The First Cinnamon Toast Crunch Box Featured An Unexpected Theme

Cinnamon Toast Crunch has certainly been having a moment lately — and by "lately," we mean ever since pandemic-driven nostalgia made sugary kid's cereals the go-to flavoring for trendy cocktails, snacks, and desserts. Over the past few years, Cinnamon Toast Crunch has branched out in all kinds of unexpected ways. First, it released flavored milk, which was followed in due time by creamy cinnamon spread and even Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bugles. Krispy Kreme, too, has gotten in on the mashup game, releasing a Cinnamon Toast Crunch donut collection in 2022.

While Cinnamon Toast Crunch may be über-trendy these days, it's not all that new. Sure, it's younger than Kellogg's Corn Flakes or Post Grape-Nuts, both of which date back to the late 19th century, but it first hit store shelves in 1984. The packaging has changed quite a bit over the decades, as might be expected, but on taking a look at the earliest boxes, we're left wondering, "What the hell were they thinking?" Yes, for some reason, the theme that the company chose to run with, in a product marketed towards children, was ... school.

Uh-huh, seriously. What kid wants a reminder of school first thing in the morning? It's bad enough they'll be running for the bus in five minutes; sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Needless to say, the cereal got rid of the whole "school" theme pretty quickly and by the late '80s, the ruled-paper lines were gone from the box.

The school supply aesthetic was deliberate

Mashed spoke with a General Mills spokesperson who assured us that yes, the brand really did intend Cinnamon Toast Crunch to scream "First day at Roosevelt Franklin Elementary School " (minus the Muppets). As they told us, "The logo at this time was a handwritten type style" and it does look like something printed by a very tidy child practicing their letters with colored markers. The rep went on to say, "The lined/ruled paper background further added to a notebook/school supply theme."

Not only did the box itself resemble a page out of a notebook, but Cinnamon Toast Crunch even went with a school supply promo. Apparently, if you saved up enough box tops or whatever the stipulation may have been, you would get a lap desk that included a clipboard and pencil holder. You can bet all the 80's kids were clamoring for that. (Not.) Sadly, the product doesn't seem to have been sufficiently sturdy to survive some four decades, since we've been unable to find any for sale on eBay. The resale site did, however, yield Cinnamon Toast Crunch-themed clocks, socks, and Crocs of more recent vintage, not one of which so much as whispered "school" (much to our relief).

Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal evolved over the years

While it's a safe bet that the school-themed Cinnamon Toast Crunch box wasn't kid-endorsed, it seems that the cereal itself was suggested by a young person. As the cereal's backstory goes, sometime in the early '80s General Mills held a contest where children could write in and suggest new flavors. The winning entry endorsed cinnamon toast cereal, and by 1982 (as per documents in General Mills' archives), the cereal was in the testing stages. In the words of a brand spokesperson, those in the test kitchens "knew pretty immediately the flavor had broad appeal."

The first version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch looked pretty plain in comparison to today's — even though the spokesperson describes it as "look[ing] and tast[ing] like little pieces of homemade cinnamon toast," the cinnamon wasn't really visible so the 1980s boxes featured the slogan "Tastes like Cinnamon Toast" (via General Mills). In 1992, however, the cereal added a visible cinnamon swirl as a design element, prompting a slogan change to "The taste you can see!"

By 1996, the cereal had branched out into different flavors, with French Toast Crunch being the first. As of today, the brand offers eight different varieties, including Cinnamon Toast Crunch Churros, Cinnamon Toast Crunch Rolls, and Tres Leches Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

The brand mascots have also changed quite a bit

That smiley piece of cinnamon toast pictured on the first Cinnamon Toast Crunch box didn't have a name, nor was it really a mascot. The earliest mascots came along some three years later: a trio of singing chefs named Wendell, Bob, and Quello. Despite Wendell being the most mature in appearance, he was chosen as the breakout star, and his name was displayed on the box in 1990. The following year, poor Bob and Quello got the boot. Wendell himself was quietly retired from front-of-box duties in 2009, although Cinnamon Toast Crunch insists he's "still at work ... behind the scenes."

These days, Cinnamon Toast boasts a more contemporary set of mascots that the brand calls Cinnamojis. During the pandemic, a time when Major League Baseball played out in empty stadiums, cardboard Cinnamojis stood in for fans at the Minnesota Twins' Target Field. In 2022, boxes of Cinnamoji Toast Crunch featured cerealized versions of real-world celebs including snowboarder Chloe Kim and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

The following year, Cinnamon Toast Crunch went even bigger, taking to the Grandest Stage of Them All to release a limited-edition WrestleMania 39 version. These boxes featured Cinnamojis resembling the mask of Rey Mysterio and the Lucha Legend himself helped to promote the product. The carton could even be cut and assembled into a cardboard wrestling ring, allowing crunchy little luchadors to perform daring dives and catapult opponents from the top rope.