The Pokémon franchise just celebrated its 23rd anniversary on February 27th, and with the recent announcements for the upcoming Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield games, it has only continued to gain momentum. I’ve loved everything to do with Pokémon since its North American debut in 1998 – the games, the anime, the movies, and most of all, the merchandise. Just last week I ran an errand to Target and found myself purchasing a box of sugar cereal because it contained 3 free Pokémon cards inside! This transported me back to a simpler time around the new millennium, when Pokémon was just starting to become popular in the U.S. and was promoted on nearly every food product imaginable.
Here is my countdown of the top 10 best Pokémon food products between 1999 and 2001.
10. Pokémon Jelly Jars
I must confess – I don’t believe I ever had these as a kid and OH MY GODDISH was I missing out. On April 1st in the year 2000, Welch’s released a set of 9 limited edition grape jelly jars into the wild. Each glass jar was decorated with a different Pokémon, such as Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Pikachu, Clefairy, Meowth, Psyduck, Poliwhirl, and Togepi. I can just picture myself still reusing these jars for drinks today, if I only had one. In the end, the April Fool’s Day joke was on me for not knowing these existed and not begging my mom to “catch ‘em all.”
9. Pokémon Twist Pops
I definitely preferred the concept of Ring Pops over Push Pops, but I can’t deny that Push Pops were easier to finish (even if both made me feel uncomfortable to eat around my friends). Pokémon Twist Pops were basically Pokémon-branded Push Pops that you twisted instead of pushed up. They also had either Bulbasaur, Pikachu, Psyduck, or Snorlax sitting on top of the cap, which served as an embellishment noticeable enough to stand apart from the simple multicolored tops of Push Pops. I wished as a kid that I could completely remove the cap from underneath each Pokémon, but I recall compromising by pretending the cap was a little flying saucer for each figure to ride on. *Sighs in nostalgia*
8. Popsicle Pokémon
I always chose ice cream over popsicles, but these poké-pops are just too cute to resist! Each box contained strawberry and lemon-flavored ice shaped just like Pikachu, Gengar, Squirtle, Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Meowth. These bars even had candy for eyes, which made for a delicious and awesome-looking treat to beat the heat.
7. Pokémon Wonder Ball
It shouldn’t be too surprising that Wonder Balls are making a resurgence. After all, they’re hollow balls of chocolate filled with other treats and prizes themed to their boxes – what’s a kid not to love? The original Pokémon Wonder Ball came filled with Skittles-shaped candies with pictures of Pokémon on them, as well as stickers, temporary tattoos, and hard fruit candies shaped like different Pokémon. I don’t know why, but there was something so satisfying about holding a Wonder Ball in my hand and shaking it to hear it rattle. I loved guessing what could be inside, and seeing all the colorful Pokémon on the box just made me so giddy while standing in the checkout line with my mom.
6. Pokémon Pasta
As a child, I consumed enough Chef Boyardee and SpaghettiOs to build a mansion with the leftover cans. There was just something about the pasta sauce that I found so delicious that I could never get sick of eating it, even if the meat was questionable at best. Add in some wacky character-shaped pasta and I was a regular in the canned food aisle. Pokémon Pasta really set a precedent with its eye-catching Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue can designs, restaurant-quality pasta sauce, and most importantly, its variety of Pokémon-shaped pasta. Unlike Kraft’s Pokémon macaroni and cheese (which we will get to later), Pokémon Pasta featured 7 different character designs. Not only did it involve more characters than any other Pokémon pasta-related offering of the time, these characters were some of the lesser-featured Pokémon that never had much of a presence in marketing, including Vulpix, Sandshrew, and Eevee. They even opted to have Ash Ketchum’s face take over Pikachu’s usual spot, making this one of the rarest and most unusual Pokémon food products to date with its exclusion of Pikachu. Pikachu won’t stay benched for much longer, though. Trust me.
5. Pokémon Rolls
Fruit by the Foot or Fruit Roll-Ups? Of course, the answer is always Fruit Gushers – but we’re going to focus on the Fruit by the Foot-inspired Pokémon Rolls instead. To start with, specially marked boxes of these fruit rolls came with an official Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) trading card! While the rolls themselves may have only been available in Punch Red, they had the coolest packaging ever. Each fruit roll had a different Pokémon featured on the wrapping detailing its name, type, height, weight, attacks, and a general description of its behavior. Even the wax paper that the fruit rolls were on contained TCG tips and trivia about each Pokémon. My personal favorite had to be Tip #14: “Does Onix Evolve?” The answer given is “Onix does not evolve,” which we know is outdated and incorrect as of the 2nd generation with Steelix’s inclusion. How times have changed.
4. Pokémon Macaroni & Cheese
What is it about macaroni shaped like cartoon characters that makes it taste so much better? Granted, it always felt like Kraft compensated by providing less macaroni in these particular boxes. I suppose that was the price to pay for being blessed with such marvels as the Blue’s Clues macaroni and cheese, which had blue paw print macaroni hidden within the other normal-looking macaroni. Come to think of it, there was also the Justice League macaroni and cheese that I loved the look of so much that I accidentally lifted it from our local Giant grocery store. I think I may have to revisit this topic in a future blog post.
