The unexpected link between Lucky Charms and Circus Peanuts

Nothing about Circus Peanuts sounds particularly lucky or charming. They aren't actually peanuts, which themselves aren't actually nuts but rather legumes. The deception doesn't end there. Circus Peanuts aren't even supposed to taste like the fake nuts in their name. Spangler Candy explains that despite being peanut-shaped, they are banana-flavored marshmallow treats. And no, they don't taste like real bananas, either. Bon Appetit contributor Michael Singer sang the opposite of the candy's praises, comparing it to "wallboard soaked in artificial banana flavoring" and tying it with "bygone freak show[s]" that featured "anomalies like the four-headed goat." (What gets our goat most is that the ingredients list should probably begin with "four layers of lying.")

Lucky Charms, by contrast, are the next best thing to a pot of gold that you can find at the end of a rainbow. And as a kid, you probably knew that even if you found a pot of gold, you would use it to buy more Lucky Charms – or at least the marshmallows, which are by far the best part of that cereal. But as unlikely or even nonsensical as it might sound, Circus Peanuts are such stuff that magically delicious dreams are made of and the very reason those dreams came true.

The charming side of Circus Peanuts

As the General Mills blog describes, product developer John Holahan happened to love Circus Peanuts. He even put chunks of the stuff in his Cheerios when formulating the prototype for Lucky Charms. The leprechaun-themed breakfast cereal made a grand entrance in 1964, announcing its arrival in animated ads, comic books, and Sunday comics.

The cereal's original incarnation contained oat pieces shaped like clovers, bells, fish, and arrowheads. The marshmallow bits consisted of orange stars, green clovers, and pink hearts, and yellow moons. (Though, when we consider how much a yellow crescent moon resembles a marshmallow banana, we're tempted to think it doubled as a nod to the banana flavoring of Circus peanuts.)

In the ensuing decades, General Mills jazzed up the cereal by adding frosting, chocolate, and other tasty changes. But the brightest star in the box has always been the part inspired by Circus Peanuts: marshmallows. Turns out Lucky Charms aren't worth their weight in pots of gold but in Circus Peanuts.