Whether it’s a bowl of oatmeal to warm you up in the morning or a granola bar to keep you going during the day, Quaker Oats has always been there for its customers. Many people grew up on their products, mostly because they know exactly what the people want! If you were ever curious about this beloved company, look no further! Here are 10 Things You Should Really Know Before Eating Quaker Oats Again.
10. The Quaker Oats Man Isn’t Real
When gazing upon a box of Quaker Oats oatmeal, you can’t help but feel a certain kinship with the Quaker Oats man on the box. Something about his kind eyes and wholesome look makes you trust him. The fact that Quaker Oats products are the perfect way to cheer anyone up on a rainy day doesn’t hurt the kind aura, either. It’s easy to imagine Mr. Quaker Oats giving out hot oatmeal to cold children or otherwise just being a nice guy. If you’ve grown up on Quaker Oats, you may have wondered from time to time; who is this mysterious man? Why are his eyes so kind? Why is his smile so soft? There’s a long-standing belief that he’s the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn. It’s possible — U.S. history says Penn became a Quaker when he was 22 — but according to Quaker Oats lore, it’s not him. So, what is the truth? Apparently, he’s not even a real person; he’s just the embodiment of the values that Quaker Oats wanted to be associated with: honesty, integrity, purity, and strength. So, if you’ve ever wondered what any of those attributes would look like if they were personified, just take a look at your oatmeal box. But, just because he’s not a real person doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a name. According to several sources, company insiders call this mysterious man “Larry.” A name befitting such a kind face. The next time you stumble upon Larry in your cupboard or at the grocery store, make sure to say hi.
9. Larry’s Gone Through Many Makeovers
While Larry the Quaker Oats Mascot was first developed in 1877, he certainly hasn’t stayed the same over the years. At first, Larry was pictured standing up, and he was drawn in black and white! In 1956, the company decided to crop the rest of his body and focus on his friendly face, and we can’t blame them. Who wouldn’t want him staring at them while they’re trying to make breakfast? In 1957, they added color to the mix, bringing Larry closer to the logo we know today. Here’s a fun fact: if the art style for Larry looks familiar, it’s because he was drawn by the same artist who did the Santa Claus illustrations for Coca-Cola, Haddon Sundblom. Considering how nice they both look, they’re probably good friends. But, in the 1970s, the company decided to give him a complete overhaul. They gave Quaker a new blue-and-white logo, which looks very 70s. Thankfully, that look didn’t last long, and even though the company seemed to be having a bit of a font-related identity crisis, the classic Larry was back, and fans rejoiced. In 2007, the company designed both the logo and box that most people are familiar with today. In 2010, Quaker Oats started redesigning both their packaging and the frame Larry was trapped in, wanting to make the most of their status as a healthy food. The most recent change has been to Larry’s background. Where it was once red, it’s now white. We’ve got to say, the new logo is very pleasing to the eye, and Larry looks as sharp as ever.
8. Quaker Oats Is Finally Rebranding Aunt Jemima
Growing up, you might remember making Aunt Jemima pancakes. This easy-to-make packaged pancake mix was a great way to start the day. Well, as of February, Quaker Oats, the brand’s parent company, said that they would be changing the packaging for good. Why? Well, because the brand’s name and logo are based on a racial stereotype. It isn’t hard to see how the smiling Aunt Jemima logo was inspired by the “mammy” stereotype. In fact, the first face of the pancake product was a former slave by the name of Nancy Green. Quaker Oats bought the Aunt Jemima brand in 1925 and has updated the logo over the years in an effort to remove negative stereotypes. Thankfully, after many protests, the brand has finally been able to see that no matter how many times the logo is “updated,” it still holds onto those harmful stereotypes. The pancake mix will make its official name change to Pearl Milling Company by June of this year.
7. Was Quaker Oats Selling Horse Food?
Quaker Oats was trademarked all the way back in 1877. Over the course of the next two decades, it saw three competing oat-milling companies come together to form a single conglomerate. It was only after years of in-fighting that Quaker Oats was officially formed in 1901. The fact that Quaker Oats was able to come together and rise up to become the influential company it is today is amazing, considering the entire industry was built on their founders’ ability to convince the public they should be eating livestock feed. One of the co-founders of Quaker Oats is Ferdinand Schumacher, a man who immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1851. In Germany and most of Europe at the time, people were familiar with the idea of eating oats and porridge. You might be thinking: who doesn’t eat oats and porridge? The answer is Americans. At least back then. People used oats to feed their horses, so they weren’t very inclined to eat them themselves. So, Schumacher had to get creative. He decided to go for a different angle and began selling glass jars packed with cubed oats. This made them convenient to prepare and eat, which generated interest. Spurred on by this success, Schumacher found a way to cook the oats faster, which only helped to grow his company. He created rolled oats around the same time the Civil War was kicking off. The military needed a cheap way to feed a lot of people, and soldiers across the country were introduced to the idea that they could eat what their horses ate.
6. Radioactivity Is More Likely Than You Think
In the 1940s and the 1950s, more than 100 youngsters living at the Fernald State School – a state-run school for abandoned boys – were invited to join the Science Club. There were plenty of reasons why a young boy would want to join. For one, they were given hearty breakfasts (starvation was a frequent punishment at the school), as well as trips to baseball games. What they didn’t know, though, was that there was a catch. Quaker Oats had joined efforts with researchers from MIT for three experiments involving boys between the ages of 10 and 17. They were given breakfasts of Quaker Oats, that happened to contain radioactive calcium and iron. In case you were wondering, no, the boys didn’t know that this was happening, and yes, that is a complete violation of civil rights. There were a few reasons for the experiment. First off, researchers wanted to know what kind of effects radioactivity had on the human body since many people at the time were being exposed to it. Secondly, Quaker Oats wanted in on the study because they saw it as a way to prove their oatmeal was just as healthy as their competitors. They would get their medical testing done, MIT their results… it was a win-win. That was until a lawsuit in 1995 hit both parties. While the radioactivity thankfully hadn’t caused any lasting damage, the boys were still entitled to a settlement and apology. The suit was settled for $1.85 million.
