The Untold Truth Of Honey Smacks

Kellogg's cereal Honey Smacks, known for its cool frog mascot and its sweet, puffed wheat flavor, has long been a popular breakfast option for kids and adults alike (via World History Project). But did you know that Honey Smacks has not always been sold by the same name and that international markets still know it by another moniker? (via Characters of Advertising). Or how about the fact that this cereal tried out nearly a dozen other mascots before settling on the well-known Dig'em Frog? 

You might be curious about the fact that Kellogg's recalled this popular cereal in 2018 and that the CDC followed that voluntary recall with a massive communiqué urging Americans to avoid it at all costs (as per CDC). Several years later, many nutritionists remain wary of Honey Smacks, adding another level of intrigue to this beloved cereal. And these are just a few of the mysteries surrounding Honey Smacks.  

Honey Smacks was invented by Kellogg's in 1953

What's that they say about imitation, that it's the sincerest form of flattery? That's the case behind the invention of Honey Smacks, which, as Fox reports, were introduced by Kellogg's back in 1953. According to MrBreakfast, the very invention of Honey Smacks was a direct response to the popularity of Sugar Crisp, an almost identical sweetened puff wheat cereal that had been introduced by Post in 1949. Sugar Crisp, which was later marketed under various names such as Super Golden Crisp, or Golden Crisp, is a sweetened puffed wheat cereal that makes for a crunchy, crispy offering.

Honey Smacks are made in a similar fashion: Lightly puffed whole wheat enriched with 10 essential vitamins and minerals and sweetened with a mix of sugar and honey, according to Kellogg's. And according to Apron, once this Kellogg's cereal was introduced onto the market, it became an instant hit.

It has undergone several name changes over the years

Much like the Sugar Crisp that inspired its invention, Honey Smacks has undergone several identity crises over the years, and vintage versions of Honey Smacks may not sport the same name. When the cereal was first invented back in 1953, it was marketed as Sugar Smacks, a name it maintained for about 30 years (via Characters of Advertising). During the 1980s, Sugar Smacks was renamed Honey Smacks. 

Kellogg's simplified things even further in the 1990s when it shortened the name simply to Smacks. According to HobbyDB, this may be because the cereal's mascot, the Dig'em Frog, always referred to the cereal as smacks. In 2004, however, the name was changed back to Honey Smacks in U.S. markets. Today, in some markets, including Germany, Spain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, the simpler, single-syllable name has stuck. The cereal has also undergone several mascot changes. 

Dig'em Frog has not always been the mascot

According to PopIcon, cereal and food mascots have long gone hand in hand, and consumers are very much drawn towards these colorful characters. Honey Smacks has had several different mascots over the years, including the oh-so-creepy Cliffy the Clown, who, from 1953 to 1956, was shown in advertisements dancing the "Sugar Smack Swing" (via Characters of Advertising). Smaxey the Seal came next; this seal in a sailor suit outfit represented the cereal for four years beginning in 1957. 

In 1961, Smaxey was replaced by Hanna-Barbera's horse sheriff Quick Draw McGraw, who was swiftly followed by The Smackin' Brothers, who, uh, smacked each other a lot. In the '70s, Honey Smacks were repped briefly by an Indian Chief, who was quickly replaced by the Dig'em Frog we all know and love today.

But the Dig'em Frog was not the last mascot the cereal has had! He was replaced by Wally the Bear in 1986, a short-lived mascot who faded away following consumer demand for the return of his predecessor. PopIcon reports that college students actually held a one-day demonstration to demand the return of the Dig'em Frog returning to the cereal box, and just a year later, the popular mascot was back. 

Honey Smacks is super high in sugar

Considering that this cereal was originally named Sugar Smacks, it should come as no surprise that it is pretty sweet. As per Vox, many breakfast cereals boast as much sugar as a dessert, although few are perhaps as egregious as Honey Smacks. Physician and functional medicine expert Dr. Mark Hyman notes in his book "Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?" that Honey Smacks contains "an insane 55.6% sugar by weight." (According to MrBreakfast, there has been a slight improvement in sugar levels over time: When the cereal was first introduced, it contained 56% sugar by weight.)

In 2008, Consumer Reports found that Honey Smacks, alongside Post's Golden Crisp — the cereal that inspired Kellogg's invention back in the '50s — had the highest sugar content among cereals. The outlet notes that the sugar content of these cereals is comparable to that of a glazed doughnut from Dunkin' Donuts

In precise numbers? This cereal contains 18 grams of sugar per 1-cup serving. That's the approximate equivalent of 1½ tablespoons, according to Traditional Oven.

There's a Korean version that some say is even better

New York Magazine's sugar aficionado and Honey Smacks lover Sanibel Chai was thrilled to discover Jolly Pong. Chai writes that Jolly Pong is a "superior" version of the cereal that once held pride of place as her Saturday morning cartoon-watching fave. Jolly Pong is a Korean snack that is popular among children.  

Jolly Pong is less dense than Honey Smacks and also boasts a matte finish as compared to the shiny glaze of Honey Smacks. Jolly Pong contains about half the sugar of Honey Smacks, with just 9 grams per one-cup serving, as compared to Honey Smacks' 18 grams. The Korean snack provides a more subtle alternative than the sugar-laden Honey Smacks. It tends to acquire the perfect texture when combined with milk, epitomizing a well-balanced crunch-to-sogginess ratio. Plus, is there anything more fun that Jolly Pong — the name itself?

Honey Smacks was recalled in 2018 due to salmonella

The main reason Sanibel Chai had to look further afield to scratch her Honey Smacks itch was due to a widespread recall of the cereal linked to a salmonella outbreak. As Buzzfeed reports, Kellogg's first recalled Honey Smacks cereal in June 2018 after 73 people fell ill after consuming the cereal in March. In July, the CDC issued an updated recall following 100 cases of food poisoning across 33 different states — and 30 linked hospitalizations — instructing consumers that any and all Honey Smacks should be discarded or returned to stores. 

The CDC ended its investigation at the end of September of the same year. The contamination of the cereal had led to a total of 34 hospitalizations and 135 infections across 36 states. No deaths linked to the outbreak were reported, but as Apron noted at the time, only time would reveal the full impact of the outbreak on the brand's reputation.

Kellogg's updated the recipe in 2018

Following the salmonella-linked recall in 2018, Kellogg's didn't just move production to a company-owned facility in an effort to distance itself from the third-party producer connected with the outbreak (via Battle Creek Enquirer). The company also took advantage of the time away to craft a "simpler, updated recipe," which debuted in November 2018. 

But not everyone was impressed with the new approach. Indeed, angry reviewers took to the Kellogg's website to air their grievances, clamoring for a return of the original."So disappointing!" wrote one reviewer under the screen name Cricket. "Tastes stale, but they are not outdated. It's been months so I just tried another box, nope still tastes bad, blah, stale! I won't but them again!"

"Plz bring back Honey smacks!" begged Bakes in Minnesota. "I would love the original sugar smacks but the honey smacks will be just fine. What ever you were thinking with the new recipe, plz through it in garbage and find old recipe to use again PLEASE!" Guess it's time for Kellogg's to go back to the drawing board on this long-standing fave!