Monster cereals have been a part of the lineup of General Mills products since the 70s. There were five brands that they have offered over the course of the years since then, and Frank Berry was one of the original offerings in this category. These were seasonal cereals that were offered to cater to the Halloween interests of children and they were offered in various flavor profiles.
FrankenBerry cereal has an interesting history, having been very popular alongside the Count Chocula offering that is still popular today. At one time, this cereal was actually at the center of a mistaken health crisis related to children who ate it. There are many interesting facts about this cereal that are not as well known as it once was. Colorful and bright cereals are the norm these days, but in the 70s, this was just starting to be a common offering on the cereal shelves in the grocery store. FrankenBerry was among the first of these cleverly marketed cereals.
History of FrankenBerry Cereal
In March of 1971, Count Chocula and FrankenBerry hit the shelves of stores in the US. Count Chocula was chocolate flavored and featured an image of cartoon Dracula and the FrankenBerry was strawberry flavored and featured a silly pink Frankenstein on the box. The commercials made to promote these cereals involved the two characters bickering over which cereal was the best. During a commercial, their verbal conflict would scare them out of their wits.
The original cereals offered cereal pieces in the shape of a cross but in later years, the FrankenBerry cereal pieces were made to look like the outline of Frank’s head. This has been continued across the other varieties of the Monster lineup as well. In the 80s, the cereals were advertised as having bigger pieces and there were marshmallow bats added to all of the monster cereals for a few years in the late 80s and early 90s.
By February of 1972, these cereals which had originally been intended to be seasonal, were still on the shelves because they were so popular. This is when Frankenberry accidentally found itself at the center of what was at first believed to be a health crisis among children. During the early months of this year, children were showing up at hospitals with bright pink stools. Doctors did not know what to make of this mystery and it was feared that children were catching a new disease nationwide that could not be explained.
Eventually, a clever doctor traced the pink stools back to FrankenBerry, which apparently included an indigestible pigment that was causing the cereal to turn the children’s feces pink. General Mills changed the recipe to eliminate the issue but the condition was thereafter known as “Franken Berry Stools.” This bit of attention was not what General Mills had been hoping for when they were trying to create publicity around the product, but it did make the cereal come to the attention of many people around the US.
Boo Berry joined the lineup of spooky cereals in 1973 and Fruit Brute in 1982. Fruit Brute was discontinued and replaced in 1988 by Fruity Yummy Mummy which was then discontinued in 1992. These cereals have appeared and disappeared on and off throughout the duration of the promotion of the Monster Cereal lineup. Boo Berry, Count Chocula, and Franken Berry have been the constants that sold the most and were offered continuously. Even the switch to seasonal offerings has never impacted the presence of these three popular flavors while the satellite flavors like Fruity Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute have come and gone numerous times.
FrankenBerry and Count Chocula were sold all year round until 2010. At this time, General Mills decided to release them only during the autumn season to coincide with Halloween. This means that they are usually available between September and October of each year. There were some spin-off items that were made in 2010 as well, which included Franken Berry Boo Berry and Fruit Roll-ups. While Count Chocula is the most familiar of the monster lineup that is available today, Franken Berry holds its own each year when the monster lineup is on sale.
In 2013, Franken Berry and the other original flavors of the monster lineup were released together for the first time in 31 years. In 2014, DC Comics paired with General Mills to create new designs for the monster cereal lineup. Dave Johnson made the new box for Franken Berry that was used during the season. This new vision of Frank has become very popular with DC comic buffs and appears in some select boxes of the product from time to time for short limited-edition runs.
A recent 2021 announcement by General Mills has stated that there will be a 50th-anniversary edition cereal that blends all of the flavors of the original lineup in one box. This will be called Monster Mash.
Does FrankenBerry Cereal Have Marshmallows?
Today’s boxes of FrankenBerry do include corn cereal and marshmallows in the shape of Frank’s head. This has become the accepted standard for sugary cereals and General Mills offers most of their themed cereals with this combination of hard and crunchy cereal bits and soft and chewy marshmallow pieces. Frank might look different on the box, but the overall formula of the cereal has not changed much.
The “turns your milk to strawberry milk” promise vanished not long after the removal of the dye that caused the Franken Berry stools, but the strawberry flavoring will still give you fruity-flavored milk to enjoy once the cereal itself is all gone.
From the Amazon entry for Franken Berry:
- Whole grain corn
- Marshmallows (sugar, dextrose, modified corn starch, corn syrup, gelatin, malic acid, natural & artificial flavor, citric acid, red 40, blue 1&2)
- Corn syrup
- Canola oil
- Trisodium phosphate
- Red 40
- Natural and artificial flavor
The original dye that was used in FrankenBerry and that caused Franken Berry stools was a synthetic color called Amaranth. This dye does not break down in the digestive tract and causes discolored stools. The red dye was replaced with Red 40 and removed from the other variants of the cereal line up which also included Amaranth. At this time in history, clothing dyes were often used for food coloring and this led to a whole host of much more serious health concerns than FrankenBerry stools.
Later regulations would remove all clothing and material dyes from the list of acceptable food colorings that can be used to create foods.
FrankenBerry Monsters Vote 2016
This little publicity stunt was done during the 2016 presidential election. General Mills ran a campaign to have consumers vote for which was their favorite monster cereal. The slogans for Franken Berry were “Vote for Frank”, “Let’s be Frank”, “Rank Frank #1”, and “Frankly he’s the one”. There was a grand prize of $5,000 and hundreds of other prizes for those who voted.
This is a classic General Mills kind of publicity drive and it was very memorable for lovers of the cereal who fell in love with the classics of their childhood all over again during this campaign.
Advertising and Slogans For FrankenBerry
The monster lineup of cereals was heavily advertised and also was associated with lots of vouchers and in-pack toys and products. Stickers, paint sets, cars, parachutes, flexi-discs, action figures, posters, and more were included in the boxes of Franken Berry that were sold during the 70s.
The FrankenBerry product was also advertised to turn the milk in your bowl into strawberry milk. Flavored milk was a new and rather exciting thing at the time, so this was a big selling point for many kids. Original ads feature Bella Lugosi voicing Count Chocula and Franken Berry had a Boris Karloff accent. The mascots would bicker about who made the best cereal and ultimately help each other to scare small children that showed up during the commercial.
These characters are actually the longest-running cereal mascots of any cereal in pop culture history. They have been given facelifts over time, but they have not been replaced by other mascots since the first day the cereals were sold.
In 1998, Hillary Duff and Casper the Friendly Ghost were associated with the monster cereal lineup and appeared on boxes to promote the movie, “Casper Meets Wendy”. In 2020, life-size busts of the original monsters were made by special effect artist Karlee Morse for a Monster Cereal Sweepstakes event that was hosted by General Mills.
Pictures of Frankenberry Cereal
Commercials for FrankenBerry
A classic ad that features both of the original varieties:
Another 70s classic:
The cartoon nature of these commercials is so specific to the era:
A later version that shows a live child with the mascots: