Whether it’s hoping Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are married or discovering Cap’n Crunch’s life story, food mascots are a lot of fun! Consumers associate a face with a brand and eventually grow to love the mascot as they’re given life through animation and voice-acting. Here are the top 10 best food mascots ever (part 2)!
10. Charlie the Tuna – StarKist Tuna
Created in 1961, you probably know this mascot by his advertisements’ famous catchphrase: “Sorry, Charlie!” He’s an anthropomorphic blue tuna fish wearing glasses and a red beret that sometimes features his name. He was created by Tom Rogers as a beatnik—or, in more modern terms: Charlie’s a hipster. Like most hipsters, Charlies believes he has culture and overall good taste and uses this to convince StarKist that he should be caught. However, as explained by the announcer, StarKist is looking for a tuna that tastes good, not one that has “good taste”. He’s often sent a note on a line reading, “Sorry, Charlie!” In over 85 advisements for the brand, you’ll likely remember Charlie closing out some commercials by encouraging viewers to “Tell ‘em Charlie sent you!” He was the mascot for the brand until the 80s and then again in 1999, when he made a comeback in order to promote a new line of healthier tuna products. If you don’t recognize him from StarKist’s packaging or advertising, you might recognize him from his appearance in the 2012 animated box-office flop Foodfight! Charlie has definitely seen better days… Sorry, Charlie!
9. Buzz – Honey Nut Cheerios
Cheerios have to be one of the most classic cereals in North America, next to any variation of flake—corn, frosted, or otherwise. They’re simple, hearty and pretty nostalgic. Cheerios were first manufactured in 1941 before their sweeter successor Honey Nut Cheerios were introduced to the market in 1979. Their friendly bee mascot actually didn’t have a name until the year 2000, when a fifth-grade student from Texas won a contest to name the bee. Kristine Tong dubbed him “BuzzBee” which was later shortened to just Buzz. He was first animated by Dean Yeagle at Zander’s Animation Parlour in New York City for Honey Nut Cheerios’ earlier commercials. His animation changed somewhat over the years, but Buzz is typically depicted as a yellow bee with black stripes and blue eyes, wearing an orange tee and white sneakers. He has also been voiced by several different people including Arnold Stang, Billy West, and Charlie Schlatter. When Cheerios pulled their loveable mascot from their boxes in 2017 in order to make a statement about the declining bee populations, fans felt the disruption. In his place on the cereal boxes was a white silhouette of a bee with a dashed outline. These new boxes featured the slogan “Bring Back the Bees”, a campaign whose mission was to encourage people to plant wildflowers in order to help the bee population recover and do what bees do. Buzz has since returned to Honey Nut Cheerios’ boxes, adding his customary dollop of honey to some otherwise ordinary Cheerios.
8. Frito Bandito – Frito’s
If you don’t remember Frito’s corn chips having as mascot, that’s probably because you weren’t around from 1967 to 1971, when this guy was the face of Frito’s. He was retired pretty early on and you can probably imagine why. He was designed based on the American stereotype of the “Mexican bandit”, originally with a gold tooth and stubble. He robbed people of their Frito’s chips at gunpoint and spoke exaggerated broken English. After justified backlash, Frito Bandito was revamped to exclude his golden tooth and stubble, and his hair was combed out. This is the most popular version of him; he’s dressed in all white, wears a sombrero, sports a handlebar moustache and shoulder pads, and carries around two pistols in a double holster. After President Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, his pistols were removed. He usually appeared in commercials which aired during children’s programming due to his cartoon nature and jingle sung to the tune of the traditional Mexican song “Cielito Lindo”, but quickly grew in popularity. Thus, he began being featured in all of Frito’s print and television advertising. The character continued to face racist accusations, leading Frito-Lay to introduce new mascots such as a group of cowboys named the “Muncha Bunch” and another character, W.C. Fritos, based off of the old time comedian W.C. Fields. By 1970, the brand had stopped airing commercials featuring Frito Bandito in California, Oregon and Washington, and eventually retired the character for good in 1971.
