Cereal and Candy: Best of Breakfast Friends

Though I am a candy wrapper and candy box collector, I’m also a cereal box collector.  Each hobby has it’s own wonderful quirks and qualities, and sometimes the two of those hobbies crossover.

Marketers long-ago figured out that a kid who enjoys sugary cereal in the morning, will certainly enjoy a sugary treat later in the day, so why not entice them before they get out of their pajamas?

Finding a cereal box with a candy or gum offer has always been a double-bonus for me – and it’s why I’ve sometimes went after a cereal box, because the offer was candy-related.  Oh, the fun I have with old cardboard and paper.


Cereal boxes have always been a place for consumers to find coupons on other products, and that certainly has been the case with many of the candy connection.

The oldest candy-related cereal box in my collection is for a brand that lacks much in the way of sugar at all – it’s for Shredded Wheat.  Now, after a breakfast of Shredded Wheat, who could blame anyone for wanting to follow that up with a box of Almond Joy miniatures.  Check out those Peter-Paul Dreams – they don’t make those anymore!

Nabisco Shredded Wheat - Peter Paul Mounds and Almond Joy 10-cent off coupon - 1950's

Over half-a-century later, you can still find coupons for candy on cereal boxes.

Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies cereal box with M&M's coupon - 2011

Twenty-five years ago, Cocoa Krispies not only gave you a coupon, but a free package of actual M&M’s.  I wonder how many kids made the right move, and just opened up the pack and poured it right on the cereal?

Cocoa Krispies with free M&M's cereal box - 1986

Free Inside

Free inside?  Sounds good to me!  Yes, this was the package deal kids dream of; their favorite cereal, and an offering of some sugary treat.  Could life get any sweeter?

One box that has eluded me as a collector is this “free inside” Cocoa Puffs box, that featured a free box of Just Born’s Mike and Ike candies.  My hunt for this one continues.

Cocoa Puffs with free Mike and Ike candy - advertisement from 1987

Here’s a few more candy “Free Inside” boxes that I have managed to track down.

Anyone remember Lifesavers Super Holes?  For a brief time, they were inserted into boxes of Trix cereal.

Trix - Free Life Savers Super Holes - cereal box - 1995

Count Chocula - Free Willy Wonka Wacky Wafers cereal box - 1985

Though Shock Tarts would become part of the Wonka candy family in a few short years, they were not yet Wonka-stuff when they were included in Golden Grahams in 1996.

Golden Grahams with Shock Tarts - 1996

Curcus Fun - with free Starburst inside (and a coupon) - 1988

Bubble gum found it’s way into many a cereal box – here are a few great cereal bubble gum tie-ins:

Cap'n Crunch with free Bubble Yum gum cereal box - 1982

It’s always fun to see cereal mascots enjoying classic bubble gum brands – it’s like Spider-Man and Batman hanging out together for brunch.  Here’s another I think you’ll enjoy.

Count Chocula - Free Super Bubble bubble gum - cereal box - 1983

Ghostbusters with free Bazooka bubble gum - 1986

Fruity Marshmallow Krispies - Milkshake Bubble gum - 1988

I’ve had the Fruity Marshmallow Krispies box for a few years, and wondered if I might ever come across the gum.  Late last year, I did:

Lotte - Milkshake bubble gum packs - late 1980's

So when it comes to confection and breakfast cereals, every genre got a fair shake.  Here’s a classic from the 80’s.

Freakies with free Reese's Pieces candy - cereal box - 1987

Candy as Cereals

Of course, sometimes a simple tie-in or offer is not enough.  Sometimes, a candy brand is so beloved that a cereal company decides their best move is to license out the whole thing.

What is certainly the most popular and long-lasting of these is Reese’s Puffs.

Reese's Puffs with Reese's Nutrageous candy bar offer - 1995

In the case of Nerds cereal, Ralston went so far as to duplicate the two-flavor box design that the candy offered.  So you’d get two flavors of Nerds cereal out of one box.

Nerds cereal box - 1986

The UK has gotten into the game too, as I recently found during a trip there.

Nestle Lion cereal from the UK - 2011

And since most of my USA readers wouldn’t be familiar with the brand, here’s a modern Lion bar wrapper.

UK - Nestle - Lion - candy bar wrapper - 2007

As you can see, candy to cereal crossovers are not that uncommon, and can be a perfect way to tie two products together.  But sometimes it goes the other way, and the cereal makes its way into candy.

Candy made out of cereal?

One of the first examples of this I encountered were Cap’n Crunch bars:

Cap’n Crunch bars – 1997

Now, someone might fairly say, “But wait, Cap’n Crunch bars aren’t really a candy – they’re a snack!”, and technically they’d be correct.  But they’re not here to stop me, so I’m leaving it in.

Rice Krispies Treats is another cereal-candy-snack worth mentioning, and they really are the most profound of the cereals-into-candy.  So I have to include them. They almost transcend into their own category.

Rice Krispies Treats boxes - 1999

But not content to simply turn a cereal into snack – these then made their way back into cereal form.

