In the 90s, one of the most popular shows on TV was Family Matters. This quirky sitcom features the charming but nerdy Steve Urkel, who became an instant pop culture reference. So popular was this character that the cereal, Urkel-O’s, was born.
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The box made it clear that you were getting a cereal that was inspired specifically by Steve Urkel, with pictures of the character plastered all over the carton on each side. The commercials for the cereal even featured Steve Urkel himself, and delightful 90s commercial wackiness always ensued. There are many people who did not realize that this cereal ever existed, and they probably feel like they missed out. After all, what is more stereotypically the 90s than a cereal that was made just for a beloved sitcom character?
However, if the taste test videos made by those who have gotten their hands on the product can be believed, you might not have been missing out much when it came to the taste of the product. Perhaps this was Ralston’s attempted solution to the problems with the texture and flavor of the product. After all, no one was more popular than Steve Urkel in the early 90s.
You might have missed out on this unique cereal product that was only on the market in 1991. After all, many people didn’t know that Urkel mania was even a thing. The first years that Family Matters was on the air, it was a huge hit, and Steve Urkel, along with Jaleel White who played the character, were immensely popular.
Urkel-O’s were first sold in 1991. This strawberry and banana-flavored cereal was entirely clear about the fact that it was made based on the Steve Urkel character from the sitcom Family Matters. The Ralston brand made the cereal, and it joined a variety of different marketing items that were on sale at the same time, such as the “Do the Urkel” board game. It’s hard to imagine the show without the Urkel character, which was originally only intended to be in a single episode of the show. Certainly, things like the aforementioned board game and Urkel-O’s would never have been born!
The Ralston company is better known for making Purina Dog Chow and a variety of animal feed products. However, the brand has owned numerous food products over the years as well and has made everything from Nestle to a variety of cereal products. The Urkel-O’s product would probably never have been picked up by one of the major food brands due to the strangeness of the product, but Ralston was willing to tackle the idea and run with it.
The original promotions of the product called the Urkel-O’s product a “fun, circle-shaped product”, which might indicate something about the texture and the flavor of the cereal in the box. The original boxes used still shots captured from the show, showing Urkel mid-dance move or making his classic surprised face that always went with his tagline, “Did I do that?”
Over time, the boxes changed and carried images of Urkel in red, white, and blue, with the phrase “Urkel for President” on the drum he was carrying. These boxes also had games on them for kids to play, like the “Help Urkel Find Laura” game. They also ran an offer to win a free trip to Washington, D.C., on these boxes. There were also boxes that promised that you could win a trip to meet Urkel himself in Hollywood.
It’s not clear if anyone actually won these trips and got to enjoy them or not. Since most of these kinds of contests required a lot of money spent on purchasing products and cutting box tops, it’s likely that no one came close to securing the prizes that were promised. It’s hard to imagine how a trip to Washington D.C. was connected with Steve Urkel in any meaningful way, but lots of snack products offered trips to different destinations at the time.
The actor who played Steve Urkel has never been a fan of the work that he did on Family Matters. He had tried over the years to distance himself from the Steve Urkel character and all of the related promotional efforts that surrounded his time playing the character.
He likely would have no interest in talking about the promotional work done with Ralston for this product, but the fact remains that fans of the TV show still love the character even today. Jaleel White actually signed some of the boxes of cereal, and these items have been sold for a fair amount of money on various online platforms.
The Urkel craze was not long-lived in the end, and Urkel-O’s went off the market less than a year after they were first sold. It’s likely that the cereal’s flavor was a deterrent, and the fact that Ralston was not a huge name in the cereal game might also have had an impact on the sales of Urkel-O’s. The 90s were also a time when there was a surfeit of colorful, slightly odd products with weird commercials. It would have been easy for even the most unique product to stand out from the crowd for long. It seemed like there was a new oddity on the market every month.
While Urkel-O’s might not have been a big hit, Family Matters was a success. Tracking down memorabilia from this memorable sitcom is a pet project of some collectors. No doubt all of these collectors would be thrilled to have a box of Urkel-O’s if they haven’t already tracked one down.
Some collectors have even opened their boxes of Urkel O’s to make a video showing them trying the cereal out. Most of them were not fans of the flavor or the texture of the cereal, but a few people have really loved the sweetness and the slightly grainy texture of their collector’s edition cereal.
Because the cereal is no longer on the market, the actual recipe is not available. The O’s were made with corn, wheat, and rice. Considering it was the 90s, it is likely that there were various food dyes responsible for its bright colors. This product was also unlikely to have been limited with regard to sugar, and it is likely that it was chock-full of delightfully sugary ingredients as well.
Many people were pretty upfront about the fact that the cereal did not taste very good, and most people probably only bought it because Steve Urkel was on the box. Since Jaleel White was also something of an unexpected teen heartthrob, there might have been girls who bought a box of Urkel-O’s just because their teen crush was on the box.
Each box without games and other advertising materials on the back of it actually listed the pros and cons of the cereal. This kind of marketing which disregarded actual facts or the actual ingredients of a product, was a lot more typical of the 90s.
Before concerns over the sugar content of breakfast cereals and changes to the way that products were marketed to small kids, snack and breakfast food brands could state that their products were good for kids loud and clear without having to justify why this was the case. The back of these boxes even cites the fun shape, probably in an effort to indicate to parents that their kids would be willing to eat Urkel O’s no matter what.
The boxes of Urkel-O’s could not have been more colorful or zany. The background of each box was white, and the Urkel-O’s name was pink and yellow and emblazoned across the top of the box. There were as many as nine images of Steve Urkel on each box, usually engaged in dancing. The top left of the box showed pictures of bananas and strawberries and stated that the cereal was “new”.
In the bottom left corner of the box, there was an image of the cereal in a bowl. Whichever of the various promotional offerings was running at the time was explained on the bottom left of the box in a banner across the top of the cereal bowl. Usually, there were balloons, pictures of the fruity rings themselves, and various other graphics filling in the rest of the open space on the box.
It’s hard to be sure what to even focus on when you look at these boxes. While this design style was common during the 90s, these boxes really take the style to the next level. It’s hard to imagine marketing any product in this way today, which is one of the reasons that people who missed out on this period of snack foods are so surprised when they learn about Urkel-O’s.
Pictures of Urkel-O’s
While there were not many ads for Urkel O’s, they are a real tribute to what the 90s were all about. The taste test videos about the products are almost as fun as the commercials themselves and are well worth checking out too.
A commercial from 1992:
A taste test video:
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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