How America's Most Hated Candy Inspired Its Favorite Breakfast Cereal

For all our complaints about them, circus peanuts are important to food history.

CircusĀ peanuts are easily one of the most divisive candies I've ever encountered. The dry, foamy, banana-flavored candy seems to get people more riled up than other foods in existence. Though I could personally take or leave them, circus peanuts are more historically significant than I thought: They were the partial inspiration for one of the most popular breakfast cereals in America. Can you guess which one?

Think about it: They're marshmallows. Yep, circus peanuts were involved in the brainstorming process for Lucky Charms.

How circus peanuts led to Lucky Charms

The cereal debuted in 1964 to much fanfare. It was one of the most expensive ad campaigns of the era, featuring animated TV commercials and full-color ads in Sunday comics and comic books.

As product developer John Holahan was brainstorming the new breakfast cereal, he used Cheerios as the base to form his ideas, then chopped up some circus peanuts and tossed those in too. The prototype eventually became the magically delicious product we know today.


Initially, the oat-based cereal pieces weren't frosted, so in 1967 a light touch of sugar coating was added. The lineup of marshmallow shapes also changed; by 1974, the lucky purple horseshoes had been added to the roster. (Fun fact: the marshmallows are called "marshmallow bits," usually shortened to "marbits.")

A relatively recent Reddit thread was posted about this little-known circus peanut connection, and of course it led some users to profess their love for circus peanuts and others to express the utomost displeasure.

"What the hell? THIS is the story of my favorite cereal?" wrote one user, who was immediately put in their place by a wave of circus peanut defenders. Apparently this old timey candy is still as polarizing as ever.


If General Mills had used banana-flavored marshmallows in Lucky Charms I'm not entirely convinced the cereal would have enjoyed the same success. Love them or hate them, these funny peanut-shaped puffs shaped mornings for children across America for generations. I'll never look at the things the same way again.