Rice Krispies Treats Cereal - 1993

One of the more unusual cereal-to-candy crossover items I’ve encountered has to be this one, from a line of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger branded snack and candy items, sold in Brazil in the late 70’s.  When I saw it, I knew I had to add it to my collection.

Kellogg's Tony-Snacks Crokinhos - chocolate and rice candy bar wrapper from Brazil - 1978

So that’s a lot of crossover material.  In the history of candy though, few relationships were probably ever as close as that of the very first candy bars branded with the Wonka name.  You see, back in 1971, when the Wonka brand of candy bars first appeared, they were produced by Quaker – the folks who also made Cap’n Crunch.  Launching the candy line out of their promotional efforts that also tied into the feature film, few candy-and-cereal relationships could ever be considered so intertwined as this one.  Eventually I’m going to return to this topic to do an in-depth history on the Wonka candy brand.

Quaker's Willy Wonka newspaper ad - 1971

Here’s an early example of a Wonka candy bar that was produced by Quaker, the tongue-twister-titled Scrumdidilyumptious .

Quaker - Wonka Scrumdidilyumptious wrapper - earlry 1970's

And that’s the whole of what I’ve got today on the wonderful friendship between cereal and candy.  Well, I’ve got one more.  Here are a trio of Wacky Packages like candy boxes – each a parody of a major cereal brand.  From the Swell gum company, likely sold during the early 80’s.

Before I sign off today, and while I’m on the cereal topic, I’d like to plug my pal Topher’s new book on cereal – “The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch”, by Martin Gitlin and Topher Ellis. If you have a love of cereal – be sure to check it out.



About Jason Liebig

A New York City based writer, editor and sometimes actor. After spending much of the 1990′s in the comic book business helping tell the stories of Marvel Comics’ X-Men as series editor, he has since split his time between developing his own entertainment properties while still consulting and working on others. Having been described as “the Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy”, Jason is one of the country’s premier candy collectors and historians with his discoveries appearing in countless blogs, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. Always happy to share his knowledge and unique perspectives on this colorful part of our popular culture, Jason has consulted with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink and has also been a featured guest on Food Network’s Heavyweights, France’s M6 Capital, and New York’s TheActionRoom.com. My Google Profile+
This entry was posted in 1970's, 1980's, Bubble Gum, M&M's and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Cereal and Candy: Best of Breakfast Friends

  1. Dan says:

    i am reminded of an early 90’s inpack of gum in Apple Jacks – they had a couple superhero characters I think were called Apple Jack and Cinnaman. But they did an free inpack package of gum branded with the characters. I have a pack kicking around somewhere.

    Nabisco also did free inside Tootsie Rolls and an early 50’s Trix box had free Dubble Bubble gum inside.

  2. phairhead says:

    Much to my happy surprise Rice Krispies Treats Cereal is now available on ebay…woo hoo!

  3. TL says:

    Just ordered the Great American Cereal Book yesterday. Looking forward to it arriving next week!

  4. ladyjaye says:

    I still remember the taste of Rice Krispies Treats, even though I last had some in the late 1990s.

    I bought the Great American Cereal Book a couple of weeks ago. It’s really quite the gorgeous book. It’s thick yet compact, beautifully illustrated with lots of box art. The book is structured like an encyclopedia divided in periods based on cereals’ launch years. Definitely worth it. 🙂

  5. Okay, I have about a dozen boxes of cereal that haven’t been opened. Will collectors want a flattened cereal box, or will they want it in box form with the cereal still inside. I really want to compress these things and take away the bug-factor.

    • jasonliebig says:

      Brian. For myself, and I’d estimate for the large majority of collectors – a full box presents no premium. Meaning, most of us won’t pay more for a box that is full.

      That said, I have seen a few people who do want “a full box”. Typically, I think that those are crossover collectors, not cereal collectors. So an 80’s fan will want a full Gremlins cereal box, or a GI Joe guy will want a full GI Joe cereal. And even the serious collector might find something appealing in a specific full box. I know a very serious collector who has one full box – of 1970’s Freakies. He doesn’t collect full boxes of cereal, but that one is special to him. We also think it might be the only full example on the planet.

      It just depends, but I’ve purchased full boxes from the 70’s and I’ve emptied them so I could more easily flatten and store. Getting rid of the contents limits your risk of infestation significantly, too.

  6. Awesome article, Jason. I very much look forward to the history of the Wonka brand. That page ad is fantastic!

  7. Vanessa says:

    I’m from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and we have U.K. product/confectionary shops where I buy those Lion bars for my partner. He did his Ph D. in London, England in 2001 and has loved them ever since. They are extremely tasty.
    I loved those promotions as a kid! When you have a brother and a sister the chances of getting said prize was almost nil. Esp. when your sister would hit you until you gave it to her. When that happened I’d throw said prize outside. In the time it took her to get the prize, you could go tell Mom she hit you. Ah, good times, good times.. 😛

  8. Pingback: Lunchables with Candy! | CollectingCandy.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *