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“Source Material” – 5 Popular food items and their lesser known predecessor

Upstaged by your younger siblings? These brands feel your pain.

by Alexander Quebec

You see it often in Hollywood, the story of the younger sibling whose acting career shines brighter than the older one, Luke and Owen Wilson, or Rosanna and David Arquette. But what about food items? Has it ever happened before? According to my research, yes, it has, several times to be exact. I did a little digging to see what popular food items were upstaged by their younger siblings.

Hydrox (1908) and Oreos (1912)

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1908 is the last year the Chicago Cubs won the pennant and The Tunguska Event levels most of siberia, it’s also when The Hyrdox cookie, a name derived from the molecules that make up water to imply the purity and goodness of the brand, rolled off the production lines of the Sunshine Biscuit company (which was later purchased by Keebler, who then was purchased by Kellogg). Consisting of frosting sandwiched between two chocolate cookies, they were met with stiff competition from Nabisco’s Oreo cookies four years later, which quickly overtook the Hydrox in popularity with American Consumers.

So what happened to Hyrdox? In 2003, the Hydrox cookie was discontinued after 95 years, but fans of the slightly tangier and crunchier cookie made efforts to revive them. Hyrdrox was later brought back to grocery store shelves in 2015. Another interesting note, Hydrox cookies are currently manufactured in Vernon, CA by Leaf brands

Mikesells Potato Chips (1910) and Lays (1930s)

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We’ve done another feature that told the story of potato chips, which we learned, were made out of spite. But who was the first to bring them to market? That distinction goes to Mikesells Snack company, which bills itself as the oldest potato chip company in existence.D.W. Mikesells originally sold sausages and dried meats from a two room building in Dayton, OH. In 1910, they acquired some potato chip production equipment, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why don’t we see them in California? A few reasons, the first being that Mike-Sells is a regional brand that distributes their products around the southern Great Lakes are of Illinois and Ohio (you can order them online too). Another reason, an entrepreneurial woman named Laura Scudder manufactured her own brand of potato chips from her plant in California, which dominated over half of the snack food market of California in it’s heyday. Finally, a company called Frito-Lay came about from Ohio and began nationally distributing its Fritos, Cheetohs and Doritios to the mass market around the middle of the 20th century and onward.

Post Country Squares and Kellog’s Pop-Tarts (both 1964)

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This is a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t let your competitors know your hand. Post, makers of cereals such as Grape Nuts (the cereal you eat when all the good cereals you had are gone) and of Cocoa and Fruity pebbles fame developed what was then called Country Squares, flat pockets of dough filled with fruit filling.

6 months before launch, Post announced to the world that Country Square were going to be the next big thing on the breakfast table, which gave its competitor, Kellog’s, a chance to develop Pop Tarts. Pop Tart’s were Kellog’s answer to the toaster pastry trend that would take off giving the roofs of our mouths another thing to fear. Another interesting fact, Pop Tarts were so popular, Kellogs experienced a shortage of Pop-Tarts and told their customers through ads to be patient and wait out the shortages.

The Goo-Goo Cluster (1912) and Snickers (1930)

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Snickers are arguably one of the most recognizable and popular candy bars on the market now, but it wasn’t actually the first of the so called “Combination Bars”, or candy bars that contain chocolate, nuts and other ingredients. That distinction goes to the Goo-goo cluster, a creation of Howell Campbell and The Standard Candy Company of Nashville, Tennesee. The idea for the name “Goo-goo” came from a school teacher, after Campbell told everyone the first words of his newborn son. The name stuck and since then, people in Nashville has asked for a Goo-goo bar by name.

Around 1930, however,  the Mars company came out with the Snickers bar, named after the favorite family race horse. So how does a candy bar become a household name? Like Frito-Lay before, it all came down to getting the word out, Through the power of a new medium of entertainment, television, Snickers was able to grow itself into a household name by sponsoring shows and athletes, who touted the bar as a source of energy for competition.

Wanna give them a try? Order your Goo Goo Clusters here.

A&W (1919) and McDonald’s (1955)

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The year is 1919, one of the most costly wars in world history ended a year ago and women were a year away from gaining the right to vote. In the city of Lodi, a new concept was just beginning to take shape: the fast food restaurant.Serving frosty mugs with their signature root beer of the same name, the chain expanded throughout the US with the first drive in in American built in Sacramento in 1923, then by going global in 1956 with stores in Canada, Japan, The Phillipines and Malaysia. By the 1970’s, there were more A&W locations that McDonalds, but legal disputes and and franchisee discontentment led to the closure of many of those locations. Today, you may see them paired with any of the Yum corporations other properties including Taco Bell, KFC, or Pizza Hut.

McDonald’s would not emerge as the entity we know of until around 1955, when it was incorporated in Illinois. Twenty years previous, however, the first branch with the McDonald’s name was opened up in Monrovia, CA. On a related note, In-N-Out would open up in the interim in Baldwin Park, CA in 1938.

So what did you think? Are there any that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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