Have you had your Wheaties today? We all grew up with this cultural icon that is known for featuring prominent athletes on the exterior of the package. In 1921, Wheaties was created by an accidental spill of a wheat bran mixture onto a hot stove by Minnesota clinician working for the Washburn Crosby Company (later known as General Mills.) Wheaties began its association with sports in 1927, through advertising on the southern wall of minor league baseball's Nicolett Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the 1930s, Wheaties increased in popularity with its sponsorship of baseball broadcasting. By the end of the decade, nearly a hundred radio stations carried Wheaties sponsored events. It was also during this time that athletes began to be depicted on the packaging of Wheaties.
Babe Ruth says, "If you eat Wheaties with milk or cream and sugar you're going to have plenty of energy to knock out home runs."
From the 1930s to 1940s, Wheaties testimonials peaked from nearly every sport imaginable. Many testimonials included baseball stars, football stars, coaches, circus and rodeo stars, livestock breeders, jockeys, an aviator, and a railroad engineer-- to name a few. Throughout the years, spokespersons of this cereal in its distinctive orange box included Bob Richards, Bruce Jenner, Mary Lou Retton, Walter Payton, Chris Evert, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods. Below are a few firsts for Wheaties.
- 1934 - First athlete depicted on a Wheaties box was Lou Gehrig and first women depicted on the box was aviator, Elinor Smith
- 1936 - First African American athlete on a Wheaties box - Jesse Owens
- 1958 - First athlete depicted on the front of the box - pole vaulter, Bob Richards
- 1984 - First woman athlete depicted on the front of the box - gymnast Mary Lou Retton
- 1986 - First football player shown on the front of the box - Walter Payton
- 1991 - First hockey team depicted on a Wheaties box - Pittsburgh Penguins, 1991 Stanley Cup Champions
- 1992 - First non-orange Wheaties box, colored red and black, was in honor of the Chicago Bulls
- Michael Jordan holds the record for most depictions on a Wheaties box (18 times), followed by Tiger Woods (14 times)
And of course we can't end this blog post without including some video of Wheaties commercials from the 1980s!