubblicious Bubble Gum
There was a lot of bubble blowing in the late ’70s. With big, soft pieces of bubble gum, Bubblicious promised blowers “the ultimate bubble.” And kids loved the wild flavors, like Lightning Lemonade, Gonzo Grape and Savage Sour Apple.
1978: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
The first Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop opened this year, in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. It was an immediate hit, thanks to the creamy richness of their ice cream and big chunks of ingredients like cookie dough and chocolate. The next year they held their first ever Free Cone Day, and soon after began selling pints in stores.
1979: Ring Pops
“A ring of flavor you can lick!” A product engineer at the Topps Company created Ring Pops for a surprising reason: to help his young daughter kick her thumb-sucking habit. Not the healthiest incentive, but effective! Ring Pops are one of the most nostalgic candy brands for kids of the ’80s and ’90s.
1980: Tostitos Tortilla Chips
After introducing tortilla chips (aka Doritos) 14 years earlier, Frito-Lay created this new restaurant-style chip: thin and with a flavor more like the kind found in Mexico. The round shape made them perfect for dipping into salsas and homemade guacamole.
1981: Lean Cuisine Meals
These frozen microwave dinners were introduced by Nestle as low-calorie alternatives to the popular Stouffer’s entrees. They were an instant hit with a public obsessed with both convenience foods and weight watching—stores across the country quickly sold out.
1982: Diet Coke
Thirty years after the first low-calorie soda came on the scene, 1982 year saw the debut of what is, arguably, the most popular diet soft drink to date. Coca-Cola executives took a big gamble giving the Coke name to a new product, but it worked. It was quickly endorsed by actors, athletes and even U.S. presidents.
1983: Chicken McNuggets
These bite-sized pieces of fried chicken are so ubiquitous, it’s hard to believe they didn’t appear until the ’80s. McDonald’s knew how popular they would be and had to secure a reliable supply of chicken before they could offer them at all locations. McNuggets were an immediate hit—not only with kids, but with adults who wanted an alternative to burgers.
1984: Sugar-Free Jell-O
Desserts weren’t immune from the decade’s preoccupation with weight loss. Jell-O had been a household staple since 1897, but was losing the popularity it had in heyday of mid-century molded salads. Sugar Free Jell-O, sweetened with NutraSweet, brought customers back with the promise of a flavorful dessert with only 8 calories.
1985: Sour Patch Kids
The devastatingly sour gummies got their start in Canada—as Martians! When confectioner Frank Galatolie was eyeing the U.S. market, he rebranded his candies to capitalize on the hottest toy of the year: the Cabbage Patch Kids. The gummies were hugely popular and remain so today. Fun fact: The mascot for Sour Patch Kids was modeled after Galatolie’s own son!
1986: Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn
The hottest appliance of the decade sparked a war: a popcorn war! Pillsbury marketed the first microwave popcorn, followed by stiff competition from Orville Redenbacher. This year saw General Mills stake a claim with Pop Secret, which was unique because it promised that every kernel would pop.
1987: Snapple Iced Tea
“The Best Stuff on Earth.” Snapple stood apart from other bottled drinks with its casual and fun messaging, not to mention being the best-tasting iced tea available at the time. And remember the “Snapple lady” ads? The company turned office employee Wendy Kaufman into an unlikely but popular spokesperson for the tea.
1988: Teddy Grahams
One of the cutest snacks of the decade has to be Teddy Grahams. The little teddy bear-shaped graham crackers came in three flavors: honey, cinnamon and chocolate. They were so popular that there was a short-lived cereal version, and a larger frosted version called Dizzy Grizzlies. Happily, you can still get regular Teddy Grahams—and use them to make cute desserts like these cookies.
This was the coolest possible lunch a kid could have at school. The prepackaged Lunchables let kids “make fun of lunch” by assembling their own bologna, cheese and crackers or mini pizzas. It also helped that every Lunchable had a sweet drink and a mini candy bar.
1990: Campbell’s Cream of Broccoli Soup
Fifty-five years after introducing canned cream of mushroom soup, Campbell’s introduced a new variety to households with the same goal: to help home cooks create tasty meals. To that end, Campbell’s offered a free-with-purchase cookbook with broccoli soup recipe ideas.
1991: Fruit By The Foot
Fruit roll-ups had been around several years, but kids of the ’90s were all about snacking to the extreme. Extreme like a rolled up, 3-foot-long fruit snack strip! Produced by Betty Crocker, the extra-long fruit roll-ups also came in creative tie-dye and tongue tattoo varieties.
Ask anyone who grew up in the ’90s about nostalgic snacks, and you’re sure to hear about this one. Dunkaroos gave kids vanilla, chocolate or chocolate chip cookies with a cup of ultra-sweet frosting for dipping. Many childhood dreams were crushed when the snack was discontinued in 2012, but good news: Dunkaroos are back.
1993: Snackwell’s Cookies
These cookies appeared just as Americans were getting hooked on low-fat diets. Snackwell’s indulgent devil’s food and creme-filled cookies were on shelves and in TV ads well before the rest of the competition, and netted Nabisco $57 million in sales in the first five months.
1994: Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs Cereal
Sugary kids cereals have been inspired by almost everything: cookies, doughnuts, cinnamon toast, even cartoons. But Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs cereal was the first one based on a candy bar. Don’t worry—it’s still “part of this complete breakfast.”
1995: Blue M&M’s
Before this year, M&M’s colors were green, orange, red, yellow, dark brown… and tan. In 1995, a contest was held for folks to vote for a new color: pink, purple or blue. Over 10 million people voted and blue won. The fanfare included a new blue M&M’s character and a blue-lit Empire State Building.
1996: Olestra Fat Substitute
The Food and Drug Administration approved olestra as a food additive, to be marketed as Olean. The additive decreased the calories and fat in food, and was used to create many brands of fat-free potato chips. But brands soon faced a backlash over olestra’s unfortunate side effects: very, er, unpleasant gastrointestinal issues.
We have a Canadian McDonald’s franchise to thank for one of the best McDonald’s treats. The McFlurry blends vanilla soft serve with candy, using a hollow spoon that attaches to the blender before being used to eat it. The original flavors included Oreo, Heath and Butterfinger—and sometimes we’re treated to new McFlurry flavors.
1998: Cini Minis
This sweet Burger King breakfast treat developed a cult-like following. The order of four bite-sized cinnamon rolls spread with thick frosting is no longer on the regular menu, but the nostalgia is so strong that occasionally Burger King brings Cini Minis back for brief, delicious appearances. See all the discontinued fast food items we miss.
Believe it or not, there was once a time when yogurt did not come in tubes. That all changed this year, when General Mills debuted Go-Gurt: portable tubes of creamy yogurt in fun flavors and bright colors that quickly won kids over. Since Go-Gurts could be easily frozen and thawed, they were perfect for lunchboxes like this.
2000: Gourmet Cupcakes
Just one scene of Carrie and Miranda eating frosted cupcakes on Sex and the City was all it took to spark a national cupcake craze. Manhattan’s Magnolia Bakery had lines around the corner after this episode aired, and gourmet cupcake chains opened across the country.
Don’t miss all the iconic foods that defined the decades!