7. Chef Boyardee – Chef Boyardee Canned Foods
Here’s one brand whose founder is also their mascot. Ettore (Anglicised as Hector) Boiardi, and Italian immigrant, founded his company in Milton, Pennsylvania, in 1938. Chef Boyardee sells canned and microwavable pasta products such as spaghetti, beefaroni, ravioli, lasagna, pizza and sauces, and others. Boiardi worked as head chef at the Plaza Hotel in New York City before opening his restaurant Il Giardino d’Italia (The Garden of Italy) in 1924 in Cleaveland, Ohio. During this time, restaurant customers asked Boiardi for his spaghetti sauce to bring home, which he started out by supplying in milk bottles. It was in 1928 when he decided to start up a company with his brothers. They named it Chef Boyardee—spelled phonetically, so Americans wouldn’t wonder how to go about pronouncing their last name. Boiardi moved production to Pennsylvania where he could grow tomatoes and mushrooms for his products. The first to be sold was a “ready-to-heat spaghetti kit” that included uncooked pasta, tomato sauce, and pre-grated cheese. In 1942, Chef Boyardee meals were produced and sent overseas to troops during the World War II. The plant operated at all hours of the day, every day of the week and had employed roughly 5,000 new workers in order to keep up with demand. After the war, Ettore Boiardi was awarded The Gold Star, one of the highest military honors a civilian can receive, on account of the company’s wartime efforts. Unfortunately, he was also put in a tough situation at this time: sell the company or lay off everyone he’d hired. He chose the former and sold to American Home Foods in 1946 for nearly six million dollars but remained a spokesman and consultant until 1978, when he finally retired. To this day, Boiardi is one of the most recognized faces in advertising, thanks to his legacy as the mascot of his own brand.
6. The Quaker Man – Quaker Oats
If you’re a fan of oatmeal, you’re probably familiar with the popular Quaker Man—unofficially named Larry. He’s one of the oldest mascots still around, and hasn’t changed all that much since his first print ad launch in 1882. In fact, according to the company, the Quaker Man was the first registered trademark for breakfast cereal in America. It was speculated that he was modeled after a real Quaker, William Penn, but PepsiCo has stated that their current Quaker Man is not an actual person. He is simply an image of a man dressed in “Quaker garb” and was chosen because of his symbolic reference to good quality and value, honesty, purity, and strength. Although his appearance has stayed relatively the same, he was redesigned several times. His black and white headshot was created by Jim Nash in 1946 and then given color by Haddon Sundblom—who is also responsible for Coca-Cola’s illustrations of Santa Claus—in 1957. In 1969, a monochromatic version of the image was developed by Saul Bass. In 2010, the brand brought back Sundblom’s interpretation, although he was given a slimmer and more youthful look a couple of years later. His hat and general attire, white shoulder-length hair, rosy cheeks and warm smile have stayed the same. After over 100 years of service, we think Larry’s revamping was well deserved, but we admire that he’s stayed true to his roots.
5. Horatio Magellan Crunch – Cap’n Crunch
Of all the famous captains—America, Hook, and Sparrow—Captain Horatio Magellan Crunch is by far the captain who stands for the most delicious values. You’ll find him proudly saluting on the front of brightly colored Cap’n Crunch cereal boxes, wearing his Revolutionary-style naval captain’s uniform and characteristic grin. Over the years, the gold bars on his navy-blue sleeve have varied. Usually, an American naval captain has four bars, but Horatio has been depicted wearing one (the role of commodore), two (lieutenant), and three bars (which is typical for commanders). Although the cereal was introduced in 1963, Cap’n Crunch himself was born on March 11, 1943, on Crunch Island in the Sea of Milk—a magical place with talking trees, creatures and a whole mountain (Mt. Crunchmore) made out of mysterious Cap’n Crunch cereal. According to a news outlet dedicated to Horatio Crunch, he was orphaned during World War II, when his parents perished in a secret bombing. (Pretty dark stuff for a cartoon mascot.) He was then adopted by a passing sailor from the U.S. Navy who happened to be (in a crazy turn of events) John F. Kennedy. Kennedy raised Crunch as his own and encouraged him to learn the names of all the presidents, including Benjamin Franklin who would later become his biggest rival. Apparently, Crunch is insanely good at chess—with a total record of 369 wins and only 7 losses. He also has a 200 IQ! Moreover, Cap’n Crunch has his own talk show called The Cap’n Crunch Show which was released this year. Truly a man of many talents, Horatio Magellan Crunch will always be most respected for the toys—ahem, treasure—that were in every box of Cap’n Crunch cereal. We salute you Cap’n!
