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Lucky Charms is a cereal brand produced by the General Mills food company of Golden Valley, Minnesota, United States. It first appeared in stores in 1964. The cereal consists of two main components: toasted oat pieces and multi-colored marshmallow shapes, the latter making up over 25 percent of the cereal's volume. The label features a leprechaun mascot, Lucky, animated in commercials.
Lucky Charms was created in 1962 by 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 is Lucky the Leprechaun, also known as Sir Charms, and originally called L.C. Leprechaun. Created in 1963, the cartoon character's voice was supplied by Arthur Anderson until 1992. In 1975, Lucky the Leprechaun was briefly replaced by Waldo the Wizard.
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. 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." The treats are marketed as Lucky Charm snack bars. Marketing tactics such as cereal box send-away prizes like piggy banks and plastic watches, were used to increase sales.
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, Lucky Charms featuring marshmallow landmarks from around the world, were created to meet consumer demands. In focus groups and market research, more brightly colored charms resulted in better sales than did dull or pastel colors. Holahan called Lucky Charms a "lesson in creative marketing." Currently, General Mills conducts "concept-ideation" studies on Lucky Charms.
In October 2012, Lucky Charms posted its best fiscal volume ever. The company attributes this success to their change in the marketing target. The cereal moves from appealing to children, towards marketing to adults as well. Consumers are able to reminisce with a jingle that hadn't been used in more than a decade: "hearts, stars and clovers" - Lucky's Litany, in a national campaign. The company suggests that the jingle contributed to a rise in sales. An estimated 45 percent of Lucky Charm consumers are adults. In reaction to the campaign to target "nostalgia," commercials were created for the promotion.. A commercial called "Transportasty" shows a woman rediscovering Lucky Charms at her office. She is then transported to presumably Lucky's magical forest, where Lucky says, "You're always after me Lucky Charms." She responds to his famous line by saying, "I forgot how good these taste." The commercial met with positive feedback. Along with the commercial, a Facebook page was created to encourage loyal consumers to discuss and reminisce changes with Lucky Charms over the years. However, with this marketing campaign, the company is not moving away from kids. A commercial of kids sneaking into Lucky's magical vault of charms was broadcast.
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. Purple horseshoes joined the roster in 1984, followed by red balloons in 1989, rainbows in 1992, pots of gold in 1994, leprechaun hats in 1996 (temporarily replaced the green clovers), orange shooting stars in 1998 (added blue, green, yellow, purple, hi wsp and red in 2011), 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 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 a contemporary name for Lucky, the Emerald Elder) 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.
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:
- Hearts - power to bring things to life
- Shooting Stars - power to fly
- Horseshoes - power to speed things up
- Clovers - luck, but you will never know what kind of luck you'll get
- Blue Moons - power of invisibility
- Rainbows - instantaneous travel from place to place
- Balloons - power to make things float
- Hourglass - power to control time
Limited Edition Marshmallows
There have been more than 40 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 1986, a whale-shaped marshmallow was temporarily added to the lineup.
- In 1990, green pine tree-shaped marshmallow was temporarily added to the lineup. During that time, the cereal promoted Earth Day with a free California Blue Spruce sapling with proofs-of-purchase.
- In 1991, the star and balloon shape marshmallows were combined for a short time. The red balloon featured a gold six-pointed star; The star was removed at a later date to make the Red Balloon and Star marshmallows separate.
- In 1994, sprinkles were temporarily added to the marshmallows.
- In 1999, the moon shape marshmallows were modified with the addition of the yellow curve line for a limited time.
- In 2000, a "New Sparkling Rainbow" was added to the mix for a limited time. It was described by General Mills as "a sprinkling of multicolored sugar on a white rainbow marbit." This marshmallow replaced the original rainbow at this time.
- In 2010, the swirled marshmallows were in Lucky Charms for a limited time.
- Two new rainbow marshmallows were added for LGBT Pride Month, June 2013.
The oat component of Lucky Charms are not widely discussed in terms of the shape meaning, in comparison to the marshmallow pieces. However, there is speculation, such as, the shapes resembling: a cross (or 'x'), a bell, a tree, a three leaf clover and an alpha (or fish). Many people suggest that these shapes are meant to be symbols of early Christians. However, other theories have suggested that the shapes are of talisman symbols from the Medieval Times, which were carried for good luck. Others speculate that these shapes are made randomly.
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:
- White Fluffy Frosted Lucky Charms,
- They're magically delicious!
This simple closer, with the kids usually singing the first line and Lucky singing the second, survived into the '80s.
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 me red balloons!"
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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- They're Magically Delicious!
- They're Always After Me Lucky Charms!
- You'll Never Get Me Lucky charms!
- Hearts, Stars, and Horseshoes, Clovers and Blue Moons, Pots of Gold and Rainbows, and Red Balloons!
- Hearts, Stars, and Horseshoes, Clovers and Blue Moons, Hourglasses, Rainbows, and Tasty Red Balloons!
