The real reason why Dunkaroos disappeared

Once you become an adult and have to worry about adult things like laundry and grocery shopping, you realize just how important the stuff of childhood was. Sure, you might miss lofty things like not being responsible for your own birthday cake, but you probably miss the little things, too — like those special little treats you used to look forward to finding in your lunch box, especially if you can't get them anymore. And, if you're of a certain age, there's a pretty good chance Dunkaroos was one of those treats.

Because seriously, how could any kid (or kid-at-heart) resist them? Those little cookies, dunked into frosting that just seemed sweeter and more sugary than regular old frosting. Dunkaroos came in at the top of the cafeteria food chain when it came to just what you really, really wanted to score in your lunch.

Fast forward a handful of years, and they haven't just faded into childhood memories, but they've faded off the grocery store shelves, too. Why?

It was a slow decline in popularity

According to Snack History, Dunkaroos first showed up in the lunch boxes (and hearts) of American schoolchildren in 1988. Their heyday really didn't start until the '90s, and their surge in popularity happened with the help of commercials featuring a very, very energetic kangaroo. They were huge throughout the decade, and held onto a devoted following into the 00s... but they started to become harder and harder to find even before U.S. production was halted in 2012.

Why did they pull the plug on the kangaroo? Information is scarce, and when TasteMade went straight to the source and asked Betty Crocker, they simply responded that it was down to "many factors." Ok, thanks? But it seems as though the biggest one was that Dunkaroos was holding onto an increasingly small percentage of the market thanks mostly to nostalgia alone. Sure, those who love them, love them because they remember them from childhood — but no amount of nostalgia counts when it's up against a slow but steady decline in sales and mainstream popularity.

There was problem with their advertising to children

A huge part of Dunkaroos' popularity came thanks to their kangaroo mascots. The original mascot — the one you probably remember — was named Sydney. That changed around 1996, though, when Betty Crocker announced a competition to switch things up. Sydney was replaced by the more sporty Duncan, and many of us agree with Food 52 in saying that things just weren't the same.

But here's the thing: both Sydney and Duncan were clearly targeting kids, and those commercials were airing at a time when organizations like the FTC were paying close attention to what kind of messages were being beamed toward those impressionable little minds. There was a lot of talk about just how commercials advertising high-sugar, high-fat foods were contributing to childhood obesity, and even though campaigns to remove these ads were less than successful, it was still a conversation likely to stick in parents' heads.

Take Dunkaroos' north-of-the-border saga. They were only discontinued in Canada in 2018 (via Snack History), and that's not long after new regulations took effect in 2015. According to The Globe and Mail, that's when companies were given new restrictions on advertising unhealthy treats directly to children under 12. Unhealthy treats? Children under 12? That's pretty much in the description of Dunkaroos.

They were terribly unhealthy

Yes, Dunkaroos were delicious. That frosting wasn't like the stuff you get out of a can of frosting, it was so, so much better. But they were also so, so bad for you.

You remember those little single-serving packages, right? Pre-teen you probably never looked at the nutritional information, so let's do it now (with the help of SparkPeople). A package of the chocolate chip cookie Dunkaroos with chocolate frosting had 120 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and a whopping 13 grams of sugar — along with absolutely no helpful vitamins and nutrients whatsoever.

That might not sound like too much, but let's take a quick look at the American Heart Association's guidelines for kids. Between the ages of 4 and 8, they recommend girls need only about 1200 calories, and boys need around 1400. That jumps to 1600 calories for girls and 1800 for boys between the ages of 9 and 13, but that's only part of the story.

They also repeatedly stress added sugars are a serious problem, and say kids between 2 and 18 should have less than 25 grams of sugar per day. That little pack of Dunkaroos is more than half their daily recommended sugar intake, and given how many other places sugar is hiding, that's far from a healthy snack. They're so unhealthy, in fact, that the Food and Farm Discussion Lab reports they were on the list of foods that some Canadian food banks wouldn't even accept.

When they encouraged smuggling and friendship

According to The Globe and Mail, Dunkaroos presented a huge image problem for General Mills. When the Canadian branch of the company agreed to restrict their children's advertising campaign to promote only products that fell within healthy guidelines, Dunkaroos was right out — and by the time that initiative rolled around in 2014, it had already been about 10 years since they had spent any money marketing Dunkaroos anyway.

