If you were a kid in the 80s or had kids in the 80s you probably remember the years when America thought of Bill Cosby as the world’s greatest dad and amateur ice cream man, hawking Jell-o Pudding Pops in a series of commercials where the comedian put on his Dr. Huxtable act with a bunch of other people’s kids. And what a brilliant idea! Prepackaged pudding – meets – ice cream, two of everyone’s favourite desserts with the all-American Jell-O logo slapped on the box. But sometime in the mid-90s parent company General Foods (who also brought us those ridiculously melodramatic ads for the powdered International Coffees) pulled the plug without warning on the pops. So whatever happened to Pudding Pops?
For starters, despite internet rumours you may have heard, Jell-O Pudding Pops are still off the shelf, so let’s get that out of the way.
General Foods seemed to be on a roll following the original 1979 Pudding Pops with Gelatin Pops and Fruit Bars, with $300 million a year in popsicle sales just 5 years after launch. But somehow with all that money coming in, it still didn’t justify the cost to put the product out for a company who was bought out in 1985 by Phillip Morris and combined with Kraft Foods in 1990. So, the pops were dropped. They tried again in 2004, licensing the Jell-O name to Popsicle brand (they make Fudgsicles) who used the same molds as the originals but slightly changed the formula, resulting in not-a-pudding-pop that reflected in poor product sales. While they did last until 2011 somewhere in space-time, Popsicle pulled the new Jello-O Pudding Pops off the market that year without official explanation.
Now there are other, inferior pudding pops out there by companies like Kemp’s at Target but these clearly lack the crisp thin coating the official pops had back in the 80s that held the whole works together while the pudding softened. Now a die-hard fan reports that Giant Brand Pudding Pops sold at Giant Food Stores are the closest ever made but if you’re really jonesing for a good old pop, Jell-O does sell pop-making kits all over the place with the molds. And here’s a pro tip: freeze ‘em, dip ‘em in cold water and freeze ‘em again for that authentic icy crunch.
I admit the last time I had anything remotely akin to Kool-Aid since what seems to be several lifetimes of battling sugar was in the form of nasty-tasting fizzy tablets printed with the Kool-Aid Man’s winning smile. I still have a bag of them in the kitchen 3 years old now, that’s how popular they’ve been in my house. They’re a great idea and certainly one done before by other soft drink manufacturers but they taste like..cherry…strawberry…schnozberry? Nothing like the awesome flavour packets that seemed so exclusive in the 80s.
Kool-Aid Roller Hockey Advert courtesy WishItWas1984
So let’s step back a sec- Kool-Aid dates back to 1927 in Hastings, NE. It came from a method developed by Edwin Perkins to extract liquid from an established product called Fruit Smack (which doesn’t sound legal to me but it was the 20s and our grandparents were looser back then). Fruit Smack was a concentrated liquid drink mix. We don’t use a whole lot of this stuff these days in the states but UK kids now use Ribena and Barley Water in the same way. It came in 6 flavours and once you got the liquid out, what was left was a powdered drink mix. Once packeted and labeled for 10cents under the name Kool-Ade, the Kool-Aid that we know today kept Depression-era families going with tasty strawberry, cherry, lemon-lime, grape, orange and raspberry.
An American institution, after WWII production was up to approx 1 million packets a day. Sold to General Foods in 1953, the smiling Kool-Aid pitcher 80s kids watched bust out of walls in TV advertisements came onto the market and new flavours RootBeer and Lemonade were added in 1955. Today Kraft Foods owns Kool-Aid.
So remember those rocking flavours of the 80s? we’re not talking cherry and rootbeer but the ones with the really freaking cool names? And remember those Kool-Aid points printed on the back corner of the packets? Before the internet you cut those babies out and snail mailed them in to buy stuff from the Kool-Aid catalogue, stuff like the plastic pitcher and 4 mugs set. Remember the magician (Steve Schieszer) who used to pour Kool-aid into a cup, tap it and it changed into another colour? That’s Chameleon Kool-Aid– Oh YEAH!!!!!!!
Chameleon Kool-Aid courtesy Steve Schieszer
Candy Apple (tested)
Sugar free w/nutrasweet
Mountain Berry Punch
Strawberry Falls Punch
Surfin’ Berry Punch
Yabba-Dabba Doo Berry
Did you know?
Edwin Perkins’ wife Kitty Shoemaker is credited as having invented Jell-o.
The Hastings Museum has lots of Kool-Aid ephemera including original bottles from the 20s and that huge Kool-Aid man suit.
In 2011 Kraft began majorly marketing Kool-Aid to Latino families and gave Kool-Aid Man a facelift in 2013.
Kool-Aid sells more in St. Louis, MO than any other US city and is sold more nationwide in the week before and after July 4th.
The actual Kool-Aid Man wasn’t introduced until 1975 and was known as Pitcher Man. Beforehand he literally was a pitcher.
You can make Kool-Aid pickles- yes kids that’s right, Kool-Aid pickles and I’ m not sure why you would want to.
My dad loved Tang and I hope it was because it was the ‘orange juice of astronauts’ or because it was ‘cheaper than orange juice’ cos man did that stuff reek in the taste department. Turns out the public thought so too from it’s humble powdered beginnings in 1959 from General Foods (a non-powdered version was out in 1957 so I don’t know what made them think powdered was going to leap off the shelves…). Tang didn’t come into icon status until the space program got off the ground in 1962 when eating experiements were conducted (you’ve seen those videos where soda turns into big blobs of ick from loss of gravity and undulates in mid-air – yeah, who wants to have to catch that to eat it. Somehow Tang made it to the list of stuff they wouldn’t have to tie down (and that ultra cool dehydrated astronaut cream- now that I’d fly around for). Tang blasted off on a Mercury Flight and some Gemini flights but it can be said that the powdery mess goes back the whole was to Kellogg’s early days.
Long story short, William A Mitchel, Tang creator, joined General Foods after it became its current incarnation from Postum Foods which was created by C. W. Post (yep the cereal guy) who was a patient at the Battle Creek Sanitarium (the one run by the Kellogg’s Cereal brothers, think Road to Wellville). So the next time you call someone crazy just remember all the breakfast food crazy brought to the 80s, mmm hmm. Mitchel also gave us powdered egg whites, Pop Rocks, Jell-O and Cool Whip. So I’m not sure what he was thinking with Tang but then again we all have to mess up on the way to greatness.
80s Retro Tang Commercial courtesy yesterzone
Tang comes in liquid or powdered form though in my house it came in a veritable vat of powder stored in our pantry and mixed up in the morning before my dad went out to lay brick and stone and then again in the evening when he came back in to nod in front of the tv usually coupled with a bowl of rice soaked in milk and sugar. Eeeeeew. Back in the day it was supposedly ‘loaded’ with sugar and so replaced in packed form with our friend aspartame in 1985. And maybe that’s what happened to it because I never thought as a kid, wow that stuff is so sweet they should take out the sugar and maybe throw a little aspartame in to save my molars…
No, what I thought was, holy moly this stuff is supposed to be orange flavoured? Did an orange pass by the can or something? Get me some Kool-Aid! As it were, Tang is a popular drink and does come in many other flavours around the world:
Orange Grapefruit and Lemon
Multifruit (is that sort of like the ‘meat flavoured’ of fruit?)
Sweet Orange (finally, some real sugar)
Ponkan (what was that? Pokemon?)
Lemon and Pepper
Lemon and Mint
Orange Mango Strawberry