Pop-Tarts is a brand of rectangular, pre-baked, convenience food toaster pastries that the Kellogg Company introduced in 1964. Somewhat similar to a contemporary English mince pie tart, Pop-Tarts have a sugary filling sealed inside two layers of rectangular, thin pastry crust. Most varieties are also frosted. Although sold pre-cooked, they are designed to be warmed inside a toaster or microwave oven. They are usually sold in pairs inside Mylar (previously foil) packages, and do not require refrigeration.
Pop-Tarts is Kellogg's most popular brand to date in the United States, with millions of units sold each year. They are distributed mainly in the United States, but also in Canada, Finland, the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand. Pop-Tarts was discontinued in Australia in 2005 and brought back in 2014 with two flavors: Strawberry Sensation and Chocotastic.
Pop-Tarts are produced in dozens of flavors, plus various one-time, seasonal, and "limited edition" flavors that appear for a short time.
Similar to Pop-Tarts is the Toaster Strudels brand, which launched in 1985 and are now a major competitor, in that they are about the same size and shape and are intended as a breakfast food and snack that is warmed in a bread toaster. However Pop-Tarts, being based on tart-style pastries, are thinner, do not need to be refrigerated, and the crust has very different texture and flavor. Toaster Strudel is based on a strudel-style pastry; additionally, the icing melts at a much lower temperature and is user-applied.
In the 1960s, Post adapted its process for enclosing food in foil to keep it fresh without spoiling—first used for dog food—to its new toaster-prepared breakfast food. Intended to complement its cold cereals, Post announced its new product to the press in 1963 before they went to market. Post called them "Country Squares".
Because Post had revealed Country Squares before they were ready to be put in the marketplace, Post's biggest competitor, Kellogg, was able to develop its own version in six months. The product, advertised by an animated, anthropomorphic toaster named Milton, became so popular that Kellogg could not keep up with demand.
Originally not frosted when first introduced in 1964, it was later determined that frosting could withstand the toaster, and the first frosted Pop-Tarts were officially released in 1967. The first Pop-Tarts came out in four different flavors: strawberry, blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon, and apple currant. As of 2016, there is a wide variety of Pop-Tart flavors, including hot fudge sundae, s'mores, raspberry, and peanut butter.
In 1992, Thomas Nangle sued Kellogg for damages after his Pop-Tart got stuck and caught fire in his toaster. The case gained wider notoriety when humor columnist Dave Barry wrote a column about starting a fire in his own toaster with Pop-Tarts. In 1994, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi professor Patrick Michaud performed an experiment showing that, when left in the toaster too long, strawberry Pop-Tarts could produce flames over a foot high. The discovery triggered a flurry of lawsuits. Since then, Pop-Tarts carry the warning: "Due to possible risk of fire, never leave your toasting appliance or microwave unattended."
Pop-Tarts were introduced with fairly substantial marketing to the United Kingdom in the early 1990s, although they have failed to replicate their U.S. success.
In 2004, Pop-Tarts received a new advertising campaign titled "Crazy Good". Characters that appeared often were a singing lizard and a group of kids, dubbed "crazy-good kids", who commonly frightened the Pop-Tarts and caused them to be eaten or chased away. The sound design and signature "TaDa" opening and closings were created by Kamen Entertainment Group, Inc. NYC. The ads employ squiggly animation, surrealist humor, and non sequitur, all of which bear a strong resemblance to the signature work of animator Don Hertzfeldt. One "crazy-good kid" in particular bears strong resemblance to Billy in Hertzfeldt's Billy's Balloon. However, Hertzfeldt was not involved in any way with these advertisements and in 2006 was considering possible litigation for stealing his work.
In 2010, a temporary Pop-Tarts store opened in New York City. It closed on December 31, 2010.
As of 2014, sales of Pop-Tarts had increased for 32 straight years.
In the mid-1990s, Pop-Tarts introduced Pastry Swirls, which were more similar to Toaster Strudels. They were bigger and thicker than regular Pop-Tarts, with less icing, and came in flavors like Cherry Cheese Danish and Cinnamon Cream. They did not do as well and were discontinued in 2001.
In 2002, Kellogg introduced Snak-Stix, a portable break-apart version intended as an after school snack for kids. The new product was launched with a massive media tie in with the American Idol TV show and live tour. It did not sell well and was discontinued only a year later.
2005 saw the release of "Ice Cream Shoppe" flavors, which came in ice cream related flavors such as hot fudge sundae, but also featured 25% less sugar than standard Pop-Tarts. They were discontinued in 2012.
In 2006, Kellogg introduced a version of the product known as Go-Tarts. These were thicker, narrow, and wrapped individually (instead of in packages of two). Go-Tarts were discontinued in 2008.
Pop-Tarts Splitz were produced from 2007 to 2012. These featured two separate flavors in one pastry, split down the middle. Flavors included chocolate-vanilla and strawberry-blueberry.
Pop-Tarts Mini Crisps were introduced in 2011. They are a tiny, bite sized version with no fruit filling, only flavored pastry with frosting. They are sold in single serving 60-calorie pouches. Originally four flavors were made, but only two are still in production.
Industry trade groups have raised issues with Pop-Tarts advertising.
Efforts to capitalize on consumer demand for healthier foods has led to the on and off label promotion of products that contain relatively small amounts of fruits and vegetables and/or contain them as part of a product with unhealthy amounts of fat, sodium, or refined carbohydrates. These products, such as fruit drinks, pop tarts[sic], and highly sugared cereals, are more often energy dense than nutrient dense. FDA, working with the FTC, should strengthen its guidelines to prevent the promotion of products based on their fruit and vegetable content unless these products maintain the integrity of fruits and vegetables as healthy foods, and make a reasonable contribution to the recommended daily intake for fruits and vegetables.
In 2006, the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, prompted by a customer complaint, "recommended that Kellogg modify packaging, eliminate the phrase 'made with real fruit'." Kellogg agreed to do so, and redesigned packages for the Pop-Tarts line accordingly; they assured CARU that the "claim does not appear on television or print advertising" and offered to "participate in CARU's self-regulatory process" and "take CARU's focus areas into consideration" as Kellogg proceeds with its "future child-directed advertising." This decision has since been reversed and current boxes of Pop-Tarts continue to pronounce that the product is 'made with real fruit'.
Cable in the Classroom has used a Pop-Tarts television commercial as an example in its media literacy program for children. They ask adults to watch a Pop-Tarts commercial with their children or students and "have them look at how much product information is presented and how much is really about lifestyle or attitude."
Pop-Tarts have been the subject of various recalls when mislabeling could lead to serious or life-threatening allergic reactions:
- August 4, 1995
- December 6, 2002: Kellogg USA Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Egg in Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon
- December 14, 2006: Kellogg Company Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Milk in Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry Toaster Pastries