But they did invest one last-ditch effort to save the product, and they did it in a pretty epic way.

Remember, Dunkaroos had been discontinued in the U.S. for a few years at this point, and General Mills was well aware of the fact that some particularly devoted fans were heading up to Canada to get their Dunkaroos fix... so they decided to encourage it with their "Smugglaroos" campaign. This one — targeted at adults — involved a website where Canadians willing to buy Dunkaroos and take them to their American neighbors could sign up to find a south-of-the-border buddy-in-need. The idea was to save Dunkaroos and create some serious buzz, but unfortunately, it didn't seem to have the desired effect.

That Twitter revival was fake

In 2018, something amazing hit the Twitterverse: @_LukeKelly tweeted that if his post was retweeted 150,000 times, he had it on good authority — from General Mills/Betty Crocker themselves — that they would bring back Dunkaroos.

That would have been amazing, but according to BizJournals, it just wasn't the least bit true — and no amount of hoping or believing was going to make it true. The post had 180,000 retweets by the time General Mills issued a statement, and when they did, it broke, well, more than 180,000 hopeful hearts. (According to Cosmopolitan, hopefuls included Chrissy Teigen and Kim Kardashian.)

"We love hearing from consumers and we hear from them all the time whenever we discontinue a product because we know someone will miss our products," they reported a spokesperson as saying.

That... makes literally no one feel better. Will the popularity of the movement help sway them in bringing it back? It seems doubtful, but hey, at least you know you're not alone. 

They've still been spotted in Australia

But wait! There's something strange coming from the Land Down Under, and considering Dunkaroos' mascot is a kangaroo, we'll admit that it's kind of fitting.

According to Delish, Australia not only has Dunkaroos, but they have a chocolate hazelnut version of the '90s favorite. Right? There, they're made by Nestle, and you can (for now, at least) pick them up at the Australian Food Shop for a pretty shocking $11 per pack. Dunkaroos fans, rejoice! (And Nutella fans, you can rejoice, too!) Alternately, make some friends in Australia and have them pick some up for you, because Woolworths is selling them for less the $5 a pack. Are they the same as you remember? You'll have to try them to find out, and it might just be worth all the effort. 

That doesn't mean they're not mourning the loss of this super sweet favorite, too. According to MamaMia, Australia used to have strawberry Dunkaroos... and nothing has been the same since they disappeared.

There was a Walmart version

Oh, Walmart, you're so sneaky. It seems as though they're always looking to step in and fill the void where there's a demand. Just look at Costco's Polish hot dog. Once they announced they were going to be discontinuing the favorite, Sam's Club announced they were going to be offering one.

They've done the same thing with Dunkaroos. In 2018, Business Insider reported that they were going to be selling their own version, and while the cookies of the Dunk 'N Crunch snacks didn't come in the same fun shapes, the principle — and the sprinkles — were pretty much the same. The roll-out came after the real thing disappeared from Canadian shelves, too, and the fact that Walmart's version sold out — fast — was proof of just how many people wanted to get their dunk on. Delish reported that the fresher, bakery version of Dunkaroos had made a reappearance after their initial sell-out, so that's something. Keep checking, and keep asking — Walmart might just make your day... as best they can.

What are the chances we'll see Dunkaroos again?

General Mills has said they're not going to be bringing Dunkaroos back, but buried in the depths of the internet is something strange.

On September 17, 2018, a company called Retrobrands USA LLC filed for a Dunkaroos trademark. It was described under the heading of "Cereal-based snack foods" (via Trademarkia), and that seemed to at least have the potential to be a shining beacon of hope for Dunkaroos fans everywhere.

Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the application to be put on hold. In April 2019, Bloomberg reported that General Mills was taking Retrobrands to court for breach of contract over their trademark filing. The details of the whole thing are a little vague, but while it seems like they're still taking their intellectual property very, very seriously, it might also indicate that they're not about to let Dunkaroos come back in any form. Sorry, fans. It's terrible to be the bearer of bad news, but look on the bright side: You'll always have the memories.