Zany 80s and 90s foods were so numerous that many people have forgotten all the strange and slightly wonderful snack items and quick eating items that were on the market during this decade. From Lunchable products to weird candies or strange-colored drinks, there was no shortage of oddball and fun food to eat. Adults and kids alike enjoyed the fun of these kinds of zany food products and lament the products which have gone off the market.
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You can’t get Oatmeal Swirlers anymore, which can be really sad if you have started reading and realized just how much you might love this snack. There are so many people who want Oatmeal Swirlers to come back onto the shelves of their local grocery stores. While some of the strange and wonderful snacks and meals from the 80s and 90s have been saved by popular demand, Oatmeal Swirlers have remained a thing of the past.
Even if you cannot enjoy Oatmeal Swirlers now, you can hope that maybe this yummy quick breakfast item will come back onto the market.
The Oatmeal Swirlers product was an instant oatmeal that came with a really sticky and sweet fruit goo that could be put into the oatmeal. The product was advertised with crazy, silly, zany ads that were targeted at little kids but which were memorable to everyone who saw them. The ads alone were enough to make a big splash, even amongst all the other crazy, zany 90s ads that were all over TV at the time.
This was essentially oatmeal with a gimmick, and it did not take long for other brands to realize that kids would be much more excited about eating oatmeal if it was saturated with sugar and other flavors. However, there was a lag time before the other oatmeal brands realized this was a great way to market otherwise boring oatmeal products to younger audiences.
When other products started to be released to the market that were similar, Oatmeal Swirlers upped the ante again. They released a product that included a liquid that was a lot like Fruit Roll-Ups. You read that right. Flavoring like liquid Fruit Roll-Ups. What other combination of saccharine sweetness could be more powerful to motivate kids to eat boring old oatmeal? This is probably the version of this product that everyone who loved Oatmeal Swirlers misses the most.
It should be noted that this was a really slimy, gooey mess and not that appealing to look at. The taste might have been really appealing, but the presentation was not great. Adults tended to react with some horror to the sight of this slimy and messy bowl of oatmeal goo, but kids continued to plead and beg to have a box of Oatmeal Swirlers in the house for their before-school meal.
The commercials for Oatmeal Swirlers promised kids as well that they could create the perfect swirls of eccentrically colored goo. This was part of what was fun about the product, even if the results were never as cool as what was shown in ads. Never mind that the products being shown in the ads were probably plastic or some other fake substance that allowed for this perfection. Kids were passionate about making this kind of result happen on their own, and this led to lots of sales of this strange and delightful product during the early years of its availability.
The funny thing about Oatmeal Swirlers was that they came in what looked like a sized-down cereal box. General Mills makes a really nice box for every product that tells a great story about the product and makes it really appealing. In the case of Oatmeal Swirlers, the boxes were plain in the background, but the logo was large and curly and placed in the top center of the box.
One of the other standbys for boxes of this product was a bowl of oatmeal on the front of the box with the perfect, uniform, brightly-colored swirled goo in it. The flavors of the products in the box were listed at the top in different colors as well, and some boxes had pictures of the fruits used to flavor the sachets inside. When chocolate goo was added to the product list, this variety was sold in its own box, separate from the fruit flavors of the product.
The ads often used a little goo stick figure person to tell you how lively and cool, and wonderful the added goo was for the product. This same little goo person was also present on the box of the product and was shown, in most cases, holding the little goo squeeze packet in its gooey hand. This simple but really strange advertising tool was quite effective, and many people remember the ads which showed the goo person swirling around as kids ate the product.
There was also a really amazing jingle that went with every ad, which was infectious and helped to cement the attraction that kids felt for this product. A good jingle can do a lot of the heavy lifting for a product, and 80s and 90s products were advertised with some of the best jingles around. Today’s commercial jingles are rarely as cool or as memorable as products that had jingles in the 80s and 90s.
The ultimate death of the Oatmeal Swirler was not only due to the competition from other similar products. The sugar content of these products was much higher than what is allowed today. When various of the really sugary snacks on the market were pressured to change their recipes to meet the new standards. This was not always possible for products like the Oatmeal Swirler, as the flavor of the product depended upon the sugar content of the recipe.
This is one of the reasons that you might never see Oatmeal Swirlers on the market ever again. And for the health of all of us, this might be for the best. But there was something really charming and zany about this product that we will likely all miss no matter what the ingredients were in this product.
This product came in the same standard flavors per box. Each box contained strawberry, Cherry, and apple cinnamon sachets and flavor packets. The oatmeal packets themselves were nothing special and were not flavored. This meant that you had individual oatmeal packets in the box and then little squeezy packets of the flavor goo. You usually would get 3 strawberry goo tubes, 2 cherry goo tubes, and 3 apple cinnamon goo tubes per box. This would lead to arguments in houses with more than one kid and a shared set of flavor preferences.
Today’s sweet oatmeal products are usually sold in single-flavor boxes to avoid this kind of conflict. You could not choose to get a whole box of just strawberry Oatmeal Swirlers, which was a bit of a downer for those who really didn’t like all of the flavors. This is one of the places where General Mills could have done a better job with their product marketing. The ultimate demise of this product was more about the sugar content, but there were some chances to change the product to meet demand that were not capitalized on as well.
The box size of 8 was a little arbitrary as well on the consumer side, and it is likely that consumers would have been happy to buy smaller boxes if they could have gotten just a single flavor that they preferred. Parents were a little frustrated by the cost of this product as compared to oatmeal and jelly bought by themselves, so being able to get the flavors that your kid preferred and not wasting a third of every box probably would have been welcomed by parents everywhere.
Ads for this product showed kids making tic-tac-toe boards, artistic boats and animals, and more. The tagline, “Give it a swirl!” was announced loudly throughout the whole commercial. We all know by now that the reality of using the goo that was included with your Oatmeal Swirlers was not this tidy, and you would never have enough control to make some kind of art in your bowl. Many kids actually just squeezed the goo into their mouths and then just ate the oatmeal plain along with the goo they had placed in their mouths. Making a mess was really 100% expected and sort of required when you chose this oatmeal product for your breakfast.
Since the ads were first run in the 80s, there were a lot of references to 80s styling even into the 90s when the ads got more focused on the goo taking on a life of its own. Kids in “boring” clothes were transformed into kids wearing outfits that Cyndi Lauper would have been proud of. Other such gimmicks promised that eating Oatmeal Swirlers would make you cooler, and kids got the message loud and clear.
An 80s ad:
A 90s ad:
Another 80s ad:
My name is Brianna and I love writing on all topics. Candy history fascinates me and I am passionate about sharing my love of this topic with everyone else!
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