4. The Jolly Green Giant – Green Giant
Unlike the Hulk, this green giant is always sporting a giant smile. However, the Jolly Green Giant wasn’t always so jolly. In 1928, when he first emerged as the mascot of the brand, he looked very little like he does today. He was a white caveman in full-color, wearing a bearskin, and holding a huge pea pod, completely devoid of a smile. By 1930, he had become monochrome… you guessed it, in green. He got his first real remodelling in 1936, where his bearskin was swapped for foliage, his peapod was swapped for a husk of corn, and he now wore his signature smile. It was also at this time that the word “jolly” was added to the front of his name. He was redesigned nine more times after that, with the latest upgrade in 2014, to become the tall, green, and handsome fellow he is now. He made his first T.V. appearance in 1958, encouraging consumers to eat their veggies—specifically, the Green Giant’s canned veggies. He must have made a pretty big impact because this mascot has a valley named after him and a statue erected in his honor. Sixty miles south of “The Valley of the Jolly Green Giant” in Minnesota, the 55-foot fiberglass statue of the Jolly Green Giant stands tall and proud. If you listen real close, you can hear him bellowing out his catchphrase “Ho! Ho! Ho!” (Probably.)
3. Miss Chiquita – Chiquita Bananas
Most fruits don’t usually have mascots. So considering these super yummy and always fresh bananas do, they have to make the cut. Since 1963, Chiquita Bananas has had the “First Lady of Fruit” on their iconic blue labels. Miss Chiquita has been around now for over 70 years, and she’s managed to reinvent herself. In 1987, an artist named Oscar Grillo recreated this banana loving mascot from a cartoon of a banana logo, into a real person. Miss Chiquita has been part of many campaigns over the years to keep banana eaters engaged with the brand. From sponsoring the Olympics in 1980, to marathons, Miss Chiquita has managed to have a presence in many spheres. To keep up with times, Chiquita Bananas promote fun contests such as the ‘Fuel the Fun’ competition where Miss Chiquita lovers could submit fun art designs that have the chance to be featured alongside the First Lady of Fruit herself. Chiquita Bananas also has a super fun and easy recipe page. Whether you just want a simple bowl or granola and yogurt with a chopped up Chiquita Banana as the icing on the cake so to say, or a recipe for muffins or a cake to bring to a special occasion, this mascot has got you covered!
* This entry written by Amanda Fester
2. Mr. Peanut – Planter’s Peanuts
This old-fashioned gentle-peanut has actually been around since 1916. Antonio Gentile, a fourteen-year-old student, won a design contest by submitting drawings of an anthropomorphic peanut. Commercial artist Andrew S. Wallach added Mr. Peanut’s iconic monocle, top hat, and cane to create the loveable mascot we all know today. In fact, in 2006, Planter’s Peanuts gave the public the option to vote on whether a bowtie, cufflinks or a pocket watch should be added to the mascot, but the majority actually voted for no change! Folks admire Mr. Peanut just the way he is! That, or they hold onto the nostalgia of his character. Either way, the mascot did change appearance somewhat throughout the years with varying shades of yellow for his body and different animation styles including 3D and stop motion. He also acquired a voice for the first time in 2010, thanks to Robert Downey Jr., although after 2018, he no longer spoke. During the 2020 Super Bowl, Planter’s Peanuts released a teaser commercial in which they actually killed off their legendary mascot in a horrific, fiery death. Being the hero he was, Mr. Peanut sacrificed himself in order to save Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh. Social media was heartbroken, and rightfully so. During Planter’s Super Bowl ad, Mr. Peanut was given a funeral attended by Mr. Clean and the Kool-Aid Man, among others. It was during this commercial that a new, younger incarnation of Mr. Peanut was born. He was dubbed Baby Nut and, thus, Mr. Peanut’s legacy lives on.
1. Cheesasaurus Rex – Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
If you were a kid or a college student in the 90s, you’re probably familiar with this guy. Cheesasaurus Rex was an orange tyrannosaurus rex, very appropriately named by America’s youth at the time. He had his own song when he was first introduced to audiences, which was swapped out a few years later for the tagline: “When the cheese starts flowing, Kraft gets your noodle going!” Advertisements featured him at the beach, at sporting events, and even performing his own concerts! Although is legacy was short-lived, he was featured at the Macy’s Parade from 2001 to 2003 as a “tyranno-tourist” balloon, flashing his camera at the crowd and telling them to “say cheese”. Cheesasaurus Rex is still a nostalgic mascot from the childhoods of many—a character that makes you go, “Oh, hey, I remember that guy!” and you grab that extra box of mac and cheese from the grocery shelf, for old time’s sake!