The cereal's logo and leprechaun mascot, Lucky.
|Product type||Cereal with marshmallows|
|Introduced||March 20, 1964|
|Markets||United States, United Kingdom, Canada|
|Tagline||"They're magically delicious."|
Lucky Charms is a brand of cereal produced by the General Mills food company since 1964. The cereal consists of toasted oat pieces and multi-colored marshmallow shapes ("marbits" or marshmallow bits). The label features a leprechaun mascot, Lucky, animated in commercials.
Lucky Charms was created in 1964 by product developer John Holahan. General Mills management challenged a team of product developers to use the available manufacturing capacity from either of General Mills' two principal cereal products—Wheaties or Cheerios—and do something unique. Holahan came up with the idea after a visit to the grocery store in which he decided to mix Cheerios with bits of Brach's Circus Peanuts.
An advertising company employed by General Mills and Company suggested marketing the new cereal around the idea of charm bracelets. Thus, the charms of Lucky Charms were born. Lucky Charms is the first cereal to include marshmallows in the recipe. The mascot of Lucky Charms, created in 1963, is Lucky the Leprechaun, also known as Sir Charms, and originally called L.C. Leprechaun. The cartoon character's voice was supplied by the late voice actor Arthur Anderson until 1992. In 1975, Lucky the Leprechaun was briefly replaced by Waldo the Wizard in New England, while Lucky remained the mascot in the rest of the United States. The oat cereal was not originally sugar coated. After initial sales failed to meet expectations, the oats were sugar coated, and the cereal's success grew. Piggy banks and plastic watches were introduced as cereal box send-away prizes as a marketing tactic to increase sales. The recipe for the cereal remained unchanged until the introduction of a new flavor: Chocolate Lucky Charms, in 2005. Later in 2012, General Mills introduced "Lucky Charms Marshmallow Treats."
Following the product launch, the General Mills marketing department found that sales performed dramatically better if the composition of the marbits changed periodically. Various features of the marbits were modified to maximize their appeal to young consumers. Over the years, over 40 limited edition features such as Winter Lucky Charms, Olympic-themed Lucky Charms, and Lucky Charms featuring marshmallow landmarks from around the world, were created to drive consumer demands. In focus groups and market research, more brightly colored charms resulted in better sales than did dull or pastel colors. Currently, General Mills conducts "concept-ideation" studies on Lucky Charms.
The first boxes of Lucky Charms cereal contained marshmallows in the shapes of pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers. The lineup has changed occasionally, beginning with the introduction of blue diamonds in 1975, followed by purple horseshoes in 1983, red balloons in 1989, green trees 1991, rainbows in 1992, blue moons 1995, leprechaun hats in 1997 (temporarily replaced the green clovers), orange shooting stars and around the world charms in 1998 (added blue, green, yellow, purple, and red in 2011), a crystal ball in 2001, and an hourglass in 2008. In 2013, 6 new rainbow swirl moons and 2 new rainbow charms were introduced. From the original four marshmallows, the permanent roster as of 2013 includes eight marshmallows.
Older marshmallows were phased out periodically. The first shapes to disappear were the yellow moons and blue diamonds, replaced by yellow/orange pots of gold and blue moons respectively in 1994. In 2006, the assortment included purple horseshoes; red balloons; blue crescent-moons; orange and white shooting stars; yellow and orange pots of gold; pink, yellow, and blue rainbows; two-tone green leprechaun hats; pink hearts (the one shape to survive since the beginning); with the most recent addition being the return of the clovers in 2004. The hourglass shape was retired in spring 2018 and was replaced by a unicorn, which was chosen on social media by way of emojis. The size and brightness of the marshmallows changed in 2004.
Recent changes to the marshmallows include the star shape taking on a "shooting star" design, the orange five-pointed star being complemented by a white "trail." In late 2005, another marshmallow shape was added, the "Hidden Key". It is a solid yellow marshmallow that resembles an arched door (similar to the shape of a tombstone; flat at the bottom, flat sides with a round top). When liquid is added to the cereal, the sugar in the marshmallow dissolves and the shape of a skeleton key appears "as if by magic." The tagline was, "Unlock the door with milk!" This "new" marshmallow type has been used in other hot and cold cereals, but with mixed success (from characters "hidden" inside a bigger marshmallow to letters appearing). In early June 2006, General Mills introduced Magic Mirror marshmallows. In 2008, yellow and orange hourglass marshmallows were introduced with the marketing tagline of, "The Hourglass Charm has the power to Stop Time * Speed Up Time * Reverse Time". As of 2011, swirled marshmallows and rainbow-colored stars have been introduced. In 2018, for the first time in ten years Lucky Charms retired a marshmallow, which was the hourglass, and added a new permanent marshmallow, the Magical Unicorn. It's powers are unknown.
The marshmallows are meant to represent Lucky's magical charms, each with their own special meaning or "power." The following are explanations of the permanent marshmallows:
There have been more than 30 featured limited edition marshmallow shapes over the years, with the introduction of themed Lucky Charms, such as Winter Lucky Charms. Some of these include:
In May 2017, General Mills announced they would be promoting 10,000 boxes of cereal that contain only marshmallow pieces. In order to win one of the coveted boxes, consumers would need to purchase a specially-marked box of regular Lucky Charms with a code on the inside panel. The code would be entered into an official website to see if the consumer is the winner of one of the 10,000 novelty boxes produced. The sweepstakes ran through December 2017.
In the earliest commercials, Lucky Charms cereal had no theme jingle; action was accompanied by a light instrumental "Irish" tune. Soon, however, a simple two-line tag was added:
This simple closer, with the kids usually singing the first line and Lucky singing the second, survived into the 1980s.
Then, with the addition of the purple horseshoe marbit, it was extended into a jingle describing the contents of the box. This was later revised with the addition of red balloons to the now-familiar "Hearts, stars and horse-shoes, clovers and blue-moons. Pots of gold and rainbows, and tasty red balloons!" In 2008, the pot of gold was replaced with the hourglass in the theme song.
The jingle is usually accompanied by mentioning that Lucky Charms contains whole grain ingredients, and is part of a balanced meal. General Mills' market position is centered on cereals that contain "more whole grain than any other single ingredient, which is significant, because 95 percent of Americans aren't eating minimally 48 grams of whole grain per day as recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines."
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