Freakies is a cereal that has almost been forgotten by most people but for a time, this was a cereal that lots of people knew about. This was a crunchy and light brown cereal with a unique shape that was a brand called Ralston’s first foray into cereal. Freakies cereal was marketed with a full cast of characters in commercials and for marketing materials because it was aimed at young kids.
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This cereal was being sold at a time when most cereals were marketed to children and there were so many brands trying to compete for the attention of children. There were various cereals that did not survive the fierce competition of this era of cereal sales, and Freakies was one of those products.
Freakies cereal had a complicated marketing plan that was made with love, and some good ideas for design that would appeal to kids, but they did not make a cereal that many people reported to enjoy that much. Perhaps if the cereal had been a little more delicious, it would have made it for longer than a few years.
Freakies cereal was sold starting in 1972 when Jay Brown and Jack Forcelledo were in charge of the marketing for Ralston’s cereal brand. The creative team behind the cereal was based in New York city but the copy was written largely in-house. The packaging and all of the information about the cereal that was used to market it was centered around the storylines related to seven characters that each had a different design and a different color associated with them.
Commercials were made that told the stories of the Freakies themselves and there were stories that were created under the title We’re the Freakies. This was the era of cartoon-based characters that sold a lot of different products to kids, but Freakies really leaned into this part of their marketing materials.
The original concept was to name the cereal Freakie Flakes. The flaked cereal plan was scrapped for a puffed-cereal product and the name was changed. The cereal was also made to include various shapes so that you could see the characters that were on the box in your bowl of cereal. The cereal was a little like Cheerios, but was made with a sweeter flavor.
There were also marshmallows in the cereal which was pretty standard during the 70s when creating puff-style cereals aimed at children. Cheerios is likely one of the only products that has survived into today without having to add sugar-based little marshmallows and other kinds of exciting treats to their product and yet still sell to children.
The first shorts that were run to advertise the cereal were based on the Freakies having found the mythical Freakies Tree where they would live forever with an endless supply of Freakies cereal. The later shorts were done around themes related to troubles they were having or about the past events that had led them to this event. The treasure hunt theme was common to cereals at this time as well, and you would be able to find so many different versions of this marketing plan that you might have thought every cereal brand was concerned with kids looking for buried treasure in their box of cereal connected with the marketing story of their favorite sugary breakfast treat.
Freakies cereal was a little less direct in its messaging about this since the characters were on a treasure hunt more so than those who were buying the products, but kids love this kind of concept and it was a success even for Freakies cereal. At least at first. The characters were silly and memorable which was probably a larger part of the draw to this product than the treasure hunting aspect.
Although some people will tell you that they remember quite clearly being focused on the idea of the hunt for the Freakie Tree and the journey of the Freakies to get there. This was probably a challenging time to launch any kind of cereal and the companies that did not offer the most sugary and the most interesting-looking cereal almost always lost out. Treasure hunt or not, those who said that the cereal was not that great to eat have probably identified the biggest challenge of all that the cereal could not surmount.
The cereal itself was sold with toys inside that were shown on the box. This was a big motivator for sales of cereal to kids at this time and many companies offered kids toys in return for box tops as well. Today those little toys sell for a pretty penny as collector’s items, but at the time, they were popular with kids because they were really unique when compared to some of the other toy products on the market.
There are many people who remember this cereal as being fairly boring when compared to other cereals on the market at the same time. The characters and toys probably did more to sell this product than the product itself. This is probably most of why the cereal was pulled from shelves in 1976. There was a chocolate version called Cocoa Freakies that was only sold in 1973, and a version called Fruity Freakies that was sold from 1975-1976.
In 1986, Freakies cereal was relaunched and the character names and images were changed. BossMoss and Grumble were made into one character, Hamhose became Hugger, Snorkeldorf was changed to Tooter, Cowmumble was altered to become Sweetie, Goody-Goody was changed to Hot Dog, and Gargle became Ace.
These characters were supposedly from space and the cereal was changed to include spaceship-shaped cereal pieces. This did not sell well at all, and the product was quickly pulled off of shelves. The lack of good flavor in the cereal, as well as the changing times, had caught up with Freakies for good, it appears.
There were some mentions of this product in film and on TV. The satirical soap, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman mentioned the cereal in its opening scenes when first on the air, and Tom Hanks ate the cereal in the film The Burbs.
These kinds of references did not save the cereal or make yet another reboot necessary, but it is fun to see these references show up from time to time in popular culture. There are numerous short-lived brands that have shown up in popular TV shows as well as movies, and this might be the only way that some people would have known that these products even existed! If you had missed out on Freakies until you heard about them through a pop culture reference, you are not alone.
While you can’t try Freakies cereal out today, you can look at the various different character designs and see samples of the boxes and toys that were used to market this cereal. There is not much chance that this cereal will be brought back to life in the future, but there are those that do remember it with fondness, even today.
Freakies Cereal Characters
- BossMoss was dark green and he was the bossy character. He had a John Wayne-like voice
- Snorkledorf was blue and was confident, vain, and played his trunk like it was a horn
- Hamhose was light brown and was shy and preferred to eat alone
- Grumble was orange and was cranky, had sore feet, and sounded like an old man
- Cowmumble was light green and was demure and had a breathy voice
- Gargle was purple and was smart, snooty, and had a British accent
- Goody Goody was pink was bossy and kissed up to BossMoss
The characters were known to break into song and they were actually based on the people at the agency who created them. Goody Goody was supposedly based on a girl that Jackie End had known in school. End also based Cowmumble on herself. Wells Rich Greene at one time wanted to have a character named after him so Nifty Nifty was made with the intention that this character would be glamorous and charismatic. This character was to be associated with raspberry or strawberry cereal but the product was never made.
The original animations were done using dark pencil and color-aid paper. These were pasted to celluloid sheets and used to make commercial shorts. Later, the animation was done with ink and paint, sort of like what the Disney company was doing at this time. The award-winning animated shorts that were created this way were narrated by Burgess Meredith. Throughout 1974-1975, there were ten different animated shorts that were released with the Freakies characters in them.
Freakies Cereal Logo
Taken from an image of the box:
- Flours ( yellow corn, oat, and Durham wheat)
- Vegetable oil
- Corn syrup
- Brown sugar
- Sodium ascorbate
- Vitamin C
- Artificial color
- Vitamin A
- Riboflavin Vitamin B
- Vitamin D
- BHT for freshness
Some of the ingredients are hard to read on the labels, but these are the most important of the ingredients. Freakies cereal was made to help kids have a healthy and balanced diet, hence the addition of the vitamin complexes.
Pictures of Freakies Cereal
Freakies Cereal Ads:
Another classic commercial:
Some more classics:
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