5. Quaker Oats Created Packaging As We Know It
From the very beginning, Quaker Oats has been known for its recognizable packaging. The way that the company has marketed its products has been instrumental for its growth. Not only did they have to convince people to eat oats in the first place, but they also had to get them to prepare oats in a way that made people want to keep buying Quaker Oats products. Those challenges got the founders of Quaker Oats, specifically Henry Crowell, to thinking. He decided that packaging was very important, and so he started packaging their products in the round, colorful containers that we see today. People started to take notice and buy Quaker oats. But what about making them? Well, Henry Crowell had the solution to that, too. Back then, printing a recipe on the box was absolutely unheard of. So when Quaker Oats started doing it, they had no idea how successful it was going to be. They started doing this in 1891, but their brilliant marketing techniques didn’t stop there. They also created the trial-size sample and the classic prize in the box. In 1891, consumers could find a piece of china dishware in their oat boxes, and while that’s quite a bit different from the toys we usually expect in today’s cereal, they can take credit for this idea, too.
4. Quaker Oats Created The Willy Wonka Brand
Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is one of those classic childhood movies that probably gave everyone sweet dreams as well as nightmares. Whether you loved it or hated it, something about the magical chocolate factory and the mystical Willy Wonka enraptured a generation. But, something you might not know about this childhood classic is that it was funded by Quaker Oats, mostly as a marketing tactic. This was a win-win situation for Quaker Oats – all they had to do was finance the movie, and then a major film studio would release it. They would make candy based on the ones seen in the film, and they would make a huge profit. And that’s exactly how it went down. Ever wonder why it’s not Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, like the book? It’s because Quaker Oats wanted to make sure the name “Willy Wonka” was front and center… so they could profit off of it. The Willy Wonka line of candy was launched alongside the movie, but that wasn’t without some difficulties. They couldn’t come up with the perfect Wonka bar on time, and only Peanut Butter Oompas and Super Skrunch bars were released at first. Wonka Bars came a few years later, and Quaker Oats ended up selling that division to Nestle in 1988.
3. Quaker Oats and Snapple, A Bad Mix
When you think of Quaker Oats, you probably think about their oatmeal, maybe their granola bars, or even their cereal. But did you know that they’ve dabbled in other products as well? They’ve tried producing pet food, clothing, and even video games. They also bought the Snapple brand in 1994, which made them one of the largest beverage companies in North America (behind Coca-Cola and PepsiCo). Unfortunately, this partnership didn’t last long. One source even went so far as to call it one of the worst flops in corporate-merger history – yikes. Quaker Oats only owned Snapple for 27 months, selling it for $300 million after making a $1.7 billion investment in the drink company. If you’re doing the math, that is a huge loss for Quaker Oats. So, why did this acquisition fail? Well, we can’t say for sure, because there is an infinite number of factors that come into play in an acquisition like this, but some people blame the disastrous merger on the company’s failure to understand Snapple’s strengths, along with stiff competition from the other beverage distributors. Maybe Quaker Oats should stick to what they do best and leave the beverage market to the beverage companies.
2. Quaker Oats Partnered With The FDA
As you can see, oatmeal in North America has come a long way. It used to be seen only as a horse food, and now it’s the perfect breakfast food for a health-conscious family. This pristine image of oatmeal is largely attributed to some official FDA claims. Before 1997, foods weren’t allowed to advertise claims about specific benefits. It seems a bit weird to think about it nowadays, but it’s true. For example, while they could say that they’re low-fat, they weren’t allowed to say that they helped to manage cholesterol. Quaker Oats didn’t like that, so they reached out to the FDA and requested permission to advertise the fact that including oats in a balanced, low-fat diet would help reduce the risk of heart disease. While there were protests from some groups claiming consumers would be misled into thinking certain foods were magic foods, the FDA allowed for it to happen. The FDA did acknowledge these concerns, but they said that people wouldn’t be misled. While we can’t say whether or not people believed some foods were magic foods, we can say that this change in regulations helped Quaker Oats sales by quite a lot. By 1999, the company was already seeing record sales.
1. Is There Weed-Killer In Your Breakfast?
In 2018, the Environmental Working Group — the same group that releases the Dirty Dozen list — tested multiple breakfast foods to look for the presence of glyphosate. For those who don’t know, glyphosate is found in weed-killer, specifically in Roundup. The results were shocking. Not only did Quaker Oats test positive for the stuff, but so did breakfast foods like Cheerios and Lucky Charms. But they couldn’t possibly include harmful materials in our breakfast foods, right? Wrong. 31 of the 45 samples of oats tested were deemed to be below their safety criteria, and when they went back and tested more samples of both Quaker Oats and Cheerios, they found that all but two (of 28) samples were deemed harmful. That’s some scary stuff! That being said, we’re not really sure how dangerous glyphosate actually is. The World Health Organization’s International Program on Chemical Safety says it’s not a concern at all. On the other hand, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer says it’s possibly carcinogenic, so clearly, more research needs to be done. A week before the results went public, a judge in California ruled in favor of a man who claimed repeated exposure to Roundup caused his terminal cancer. Quaker Oats did respond to the findings with this statement, saying that the levels of glyphosate in Quaker Oats products are below any regulatory limits and are safe for human consumption.