Wake up and pour yourself a bowl of corn flour blend, sugar, wheat flour, whole grain oat flour, oat fiber, soluble oat fiber, a smidge of hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, Red 40, natural flavor, Blue 2, turmeric color, Yellow 6, annatto color, Blue 1, and a helping of BHT "for freshness" for a — wait. Sorry. Pour yourself a bowl of Foot Loops for a complete breakfast.
In fairness, as Kellogg’s also lists on their website, the creation of Froot Loops includes pumping it with the following added vitamins and minerals: vitamin C, niacinamide, reduced iron, zinc oxide, vitamin B6, vitamin B2, vitamin B1, vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
The reason behind this blatant look at what goes into a box of Froot Loops is that such overt manufacturing (as exemplified by the ineffable category of "natural flavor") speaks to a cereal with a similarly processed and questionable history.
Froot Loops reinvented the reinvention of Cheerios
Froot Loops came into existence due to the failure of Kellogg’s other cereal brand, OKs. These, as Mr Breakfast writes, were an attempt to create bootleg Cheerios (which were made by Kellogg’s competitor, General Mills) with the individual pieces shaped as "O"s and "K"s. The original mascot was a highlander, but by 1962, the year the brand was discontinued, they had replaced the anonymous Scotsman with Hanna-Barbera characters like Yogi Bear.
However, Kellogg’s loathed the idea that the equipment they invested in to make OKs would go to waste, so the development team set about inventing a new brand to fit the machinery. The result was Froot Loops, which as Kellog’s dates on their official timeline, came out in 1963. So, in other words, Froot Loops is the bootleg recoup of an attempt to bootleg Cheerios, differentiated primarily by the large amounts of added sugar and coloring. This history becomes even clearer when you reexamine the texture of Froot Loops, which bears an unmistakable likeness to the General Mills favorite.
Froot Loops has always been Froot Loops
According to some corners of the internet, Froot Loops was originally called Fruit Loops but had to be rebranded after an early lawsuit lobbed by Rene Paxton. The issue, however, is that the case of Paxton v. Kellogg’s does not appear to exist.
The main source for this name change comes from Snack History. Snack History cites its claim with a link to a 2009 article about a contemporaneous lawsuit concerning the lack of fruit in Froot Loops shared on Over Lawyered. In the comments section of that page, a person pulls "Renee Paxton in Paxton v. Kellogg’s" from Wikipedia. The Paxton case apparently occurred six months after Froot Loops was introduced as a substitute for OKs in 1959. However, in addition to Kellogg’s claim that Froot Loops entered the world in 1963, we have archived footage of a Yogi Bear commercial for OKs that aired in 1960.
The fact that the case received no citation on Wikipedia, that there were factual inconsistencies, and that between 2009 and the writing of this article that section of the Froot Loops Wikipedia page has been removed all serve to question the existence of Paxton vs Kellogg’s. Upon further searching, no primary sources or credible secondary sources document the lawsuit — not even the aforementioned 2009 lawsuit, which surely would have drawn on the name change as Kellogg’s defense against any attempts to deceive the general public.
Froot Loops is an example of the Mandela Effect
The Paxton v. Kellogg’s lawsuit seems to be an invention accepted by people operating under the Mandela Effect, a phenomenon in which a large group of people share a false memory, usually a detail of a largely agreed-upon event. As Good Housekeeping writes, it was named after how many people shared a memory of Nelson Mandela dying in prison decades before his actual death, though the most famous example may be the invented line "Luke, I am your father" (via YouTube).
Froot Loops vs Fruit Loops is another example of the effect, as you can see in the vast disagreement over when Froot Loops was supposed to be "Fruit Loops" in the comment sections of Alternative Memories. The conceptual disconnect may be due to how "Froot" is a stylized homonymic misspelling of "fruit," so until the moment we really pay attention to the fact that the cereal is called Froot Loops, our minds paper over the weirdness by seeing the traditional spelling of "fruit."
All Fruit Loops taste the same, but have different flavors
When Froot Loops first appeared on store shelves, Mr Breakfast notes, it came with red loops, orange loops, and yellow loops. In theory, the colors represented cherry, orange, and lemon respectively and as more colors were introduced to Froot Loops, like blue for blueberry, the palette grew to consist of a whole fruit bowl.
However, the reality is that red stands for red, orange for orange, yellow yellow, and blue blue. The colors mean nothing more than a decoration to brighten the bowl of what would otherwise be substandard Cheerios. This isn’t a secret, as Kellogg’s admitted that Froot Loops only come with one flavor to Straight Dope in 1999. But, as seen, the internet is fickle when it comes to such information, leaving article writers to express shock over and over as they reaffirm the unfavorable truth about the colorful cereal.