- Hearts, Stars, and Horseshoes, Clovers, Red Balloons, Hourglasses, Rainbows, and Six New Swirled Moons!
- Hearts (dun), Stars (dun), and Horseshoes (dun), Clovers (dun), Red Balloons (dun) , Hourglasses (dun), Rainbows... (dun dun dun) Rainbows, and Six Swirled Moons!
- Frosted Lucky Charms, they're magically delicious!
Lucky Charms contains:
Oats (Whole grain), Oats (flour), marshmallows (sugar, modified starch/modified corn starch, corn syrup, dextrose, gelatin, calcium carbonate, yellow 5 & yellow 6, blue 1, red 40), artificial flavor, sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, salt, calcium carbonate, food coloring/artificial color, trisodium phosphate, zinc, iron, vitamin C (sodium ascorbic), niacinamide (a B vitamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin monontrate), vitamin A (palmitate), folic acide, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) 
Chocolate Lucky Charms:
Ingredients - Whole Grain Corn, Sugar, Marshmallows (sugar, modified corn starch, corn syrup, dextrose, gelatin, calcium carbonate, yellow 5&6, blue 1, red 40, artificial flavor), corn meal, canola and/or rice bran oil, cocoa processed with alkali, color added, salt, fructose, natural and artificial flavor, trisodium phosphate, BHT.
Vitamins and Minerals - calcium, carbonate, tricalcium phosphate, zinc and iron (mineral nutrients), vitamin C (sodium ascorbate), B vitamin (niacinamide), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin mononitrate), vitamin A (palmitate), B vitamin (folic acid), vitamin B12, vitamin D.
Lucky Charms Treats:
(Contains MILK AND SOY ingredients)
Ingredients - cereal (whole grain oats, sugar, oat flour, corn syrup, corn starch, salt, trisodium phosphate, color added, natural and artificial flavor, mixed tocopherois), corn syrup, confectionery coating (sugar, palm kernel oil, maltodextrin, yogurt powder (cultured non-fat milk, whey protein concentrate, yogurt cultures), non-fat milk, soy lecithin, natural flavor), marshmallows (sugar, modified corn starch, corn syrup, dextrose, gelatin, calcium carbonate, colored with yellow 5&6, blue 1, red 40, artificial flavor), crisp rice (rice flour, barley malt extract, salt), canola oil, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sugar. Contains 2% or less of: Glycerin, Maltodextrin, Sorbitol, Water, Gelatin, Salt, Artificial Flavor.
Vitamins and Minerals - calcium carbonate, zinc and iron (mineral nutrients), vitamin C (sodium ascorbate), B vitamin (niacinamide), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin mononitrate), vitamin A (palmitate), B vitamin (folic acid), vitamin B12, vitamin D3.
References in Pop Culture
During screenings of the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in some venues the audience uses the Lucky Charms color/shape combos as a "callback" during one of the scenes. In this scene the character Dr. Frank N. Furter opens and closes various colored nozzles, with the audience calling out each respective color/shape (eg. *red nozzle turned* "Red balloons!" *orange nozzle turned* "Orange stars!").
- "1960s". General Mills History Timeline. General Mills. p. 3. Archived from the original on October 23, 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-20.
- Karen Wright (August 1999). "A Charm's Life - Lucky Charm's cereal (sic)". Discover Magazine. [dead link]
- Hartel, Richard; Hartel, AnnaKate (October 4, 2004). "The Miracle of Orange Circus Peanuts". The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin). Archived from the original on September 29, 2008.
- Wolf, Buck (March 15, 2005). "Lucky Charms Leprechaun: 'I'm Not Irish'". Archived from the original on June 29, 2011.
- "Luck (03/14/07)". Retrieved June 21, 2007.
- "Lucky Charms has adult allure". Retrieved 2013-02-12.
- "Single leprechaun, 48, seeks adult companionship; must like marshmallows". Retrieved 2013-02-12.
- "See the Spot: Lucky Charms Finds Gold With Adult Fans". Archived from the original on December 13, 2012.
- "General Mills Cereals". Topher's Breakfast Cereal Character Guide. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012.
- "Lucky Announces the Power to Control Time with New Marshmallow Charm in Lucky Charms® Cereal!" (Press release). General Mills. June 9, 2008. Archived from the original on November 23, 2010.
- "5 Things about Lucky Charm Cereal". Retrieved 2013-02-12.
- Elliott, Stuart (2000-06-02). "Marketers bet on the concept of good luck as a selling tool". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
- "TV Acres ad slogans". Retrieved June 21, 2007.
- "Lucky Charms Cereal (10/02/09)". Retrieved 2013-02-12.
- "Lucky Charms Product List". Retrieved 2013-02-12.
An Actor's Odyssey: Orson Welles to Lucky the Leprechaun, by Arthur Anderson. Albany, 2010. BearManor Media. ISBN 1-59393-522-6.