The 9 Best Cereals of All Time, Ranked by Decade

Find out what cereal hit the store shelves the decade you were born and if it's still popular today.

Published January 5, 2024

Many of us start at least most of the days of our lives with a bowl of cereal. It's a quick and easy way to get going in the morning, and we all have our favorite brands. Your go-to morning meal could well be on this list of the best cereals of all time.

Cereal became a big deal during the early part of the 20th century when people started to focus on getting more fiber in their diets. Over the years, different brands held the title of best-selling, but these are a few of the classics through the decades.

Wheaties - 1920s and 1930s

In the 1920s and 1930s, brand advertising really took off, and the story of Wheaties is all about marketing. It actually started out as an accident in 1921 when a health worker spilled some bran gruel (yummy) onto a hot stovetop and discovered that it formed a crispy wheat flake.

By the late 1920s, General Mills created a radio jingle for the cereal, and it instantly became the best-selling breakfast in the country. Soon, the company was putting athletes on its Wheaties boxes, and the rest is history.

Cheerios - 1940s

Originally called "Cheerioats" when it was first released in 1941, this iconic cereal quickly became a top seller for General Mills, and it still is. Cheerios is the best-selling cereal of all time, holding the top spot for decades when it comes to sales. For a while, it was edged out by Honey Nut Cheerios, but it's back on top.

Frosted Flakes - 1950s

One of the best cereals of all time, Frosted Flakes hit store shelves in 1951 with the name of "Sugar Frosted Flakes." Kellogg's quickly dropped the "sugar" part and concentrated on advertising the sweet cereal to kids. It worked. Frosted Flakes was a top seller of the 1950s, and it's still one of the most popular cereals on the market today. It's currently #3 in America with over 132 million boxes sold annually.

Fast Fact

You've seen Tony the Tiger, the energetic mascot of Frosted Flakes, but did you know he almost wasn't a thing? The mascot for this cereal was almost Katy the Kangaroo.

Froot Loops - 1960s

Continuing the sugar cereal trend into the 1960s, Kellogg's released Froot Loops in 1963 to immediate success. While the weird spelling may not have been helpful to kids at school, a lot of them started their day with a big bowl of the multicolored fruit cereal. It's still a top seller today and is as popular as ever.

Fast Fact

Toucan Sam was the Froot Loops mascot right from the start, and he's still flying high.

Honey Nut Cheerios - 1970s

Remember how we said that Cheerios was knocked out of its top selling spot for a few years by its sister cereal, Honey Nut Cheerios? Well, the honey nut variety hit store shelves in 1979 and immediately became a top seller. Honey Nut Cheerios have a lot more sugar than regular Cheerios, but they're nearly as popular. General Mills sells over 129 million boxes each year.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch - 1980s

If you're an 80s kid, chances are you've eaten your fair share of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The crunchy squares of sweetness hit the grocery store aisles in 1984, and they were heavily marketed to kids during after-school and Saturday morning cartoons. They've stayed popular, too. Today, they're the top-selling cereal brand online.

Reese's Puffs - 1990s

Although it doesn't have the sales figures of some of the other iconic cereals, Reese's Puffs represents the 90s well. It launched in 1994 and was a quick success, but today, it's still a hugely popular option. Its almost five stars and nearly 65,000 reviews on Amazon are one testament to its enduring popularity.

Smorz - 2000s

When it debuted in 2003, Kellogg's Smorz cereal gained a loyal following. Still, sales figures didn't hold up, and the cereal was discontinued. You'd think this would be the end of the story, but many people thought this was one of the best cereals of all time and petitioned Kellogg's to bring it back. The company listened and started producing Smorz again in 2020.

Spinoffs of the Best Cereals of All Time - 2010s and 2020s

In the 2010s and 2020s, cereal manufacturers capitalized on our love for some of the best cereals by making new versions of old favorites. These are a few you might have seen recently:

  • Chocolate Cheerios
  • Chocolate Frosted Flakes
  • Simply Cinnamon Corn Flakes
  • Special K Granola
  • Honey Bunches of Oats With Banana

Related: 14School Breakfast Ideas to Give Your Kids a Healthy Start

Time Travel With the Best Cereals of Each Decade

Whether you're going to eat your Wheaties or start your day with Honey Nut Cheerios, the best cereal of all time is all about your personal preferences. We love the idea of time traveling through the last century of breakfast history by eating the popular cereals from each decade.

The 9 Best Cereals of All Time, Ranked by Decade