The Untold Truth Of Bagel Bites

What 90s kid didn't love getting home from school and opening the freezer to find a familiar box of Bagel Bites waiting to be reheated and enjoyed? Bagel Bites start with mini bagels, each of which is split and seasoned with tomato sauce, cheese, and sometimes other toppings. Reheated in the toaster oven or the microwave, they became molten hot, and their promise of delicious flavor often led us to burn the roofs of our mouths rather than wait til they'd cooled off enough to be enjoyed. They were truly one of the greatest after school snacks of all time — and let's be honest, they still are.

But did you know that Bagel Bites are actually rife with controversy, from lawsuits to smear campaigns to an unoriginal theme song? There's even some argument over who invented the flavorful little snack. For these details and more, rip open a box of your favorite flavor and read on: We've got all the dirt on your favorite "anytime" hybrid snack.

Bagel Bites were invented by two Floridians based on a suggestion on a bag of Lender's bagels

Given the success of Bagel Bites, it's no surprise that there's some controversy over who actually invented them. According to Eater, both Richard Katz of Chelsea, Massachusetts and Bruce Treitman of Woodland Hills, California lay claim to the idea, and while neither will concede its invention to the other, the truth is that since neither one opted to market it in the frozen aisle, neither is reaping the benefits of the two Floridians who did.

While we may never know who was the first to look at a bagel and think, "Hey, that seems like a reasonable stand-in for pizza dough," we do know that the Bagel Bite brand was invented by Bob Mosher and Stanley Garcynski in 1985 (via the Fort Myers Florida Weekly). Adapting the recipe from the back of a package of Lender's bagels, the two began making the mini pizzas and marketing them to restaurants, bars, and hotels in their Florida hometown. They encountered quick success, and offers to buy them out soon poured in from Heinz, Kraft, and more.

Bagel Bites are available in five delicious flavors

Bagel Bites take their inspiration from pizza, so it's no surprise that they are sold with a variety of pizza-inspired toppings. The three-cheese flavor of Bagel Bites is a "cheese lover's dream" with a combo of mozzarella, cheddar, and Monterey jack on a marinara sauce base. The cheese and pepperoni flavor features little bits of spicy pepperoni, and yet another flavor adds sausage to the mix, approximating a meat lover's pie. The plain mozzarella cheese Bagel Bite, meanwhile, is perfect for those who believe simple is best.

But pizza bagels are not the only product within the purview of the company. Did you know that the brand has actually branched out into mini hot dogs, too? To create Bagel Dogs, mini Oscar Mayer franks are wrapped, much in the style of pigs in a blanket, in bagel dough, baked, then frozen. They're ready to reheat, dip in ketchup, and enjoy!

The Bagel Bites theme song isn't original

"Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at suppertime. When pizza's on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime!"

It's a catchy little jingle ... and for good reason. That Bagel Bites commercial that was such an ear worm of our childhoods was actually adapted from a 1957 song called Sugartime written by Charlie Phillips and Odis Echols and performed by the McGuire Sisters (via SecondHandSongs). Per Local 12, the trio of real sisters — Christine, Dorothy, and Phyllis — hailed from Ohio and were often compared to the Andrews Sisters over the course of their careers.

Don't believe us? Then check out this Buzzfeed comparison. The similarities between their single and the Bagel Bites theme song are uncanny — albeit with "sugar" and "honey" swapped in for the bagels that the jingle seeks to highlight. However Bagel Bites stumbled upon the inspiration, you've got to admit: The result is super catchy.

Tony Hawk was a major factor in Bagel Bites' success

It's pretty clear from Bagel Bites' advertising that the brand positions itself as the teen snack food of choice, but that wasn't its first aim. When the Bagel Bites brand first entered the marketplace in the 80s, it actually geared its advertising towards moms. It wasn't until the turn of the 21st century that it opted to shift its focus and market to tween boys. This shift proved to be an incredible success for the brand. A major part of that success came thanks to skateboarding legend Tony Hawk (via PRovoke Media).

At the time, Hawk was a bastion of cool: a legend of alternative sports and a role model for many young Americans. He appeared in a popular radio media tour, touting the snacks and increasing their cool factor for the brand's new target market. The campaign led to a whopping 32 percent increase in consumption — and forever changed the brand image of Bagel Bites from wholesome snack to cool, after-school nosh.

Bagel Bites produced a smear campaign against Totino's

Bagel Bites' advertising isn't all fun and games. Back in the early 2000s, Bagel Bites diverged from the tone of its previous ad campaigns to instead launch a smear against another frozen pizza-inspired treat: Totino's pizza rolls. The ad compared the two products, claiming that while Totino's featured a mozzarella cheese substitute, Bagel Bites were made with real mozzarella cheese. "Which would you give your kids?" the ad asked; the answer, it seemed, was obvious.

But let's be real. Neither Totino's pizza rolls nor Bagel Bites could be construed as a healthful, unprocessed snack. According to Weighty Matters, a blog written by weight management specialist Yoni Freedhoff, MD, while Bagel Bites cheese does indeed contain fewer ingredients than that of Totino's pizza rolls, the ingredients list for the pizza-topped bagels is lengthy — and they also contain 21% more sodium and 250% more sugar than Pizza Rolls.

Maybe it wasn't a good idea for Bagel Bites to attempt to sell its product based on its healthfulness.

Bagel Bites were sued for fake cheese

To add insult to injury on the whole cheese debacle, Bagel Bites was actually sued back in May 2021 over its cheese. The allegation? That Bagel Bites' cheese isn't "real" (via Food & Wine)

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin and highlighted the fillers and thickeners used by the Kraft Heinz Food Company as the culprits that made the mozzarella fake. The suit alleged that people would not have purchased the snack — or would not have paid as much — had they known that the mozzarella contained additives. The suit also claimed that in calling the cornstarch- and cellulose-thickened topping "tomato sauce," the brand was further misleading consumers.

The plaintiff, a Wisconsin resident, first filed a similar suit in New York before filing in Wisconsin, ostensibly, according to Food & Wine, because of the latter state's identity as a cheese-producing area.

Bagel Bites are pretty easy to make at home

For those looking to avoid processed ingredients — and willing to put in a touch more work — Bagel Bites are actually pretty easy to make from scratch! 

Start with the mini bagel of your choice (either store-bought or homemade bagels work!) Halve the bagels and top them with your choice of tomato sauce. As The Spruce Eats explains, many frozen pizza products rely on a too-sweet sauce, so choose your favorite store-bought pizza sauce or make your own marinara sauce instead. Top with low-moisture mozzarella (the best choice for a pizza devoid of sogginess) and bake until gooey and hot.

Since you're making them from home, you can modify these pizza bagels to suit your tastes. Other cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar, or even blue cheese can join the marinara, and you can also add tasty toppings like pepperoni, sausage, olives, or veggies.