The Untold Truth Of Pudding Pops

Face it. You're not an 80s kid if you've never tried a JELL-O Pudding Pop. 1983 to 1987 were the golden years of popularity for chocolate, vanilla, banana, and a chocolate-vanilla swirl JELL-O Puddings on a stick. On a hot summer day, everybody and their mothers wanted one. Even better, in the early 80s, you could pick up a dozen for just $1.99 (via The New York Times). For all of you unlucky souls who've never sucked on one, pudding pops were the perfect combination of rich, creamy, frozen JELL-O-ey goodness. You'll forgive us. Back in the 80s, we still went to Hooters, and we still incorrectly believed chocolate was an aphrodisiac. Clearly, we were a little bit misguided. 

The fact remains, pudding pops became such a big cultural icon in the 1980s that we've written a book about them. Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? came out in 2011. It's got rave reviews on Amazon. This, of course, begs the question: what did happen to pudding pops? And how did they finally meet their end? 

Pudding pops were risky business

By 1982, even the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations had declared Pudding Pops one of the "hottest new growth areas" in food trends. But getting there was no sure shot. 

According to The New York Times, General Foods poured millions of dollars into the "high-risk venture." At the same time as General Foods was testing pudding pops, they were also testing two other, frozen JELL-O products, JELL-O Slice Creme (a freezer cake mix), and JELL-O Gelatin Pops (frozen, whipped gelatin). 

Why? According to Peter Rosow, who in 1981 was the General Food's general manager of its desserts division, the company was looking for a way to "put the pudding in the path of the afternoon snack opportunity.” Yes, please. 

The risk paid off. General Foods made over $100 million in its first year of sales alone. By the mid-1980s, they were making $300 million a year on frozen pudding products alone (via Culinary Lore). 

The dirty history of Pudding Pops and sex scandals

No, we're not talking about the time when the iconic dessert made headlines, because a sex offender apparently bribed a hungry girl with Pudding Pops for sex (via The News Herald). We're talking about Bill Crosby. 

In the 80s, Pudding Pops were virtually inseparable from the popular comedian, who appeared in televised ads nationwide saying things like, "If your left hand sees how much fun your right hand is having, it won't ant to be left out" (via Marketwatch). In magazines, like the one pictured above, he was quoted saying, "JELL-O Pudding Pops... The snack you can say 'Yes' to!" 

These are undoubtedly haunting words given the fact that over 60 women have accused Crosby of sexual misconduct, and that he is now facing a 10-year prison sentence for sexual assault (via NPR). Somewhat ironically, Grubstreet reports that his diet in prison includes off-brand JELL-O pudding. 

According to Market Watch, as a result of the convictions, Crosby is no longer part of The American Advertising Federation's Hall of Fame. Crosby's association with Pudding Pops, however, lives on in our memories.

Did Pudding Pops help end a 45-year long war?

Pudding Pops didn't do everything wrong. In 1989, towards the end of the second Cold War Russian President, Boris Yeltsin took a trip to the United States and visited a grocery store in Houston, Texas (via Houstonia). Purportedly, a Houston Chronicle photographer caught him "nodding his head in amazement" and looking excitedly at some Pudding Pops (via Houston Public Media and Chron).

We would later find out that the experience moved Yeltsin to tears. In his autobiography, Yeltsin wrote that when he "saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons, and goods of every possible sort, for the first time [he] felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people" (via Chron). 

Less than a year later, Yeltsin resigned from the Communist Party (via History). While the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Yeltsin remained president of a more democratic Russia. Throughout the rest of the 90s, Presidents William Clinton and Boris Yeltsin remained fast friends and allies (via the US Department of State Office of the Historian). Who knows, in 1993, upon his inauguration, maybe Clinton even sent Yeltsin a pudding pop or two. 

But if Yeltsin hoped to find the popsicles in his 1994 visit to Seattle, Washington (via The US Department of State), he would have been sorely disappointed. Pudding Pops were no longer to be found (via USA Today).

The great pudding pop come back

Fortunately for die-hard fans, after a 10-year hiatus, JELL-O licensed their name to Popsicle. In 2004, a new version of Pudding Pops hit the shelves (via Culinary Lore). Unfortunately for diehard fans, the pops were just not the same. They had a different texture and shape than the original 80s miracle, and a review by Riverfront Times complained that they looked like a "box of tampons." To make matters worse, Popsicle didn't produce the pops in its signature banana flavor, either. Popsicle's Pudding Pops lasted even less tie than the original, and the company discontinued Pudding Pops in 2011 (via USA Today). We haven't seen them hit the market since. 

No worries. If you're still hankering after a Pudding Pop, you can still find several copycats in your grocery store's freezers. They're easy to make yourself, and the web is full of recipes. All you need is JELL-O pudding, milk, and evaporated milk.