Above all other character-inspired macaroni and cheeses, the original Pokémon-themed ones were my absolute favorite. There were 6 different boxes to find that featured either Pikachu, Squirtle, Poliwhirl, Jigglypuff, Charmander, or Meowth on the front with the other 5 Pokémon behind it. This made sense since the macaroni was shaped to look like each of these 6 Pokémon. I tried to collect all 6 boxes as each of them had 8 different labeled Pokémon on the back to cut out and keep as tokens. I don’t remember these tokens serving any particular purpose besides as cardboard collectables, but I do vaguely remember “battling” with them and keeping them in a plastic Oxford index card box.
3. Pokémon Pop-Tarts
What I wouldn’t give for these to make a comeback. Wild Cherry already happened to be one of my favorite Pop-Tarts flavors, but what made these yellow-frosted toaster pastries the most appealing were the Pokémon sprinkles. If you looked closely enough, you’d see Poliwrath, Charmander, Chansey, and of course, Pikachu in adorable sprinkle form. While there were specific Limited Edition Pokémon-branded Pop-Tarts, certain boxes of regular Pop-Tarts (I’m looking at you Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Strawberry, and S’mores) featured 1 of 3 exclusive metallic Pokémon battle figures! If you were lucky enough, you just might have a Charmander, Chansey, or Poliwrath palling around your breakfast plate. While this promotion couldn’t last forever, Pop-Tarts had another fun surprise in store. To promote Pokémon: The Movie 2000, Pop-Tarts included 1 of 3 collectable Pokémon pencil toppers inside specially-marked boxes. You could find Totodile, Entei, or Pichu inside each box – and believe me when I say I didn’t rest until I had all 3 of them.
Shout-out to the Poké Berry-filled Pop-Tarts with Pokéball sprinkles. They may only have featured Pokémon cardboard cutouts on the back of the box, but they still tasted pretty sweet.
2. Pokémon Waffles
Now these were special. Yet another promotion for Pokémon: The Movie 2000, Limited Edition Pokémon Eggo waffles were available in 2 flavors (blueberry and chocolate chip) and featured 1 of 5 different Pokémon on each waffle: Pikachu, Togepi, Marill, Gengar, and Elekid. Seeing Pokémon like Gengar and Elekid on a toaster waffle was magical but also made it extremely difficult for me to bring myself to eat them. I tried to preserve these works of art by eating around the edges of the waffle until I had no choice but to bite through the Pokémon. At least the burst of flavor from the center was consoling. I only recently discovered that these waffles came with a special offer, as if you sent in 3 UPC codes as proof of purchase along with $2.00, you’d receive a Pikachu syrup holder in the mail. Definitely missed out on that one.
~ Rice Krispies Treats
While I don’t recall any Rice Krispies Treats that came with Pokémon sprinkles or that featured a new Pokémon-themed flavor, specially-marked boxes of Rice Krispies Treats did come with a glow-in-the-dark Pokémon keychain. There were 4 in all to collect, including Pikachu, Squirtle, Gengar, and Jigglypuff, and they were exclusive to 16-pack boxes.
Some things never change, like how I still hate Life cereal as an adult. I thought it fair to at least include Life as a mention, since it did happen to have a pretty nice mail offer. Coupons from the inside of a Pokémon-branded box of Life would redeem a Pokémon watch that featured Ash, Misty, and Brock on the face. Nice to see the anime’s original trio getting some attention every now and then.
~ Pokémon Vitamins
I can only assume kids still prefer gummies to traditional vitamins, but when I was child, I actually looked forward to having my nightly vitamin. That is, as long as they were the Pokémon or Flinstones ones. I always thought it was funny how these vitamins and the hard fruit candy in the Pokémon Wonder Ball looked identical, and I’ve actually imagined a scenario where someone was evil enough to swap them. That would certainly make Team Rocket proud.
1. Pokémon Cereal
Picture this: you’re 5 years old, walking through the grocery store with your family when you make it to the cereal aisle and see a bright blue box sporting Pikachu holding a giant spoon. How could you not grab the box and beg your parents to buy it? In fact, let’s take a moment to really appreciate the presentation of the box alone. Of course, there were other Pokémon on it besides Pikachu, like Togepi, Ditto, and even the legendary Pokémon Articuno. But if you were lucky enough to stand in the presence of the Limited Edition Kellogg’s Pokémon cereal, you’d see that it had the Pokémon logo on it in shiny textured letters. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever seen another cereal box with raised text or shiny lettering. The toasted oats and marshmallows that were shaped to look like Pikachu, Poliwhirl, Ditto, and Oddish closely resembled General Mills’ Lucky Charms but were, in my opinion, even more magically delicious.
There was also a mail offer where if you sent in UPC codes from 4 of the cereal boxes, you could receive 1 of 4 Pokémon talking spoons. These included Pikachu (big surprise) and the 3 starter Pokémon from the Johto region: Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile.
Just like with Pop-Tarts, specific Kellogg’s cereals, such as Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops, featured 1 of 2 different poké-promotions. Certain marked boxes contained 1 of 3 Pokémon Bowl Pals, which were figurines of either Pichu, Geodude, or Arbok that could attach to the side of your cereal bowl. Others included a collectable Pokémon battle top. With 8 in all to collect, as well as sugary cereal being way too difficult to convince my mom to buy, I only managed to get Jigglypuff, Gengar, and Pikachu. I know I still have them somewhere.