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Is ‘Unfrosted’ real? Inside the true story behind the history of Pop-Tarts

Sure, you love eating them, but how did Pop-Tarts become such a part of our lives?
/ Source: TODAY

Pop-Tarts. We’ve got your attention, don’t we?

Yes, the breakfast treat has been delighting customers for six decades. Now, it's the inspiration for the new Jerry Seinfeld movie “Unfrosted,” which is loosely based on the history of the tasty pastry.

The film, out May 3, comes at a time when the public continues to eat up Pop-Tarts: They brought in about $978 million in sales in the United States in 2022, according to research firm Circana, reports CNBC. That’s a jump of nearly 9% from the year before.

Heck, Pop-Tarts are now available in around two dozen flavors and have become so ingrained in our culture that there’s even a college football game named in their honor, the Pop-Tarts Bowl, played in Orlando, Florida.

While Pop-Tarts have been filling stomachs for generations, they have also provided material for stand-up comics. Seinfeld has long done jokes about them, while fellow comedians Paula Poundstone and Brian Regan have also poked fun at the food.

So, how exactly did Pop-Tarts — currently owned by Kellanova, a Kellogg snack company — come to be? Well, grab yourself a pouch of frosted strawberry and read on.

First off, is 'Unfrosted' based on the true story of Pop-Tarts?

Eh, not really.

“This really did happen in Battle Creek, Michigan, where Kellogg’s and Post were located, and they did compete to come up with this product,” Seinfeld has said. “But the rest of it is complete lunacy.”

"Unfrosted" was first announced in June 2021 and was inspired by one of Seinfeld's stand-up comedy bits. Seinfeld has said in multiple interviews, including one with The New Yorker, that Kellogg was not involved in the film. That didn't stop Pop-Tarts from collaborating with Seinfeld on a humorous promo that calls him out for making a movie about the product without their permission.

Who had the idea for Pop-Tarts?

In 1963, Kellogg chairman William E. LaMothe wanted to develop a different kind of breakfast item that was portable, according to the Pop-Tarts website.

At the time, William “Bill” Post was working as a plant manager at Hekman Biscuit Company — later known as the Keebler Company — when executives from Kellogg asked him if he could create a new product they wanted to make.

“They had, like, a piece of pie the shape of a slice of bread, fork marks around the edge, two pieces of dough with some filling in it. They said, ‘We had this idea. We’d like to put that in the toaster,’” he recalled in a January 2024 video posted by Kellanova.

Pop-Tart co-creator William Post.
William "Bill" Post led the charge in the development of Pop-Tarts.Courtesy MKD Funeral Home

How did they come up with the name Pop-Tarts?

Post told CNBC moms in focus groups were confused about what to do with the food, especially because it could burn or bend if put in a toaster. But Post knew he was on to something because his kids, 13 and 9 at the time, would ask him to bring home what had been dubbed “Fruit Scones.”

“But that sounded terrible. So we took inspiration from the Pop Culture movement of the day and renamed it ‘Pop-Tarts,’” the Pop-Tarts site says.

Post’s son, Dan Post, said a new moniker was needed — and it came from the times they were living in.

“It was during the period when Andy Warhol’s pop art was so popular. And it was a take on that — Pop-Tart — after pop art,” he told NPR.

Pop-Tarts on supermarket shelves.
Pop-Tarts has come a long way since it debuted with four flavors.Tiffany Hagler-Geard / Bloomberg via Getty Images

When did Pop-Tarts first become available?

In 1964, Kellogg’s rolled Pop-Tarts out into the world (well, actually, just in Cleveland) with four original flavors: strawberry, blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon and apple-currant, which would be discontinued before returning years later as apple.

“They wanted 10,000 cases of each flavor, but it was such a success that we made 45,000 cases of each flavor, and our production was not enough. They ran out,” William Post told CNBC.

Post, who died in February 2024, was quick not to take too much credit for Pop-Tarts, though.

“To be accurate, however, Bill would say, ‘I assembled an amazing team that developed Kellogg’s concept of a shelf-stable toaster pastry into a fine product that we could bring to market in the span of just four months,’” his obituary said.

In 1965, Pop-Tarts began hitting stores around the country, with two new flavors added, cherry and concord grape, and raspberry apple replacing apple-currant.

A box of raspberry Pop-Tarts.
Pop-Tarts is a quick and easy breakfast.Tiffany Hagler-Geard / Getty Images

When did the frosted flavors debut?

In 1967, Pop-Tarts would take another leap forward, thanks to the introduction of the frosted variety. The next year, they added sprinkles. The frosted flavors were such a hit that there were 19 varieties of them by 1973.

“We were making iced golden squares where we put icing on the cookies,” Post recalled to CNBC. “So I said to our superintendent, ‘Take a Pop-Tart, put it under the icer, will you?’ And, whoa! He says, ‘That’ll melt in the toaster.’ He came up a few hours later with samples to my office, put them in a toaster. And the icing did not melt. And I said, ‘Wow, that’s good.’”

The Pop-Tart mascot at the 2023 Pop-Tart Bowl.
The Pop-Tart Bowl mascot, Strawberry, after the game between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Kansas State Wildcats on Dec. 28, 2023, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What other changes have Pop-Tarts undergone over the years?

The 1980s saw the continued explosion of Pop-Tarts, with the introduction of bigger boxes that held 12 and then 24 Pop-Tarts. And in 1994 Kellogg’s went back to its cereal roots with the introduction of Pop-Tarts cereal. The barrage of products expanded further in 2018 with Pop-Tarts Bites, snack-sized versions of the food.

The future of Pop-Tarts looks as bright as the sprinkles you may find on certain flavors, too.

“The overall trend in Pop-Tarts is it’s a force of nature. It’s growing. It’s thriving. Our consumers love it,” the general manager of the portable wholesome snacks for Kellanova told CNBC.

Indeed, Kellanova in April announced a new product, Pop-Tarts Crunchy Poppers.

“As the first crunchy offering from the brand, Crunchy Poppers are a pop-in-your-mouth twist on Pop-Tarts with a crunchy exterior, a tasty filling and a layer of frosting and sprinkles with every bite,” the company said in a press release.