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Remembering the co-creator of the Pop Tart

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The co-creator of one of America's classic breakfast snacks has died.

SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing) Kellogg's...

(SOUNDBITE OF POPPING SOUND)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: ...(Singing) Pop-Tarts. Eat them in the morning. Eat them in the evening. Kellogg's...

(SOUNDBITE OF POPPING SOUND)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: ...(Singing) Pop-Tarts.

SUMMERS: Pop-Tarts, along with their catchy jingles, were an iconic creation of the 1960s. The man who helped invent that toaster pastry was William Post.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAM POST: To get that done, I had to break every rule in the book. That's how I started.

SUMMERS: He's speaking there in a recent video from Pop-Tarts' parent company.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The early 1960s, Post was the plant manager at Hekman Biscuit Company in Grand Rapids, Mich. His son, Dan Post, says, one day, a handful of businessmen showed up at his father's office.

DAN POST: He always said four important-looking men in blue suits came to see me. He said, I found out they were all vice presidents, eventually.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

W POST: They had, like, a piece of pie the shape of a slice of bread, fork marks around the edge, two pieces of dough with some filling in. They said, we had this idea. We'd like to put that in the toaster.

KELLY: William Post promised the executives a product in an unprecedented two weeks' time. And soon, Dan recalls, the samples started coming home every night.

D POST: And the first ones - I have to tell you - were not great. So we would kind of pull up our nose. And he'd say, well, what do you think we should do different? And we'd say, well, more filling, or the crust is, like, too hard. And so within two weeks, it was a really good product. I mean, we really liked it.

SUMMERS: And as for that name, they were originally called fruit scones, but a marketing exec came up with something better, Dan says.

D POST: It was during the period when Andy Warhol's pop art was so popular. And it was a take on that - Pop-Tart - after pop art.

SUMMERS: Huh. In 1964, Pop-Tarts debuted in four flavors - strawberry, blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon and apple currant.

KELLY: Brown sugar cinnamon - the best (singing) ever. Well, according to CNBC, consumers snapped up 3 billion Pop-Tarts in 2022. That is almost a billion dollars in sales.

SUMMERS: The toaster pastry also became a sort of pop culture icon along the way. It captured the hearts of college football fans last year at the Pop-Tarts Bowl - the game it sponsors - when a huge Pop-Tart mascot jumped out of a toaster.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Shouting) And make some noise for strawberry. Let's hear you.

SUMMERS: Make some noise for strawberry, he says.

KELLY: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld even had a bit about Pop-Tarts in his 2020 Netflix special.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JERRY SEINFELD: 23 HOURS TO KILL")

JERRY SEINFELD: When they invented the Pop-Tart, the back of my head blew right off.

(LAUGHTER)

SEINFELD: (Shouting) We couldn't comprehend the Pop-Tart. It was too advanced.

(LAUGHTER)

SEINFELD: We saw it in the supermarket. It was like an alien spaceship. We were just chimps in the dirt playing with sticks. Just...

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Later this year, Seinfeld is starring in a film he also co-wrote and directed, called, "Unfrosted: The Pop-Tart Story."

SUMMERS: William Post himself was as crazy about the toaster pastry as the rest of America. He had Pop-Tarts socks, POPTART written on his license plate. And he once estimated he had consumed more than 10,000 of them. For all the other inventors and dreamers, he had this piece of advice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

W POST: There is no idea that's too crazy. And if somebody tells you you can't do it, show them you can.

KELLY: William Post died Saturday. He was 96. His favorite flavor was one of those originals - strawberry.

(SOUNDBITE OF SON LITTLE SONG, "O ME O MY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.