Few could argue with the fact that Teddy Grahams deserve the distinction as America’s cutest snack. Be honest: You’ve at least once felt just a pang of guilt as you chomped the head off one of these sweet, smiling bears, whether it was a chocolate, honey, or graham-flavored little buddy.
Nabisco has been making Teddy Grahams since 1988, according to The Retro Network. Almost immediately after debuting, the sweet treats became staples in kids’ lunch boxes and a favorite after-school snack. Despite their undeniable childlike aesthetic, though, even grown-ups could get behind crunching on a handful of these mini-cookies — even though they pretty much lack any nutritional benefits, but they’re also not terribly offensive compared to, say, candy.
Teddy Grahams are admittedly not as popular as they used to be, thanks to the rise of healthier snacks alongside the rise of our collective consciousness about ingredients and what’s good and bad to be consuming on the regular. However, Teddy Grahams’ adorable look and delicious taste keep them from falling completely into oblivion, and they’re a fail-safe source of nostalgia. Beyond the fact that they always seem pleased as punch that they’re about to get eaten, though, how much do you really know about Teddy Grahams? There’s a lot to uncover about this unassuming little snack.
The origins of graham crackers can be traced to a religious mission
While they’ve been famously shaped into happy-go-lucky bears — in either a legs together or kicking, or arms out or down position — Teddy Grahams are, at their base, graham crackers. And the origins of graham crackers extend much farther back (and into much more surprising territory) than the event of Nabisco introducing this new product in 1988.
According to HuffPost, graham crackers evolved from the mission of evangelical minister Sylvester Graham in the 19th century. Food at this time was becoming industrialized, removing the whole aspect of daily life that involved working in the kitchen and hand-making every element of a family’s meals. This concerned Graham, and he was particularly worried that teens would begin following a less than wholesome path involving premarital relations.
His solution, logical or not, was to encourage a return to baking at home. He introduced "Graham Flour" (aka whole wheat flour) along with a "Graham cracker" recipe, which was more like dense brown bread than the graham cracker we use to make S’mores today — that update in texture actually did come courtesy of Nabisco. It’s difficult to say whether Graham’s original crackers actually helped the teens in his community stay on the straight and narrow — but thanks to the giant producer Nabisco, graham crackers are still an enjoyable treat today, especially when shaped into teeny teddy bears.
Teddy Grahams are a pop culture phenomenon
When Teddy Grahams hit shelves in 1988, they became one of the snack industry’s biggest new product success stories of that time, says The Retro Network. They pretty quickly racked up more than $150 million in sales in the first year alone and were the third best-selling cookie just behind Chips Ahoy and Oreos, both of which are fellow Nabisco products. The reason why Teddy Grahams reached this point of fame was due in part to a series of commercials and impending pop-culture relevance. In fact, The Retro Network writes that The American Marketing Association named Teddy Grahams one of the best new products of the year in 1989 due to its successful branding campaigns.
Early commercials became memorable thanks to that fact that they included a catchy take on the Elvis Presley tune, "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear." To indulge the fanfare, in the 1990s, Nabisco made plush, Beanie Baby-style Teddy Grahams stuffed bears that most certainly were not for eating (as seen on eBay). Teddy Grahams have even worked their way into a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, when Bill Hader’s infamous character Stefon claimed of a hot new night club, that it had "Teddy Graham people" (via Entertainment Weekly). In another iconic television appearance, Teddy Grahams were also mentioned on an episode of "The Simpsons," recalls Taquitos.net. So, for at least the late ’80s and through the ’90s, it seems the world was a Teddy Grahams’ picnic.
Teddy Grahams have come in various styles and flavors
When Teddy Grahams debuted in the late ’80s, they were only available in chocolate, cinnamon, and honey flavors. If you’ve only had a passing interest in the snack since then — as in, not doing regular research on the bear-shaped cookies — it might seem like little has changed. If the Teddy Graham ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? And, according to the product’s website, the only flavor added to the roster in that time has been a chocolate chip variety.
That doesn’t mean Nabisco hasn’t been experimenting over the course of Teddy Grahams’ lifetime, though. At one point, there were vanilla and birthday cake flavors (via The Impulsive Buy), neither of which has stuck around to today. Teddy Grahams have also come in the shapes of Disney characters, like this Princess edition as seen on Everything Food, and there were "Dizzy Grizzlies" too, which were an amped up Teddy Graham with chocolate frosting and sprinkles on the back. Gone But Not Forgotten Groceries places their existence around 1996 to 1999.
Spoon University remembers the good, old days too, when Teddy Grahams still had a cereal, called Breakfast Bears, which basically were just meant for pouring milk over. It’s hard to track down whether some of these off-shoots actually exist anymore, but One Teddy Graham riff you can still get today — if you search high and low — is Teddy Soft Bakes (per InstaCart). These are individually wrapped and, as the name implies, softly-baked and cake-like. Each bear is not only filled with chocolate or vanilla, but also kind of looks like an experiment from "Honey, I Blew Up the Kid."
Teddy Grahams’ nutritional values (plus, some are vegan)
As mentioned earlier, Teddy Grahams have a sort of middle-of-the-road reputation when it comes to their health factor. They’re certainly a better choice than candy or fried food, but it’s not like they bring much added nutritional value to the table, either. According to Our Everyday Life, all four flavor varieties have the same base ingredients: unbleached enriched flour, graham flour, sugar, oil (soybean and/or partially hydrogenated cottonseed), dextrose, maltodextrin, calcium carbonate, salt, baking soda, soy lecithin, zinc oxide, and reduced iron.
Honey Teddy Grahams also have honey, of course; The Cinnamon option has that spice and other natural flavoring; and the Chocolate and Chocolate Chip varieties have cocoa processed with alkali and natural and artificial flavorings. Recommended servings are for about 24 bears, a portion that contains 130 calories, 35 to 40 calories from fat, 4 to 4.5 grams of fat, 150 to 170 grams of sodium, 22 to 23 grams of carbohydrates, 7 to 8 grams of sugar, and 1 to 2 grahams of protein.
What could make Teddy Grahams a more prominent go-to for some families is that three flavors are vegan: Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon, and Chocolate. Cruelty Free Reviews writes that Honey Teddy Grahams aren’t vegan because of their honey, while the Soft Bakes have milk and eggs in them. The Soft Bakes are the only Teddy Grahams product not dairy-free.
There are infinite recipe ideas for Teddy Grahams
There must be something about a teddy bear-shaped snack that gets the creative juices flowing. Such a cute treat seems to serve up serious inspiration. If you search "Teddy Graham recipes" on Facebook, you might get lost in the scroll admiring entire scenes that people create using Teddy Grahams as characters. It’s hard to think of a better way to get kids engaged at lunchtime than making meal prep an actual game with teddy bear protagonists. Teddy Grahams have been seen laying on beach-scene pudding cups, riding chocolate racecars, and makeing fruit plates presumably more appealing to young, picky eaters.
Nabisco’s parent company, Mondelez International, has a website called Snack Works where there are endless pages of creative recipe ideas for the brand’s products. You can make apple "cupcakes" with peanut butter and Teddy Grahams, bake the bears into S’mores brownies, make your own Teddy Graham s’mores, serve them alongside a fruity yogurt dip, and even use the snack to help teach your children how to tell time. The recipes are proof that one of the most beloved ingredients in Teddy Grahams is always a little imagination.