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Food Crazes from Our Youth

“Once you pop, you can’t stop!” 

If this popular jingle just brought back a flood of memories, you may have been a 90s kid. Long before influencer and social marketing days, commercials reeled us in with catchy jingles like this popular Pringles number. This slogan could be heard on school buses and lunchrooms across the U.S., much to parents’ and teachers’ chagrin.  

Restaurant, menu, packaged goods and consumer trends certainly have evolved over the decades. We thought it would be fun to open a time capsule into headlining food crazes from our childhoods—the 1980s through the early 2000s to celebrate Nostalgic November. Are you ready?!

When thinking of the 1980s, hair metal bands, Walkmans and neon colors may come to mind. This decade was about exploring new heights—including new heights in hair, music and style—and daring side dishes like deviled eggs. The delicious, creamy flavor and easy-to-serve format made deviled eggs the perfect dish to share. Despite some questioning its superior side dish nature, we all know that deviled eggs are the first hors d’oeuvres to be demolished at gatherings. Another easy-to-serve dish from our formative years was Jell-O salad. Customizing the flavor, toppings, mixings and style of Jell-O mold meant endless opportunities for creativity. One of the most notable Jell-O salad recipes from 1982 included Southern Living’s Christmas Snow Salad complete with crushed pineapple, cottage cheese and a couple of other surprising ingredients. 

We can’t forget to remember food crazes that are still going strong today, including packaged goods like Pizza Rolls and Cool Ranch Doritos. As well as the major restaurant menu innovation from 1982 that’s still wildly popular—McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. It’s hard to believe that Chicken McNuggets didn’t exist before this decade! 

What do purple Ketchup, Dunkaroos and Lunchables all have in common? If you said the most coveted foods in your lunchbox as a kid, then you would be right! It’s also an immediate giveaway that you’re a Millennial.  

Growing up in the 90s was totally tubular! It was a time where Friday nights included going to Blockbuster to rent a movie and then inevitably begging your parents to buy you sugary snacks like Gushers, Pop Rocks and Baby Bottle Pops to munch on while watching a flick. The wackier the snack, the better! Dip ‘n’ Dots was a futuristic frozen confection popularized during this decade.  

This time period also expanded our palates and cooking styles with globalized dishes and fusion foods. Of all the food trends in the 90’s, fusion cuisine presented unexpected flavor combinations and new innovative ways to explore cultural dishes, which continues today.

Y2K ushered in an era of futuristic innovation and possibility. While some of us stockpiled MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) and enough Hamburger Helper to last a decade, others rode out the Y2K craze…differently. Fast casual restaurants like Boston Market, Qdoba and Panera Bread were preferred over Y2K rations. 

Young people were busy attempting to make “fetch” a word, obsessing over the movie Shrek and Shrek-themed foods (including “swamp” pudding that turned your tongue green) and trading Cosmic Brownies like currency. Little did they know that some of their favorite snacks would soon land in the snack graveyard. Despite losing some of these treats far too soon, it paved the way for others in their place.

May the following snacks rest in peace:

It’s fun to open a time capsule and remember food crazes from our youth—and ultimately the way we’ve evolved through the decades. It’s even more fun to consider how the food crazes we’re experiencing now will be nostalgic in the future! We can only wonder if we’ll be writing about McDonald’s Grimace Shakes, plant-based foods and charcuterie and butter boards in blogs just like this 20 years from now.  

About the author
Julia Bates is a Project Manager at Esrock Partners, a foodservice marketing agency located near Chicago, Illinois.

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