In 2014, FoodBeast decided to test this fact for themselves. They found in a blind test that no one could identify any of the Froot Loop colors based on the taste. However, as HuffPost writes, colors have conditioned us to preemptively expect certain flavors. They describe an experiment where culinary students could not identify sodas if those sodas were dyed a different color, indicating that regardless of what our tongue may report, we still use our visual sense to compile a flavor profile. Froot Loops, though all the same in taste, provide the illusion of difference.
For fans, 2020 killed the legendary Toucan Sam
Toucan Sam is as old as the brand he represents. You can see the original illustration Manuel R. Vega designed on the original box on the Pratt Institute website, where Vega studied illustration. Continuing the OKs legacy, that design became a fully drawn Hanna-Barbera-styled cartoon with original voice-work provided by Mel Blanc, an actor most known for his work with Looney Tunes.
In the earliest advertisements, which you can watch on YouTube, Toucan Sam proclaims how delicious the smell of Froot Loops is in the Pig Latin decorating the box, lest the two infant toucans realize he is discussing Froot Loops. Later, as ComicBook.com reports, Blanc stepped away from the role and Toucan Sam developed the British accent with which everyone is familiar, thanks first to Peter Frees then Maurice LaMarche. Since then, the adventures have expanded to include his nephews Puey, Susey, and Louis in all sorts of escapades, yet always retaining a focus on how fruity the Froot Loops smell (via YouTube).
However, almost 60 years into his lifespan, tragedy befell Toucan Sam. In 2020, he underwent a redesign, making him, in Creative Bloq‘s words, "into something entirely unrecognisable and, quite frankly, terrifying." In a short showcasing the new design on YouTube, Toucan Sam is flattened from a 3D anthropomorphic toucan into something reminiscent of Cartoon Network’s "The Amazing World of Gumball," swapping his former beak (with three bands to represent the original flavors) with a tie-dye blur. Social media hated it.
Froot Loops tried to expand into the UK
Froot Loops in its original form benefited from the relatively lax regulations imposed by the FDA. So, when the cereal entered British grocery stores in 2012, changes were implemented to adhere to the country’s food regulations.
The most striking change listed by The Fact Site is that Froot Loops in the UK only consisted of orange, purple, and green loops. This was because at the time, products had to use natural additives and flavoring. These Loops, as Ark’s Ark wrote, were colored with carrots, blackcurrants, and spinach and nettles. Kellogg’s failed to find natural substitutes for the red, yellow, and blue loops. Other changes in the formula gave the British Froot Loops a coarse texture, larger size, and slightly different taste. Perhaps the product was not as addictive when made in this manner, as The Fact Site claims that Kellogg’s withdrew Froot Loops from the UK in 2015 due to lack of demand.
However, Froot Loops did have a limited time comeback with Unicorn Froot Loops. Not featuring Toucan Sam, these Froot Loops, as covered by Cosmopolitan, ran for a limited time with — guess what — a unicorn gracing the box art. Still, British fans of Froot Loops and American expats need not gnash their teeth as both the London-based American Food Store, which imports hard to find American groceries, and Sainsburys have Froot Loops on offer on their websites, but they’re the American-made, artificial color-filled versions.
Froot Loops once finagled itself as healthy
As the opening trawl of ingredients probably indicated, Froot Loops is part of a nutritious breakfast to the extent that anything edible has some form of nutrition.
However, in 2009, The New York Times reported that Froot Loops would receive a Smart Choices label, a new initiative to help direct the public towards healthier food products. Froot Loops managed to qualify because it met the standards for fiber and vitamins A and C and did not exceed the amounts of fat, sodium, and sugar. This is despite the fact that the amount of sugar in Froot Loops was 12 grams per serving and 41% of the product’s weight, which is more than many cookies and the maximum amount of sugar allowed for a Smart Choice cereal.
While this might normally be dismissed as a marketing ploy, the Smart Choices program included nutrition professional associations and was managed by the American Society of Nutrition. This, The Atlantic explained, gave Smart Choices a legitimacy they quickly squandered by associating with Froot Loops and the like. So, the program ended within a year (via Reuters).
This could be credited to Kellogg’s purposefully playing an organization that took no care to think through their actions. Being on the receiving end of four separate lawsuits (yes, in addition to the questionable Paxton v. Kellogg’s) for not including fruit in their Froot Loops, as Lowering the Bar informs, speaks to more marketing disingenuousness, even though the judges repeatedly decided that no one could mistake "froot" for "fruit." Clearly, many still have.