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Lucky Charms is a brand of cereal 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-based pieces and multi-colored marshmallow in various 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 had challenged a team of new product developers to use the available manufacturing capacity from either of General Mills' two principal cereal products— Wheaties or Cheerios—and do something unique to them. 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 revolving the marketing of 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 its 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 originally was not sugar coated. After initial sales failed to meet expectations, the oats became sugar coated, and the cereal's success grew. The recipe for the cereal then remained unchanged until the introduction of a new flavor: Chocolate Lucky Charms, in 2005. Later on in 2012, General Mills introduced "Lucky Charms Marshmallow Treats." The treats are marketed as Lucky Charm snack bars. Other marketing tactics such as cereal box send-away prizes like piggy banks and plastic watches, were also 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 other features of the marbits were also modified to maximize their appeal to the cereal's target market, young consumers. Over the years, over 40 different 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 frequent "concept-ideation" studies on Lucky Charms.
Lucky Charms were sold in the United Kingdom during the mid-1990s. Today, people from Britain can still get the cereal, from TK Maxx, eBay, Amazon, Selfridges, Jumbo (Chile), or through specialist importers, though these boxes retail for up to £8 (US $12) each. Lucky Charms is not outlawed from Britain, but General Mills made a business decision to stop selling Lucky Charms directly to Britain. There are currently two dominant theories as to why that happened:
- General Mills decided that the Leprechaun mascot was too important to lose, even though it offended people in Britain. Previously, the cereal has seen much controversy over the green clover marshmallow, which for a time, was removed from production.
- General Mills may have had to pay premium to sell Lucky Charms in Britain, thus deciding that it was not profitable to export the cereal after all.
In October 2012, Lucky Charms posted its best fiscal volume ever. The company attributes this success to their change in marketing target. The cereal moves from appealing to just children, towards one that is succeeding with adults as well. Consumers are also able to reminisce with a jingle that hadn't been used in more than a decade: "hearts, stars and clovers" - Lucky's Litany, in this recent national campaign. The company suggests that the jingle contributed to a rise in sales. An estimate of 45 percent of Lucky Charm consumers are adults. In reaction to the campaign to target "nostalgia," commercials have been created to accompany it. A commercial created called "Transportasty" shows a woman rediscovering Lucky Charms at her office. She is then transported to presumably Lucky's magical forest, where Lucky then says, "You're always after me Lucky Charms." She responds to his famous line by saying, "I forgot how good these taste." The commercial was met with positive feedback. Along with the commercial, a Facebook page was also created to have loyal consumers discuss and reminisce on the 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 also created.
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 over the years, 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, and red in 2011), and an hourglass in 2008. In 2013, 6 new rainbow swirl moons 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 be phased out were the yellow moons and blue diamonds, replaced by yellow/orange pots of gold and blue moons respectively in 1994. In 2006, the assortment had changed to 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 only 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 also changed in 2004.
Recent changes to the marshmallows include the star shape taking on more of a "shooting star" design, the orange five-pointed star being complemented by a white "trail." In late 2005, another different kind of marshmallow was added, the "Hidden Key". It is a solid yellow marshmallow that resembles the shape of 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 inside the marshmallow dissolves and the shape of a skeleton key appears "as if by magic." The new tagline for this was, "Unlock the door with milk!" This "new" marshmallow type has been used in other kinds of 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 a new Lucky Charms marshmallow, Magic Mirror marshmallows. In 2008, yellow and orange hourglass marshmallows were introduced (along with a new contemporary for Lucky named 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, there are swirled marshmallows and rainbow-colored stars.
The marshmallows are meant to represent Lucky's magical charms, each having their own special meaning or "powers." 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
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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.
- 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 1998, 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.
The oat component of Lucky Charms are not as widely discussed in terms of what the shapes mean, in comparison to the marshmallow pieces. However, there are some 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 around for good luck. Other people speculate that these shapes are made randomly.
In the earliest commercials, Lucky Charms cereal had no theme song; the action was accompanied by a light instrumental "Irish" tune. Before long, 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, remained into the '80s.
Then, with the addition of the purple horseshoe marbit, it was extended into a jingle that describes the contents of the box. It goes "Hearts, stars and horse-shoes, clovers and blue-moons. Pots of gold and rainbows, and the red balloon!" Consumers also have begun to hear the “hearts, stars and clovers” jingle – Lucky’s Litany – that hadn’t been used in more than a decade.
The theme song is also usually accompanied by mention of Lucky Charms containing whole grain ingredients, that is a part of a balanced meal. General Mills try to market itself as creating cereals that contain "more whole grain than any other single ingredient, which is significant, because 95 percent of Americans aren't eating at least 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!
- 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) 
According to the manufacturer (http://www.growupstrong.com/kid-cereals/lucky-charms), Lucky Charms is 37% sugar by weight. This puts it at the high-sugar end of what Choice magazine calls "high sugar breakfast cereals" (http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/food-and-health/food-and-drink/groceries/breakfast-cereal-review-and-compare/page/compare-breakfast-cereals.aspx).
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.
- "1960s". General Mills History Timeline. General Mills. p. 3. Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. 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. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
- "Luck (03/14/07)". Retrieved 2007-06-21.
- "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 2012-12-13. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
- "General Mills Cereals". Topher's Breakfast Cereal Character Guide. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
- "Lucky Announces the Power to Control Time with New Marshmallow Charm in Lucky Charms® Cereal!". Retrieved 2013-02-12.
- "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 2007-06-21.
- "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.