Everyone knows food products reminiscent of their childhood. It could be a type of ice cream, candy, or a special lemonade grandma would prepare every summer. Whichever they are, these memories bring so much joy because it’s not just about the food; it’s about the story behind it.
“Food memories feel so nostalgic because there’s all this context of when you were preparing or eating this food, so the food becomes almost symbolic of other meanings,” says Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts. “A lot of our memories as children, it’s not so much the apple pie, for example, but the whole experience of being a family, being nourished, and that acquires a lot of symbolism apart from the sensory quality.” 
This list includes food products that came out from 1940–2000. Which one came out the year you were born? And more importantly, which one brings back childhood memories?
What Food Product Came Out During Your Birth Year?
1940: Dairy Queen Soft Serve
Dairy Queen began in Joilet, Indiana, in 1940. The signature soft serve quickly spread in popularity, and the rest is history.
The company Mars invented M&Ms as candy for soldiers during the First World War. The small size of M&Ms was produced on wartime rations, and the candy coating stopped the chocolate from melting.
1942: Brooklyn Blackout Cake
This indulgent, rich cake was one of the most popular desserts sold by Brooklyn-based bakery chain Ebinger’s. The recipe was named after the wartime blackouts occurring at the time. Unfortunately, the bakery closed its doors in the 1970s.
1943: Deep-Dish Pizza
Ike Sewell of Chicago sought a new way to serve pizza to distinguish his food at Pizzeria Uno. He diverted from the typical thin-crust slices to a deep-dish version with a thick crust and cheese layered under tomato sauce and toppings. His creation is still iconic to his city to this day.
Wartime rations are a recurring theme for many of these food products. It seems like restrictions made way for creativity, and Jell-O is no exception. It remained one of the most popular snacks until the 80s.
1945: DOTS Gumdrop
Advertised as”America’s favorite, #1-selling gumdrop brand,” the flavors of these chewy DOTS stay the same as in the 40s, with lime, lemon, orange, cherry, strawberry.
Cocoa was scarce during the Second World War, so Pietro Ferrero began to experiment. Hazelnuts grew in abundance where he lived in Italy, so he mixed them with cocoa to create the iconic spread. He named it Giandujot, but the name changed to Nutella in 1964.
1947: Bazooka Gum
The iconic pink bubble gum was first wrapped in patriotic red, white, and blue and a name to match the weapon used in the ware. The cute Bazooka Joe comic strips were added to the gum packages several years later.
1948: Reddi-wip Whipped Cream
Big applause to entrepreneur and inventor of whipped cream in a can, Aaron “Bunny” Lapin. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1999, at the age of 85, but he changed ice cream sundaes, pies, and quick-standing-by-the-fridge snacks forever.
1949: McDonald’s Fries
Believe it or not, but their hamburgers used to be paired with chips. Then McDonald’s switched to French fries and never looked back since.
1950: Frozen Pizza
Although we know when frozen pizzas popped up, it’s unclear who invented them. Pizzerias in New York City and Boston both began selling frozen pizzas around the same time.
1951: Dunkin’ Donuts
Founder William Rosenberg opened his first coffee and donut shop in Quincy, Massachusetts. At first, they served coffee, pastries, and sandwiches under the name Open Kettle, but it didn’t take long for donuts to become the focal point.
1952: Diet Soda
No-Cal was a drink created for diabetics, but it was later sold to diet-conscious people too. Soon after, Pepsi, Tab, Rite, and other companies marketed their versions.
1953: Eggo Waffles
The original name was “Froffles,” named for “frozen waffles,” but it was later changed to Eggo. The catchphrase “L’eggo my Eggo” started in the ‘70s.
In 1952, Bob Born bought a small confectionery for its signature chick-shaped marshmallows. He began to mass-produce the food product. Nowadays, the company makes about four million Peeps a day!
1955: Peanut M&Ms
Yes, we already covered M&Ms, but Peanut M&Ms is the more popular version and deserved its own nod to its birth year.
1956: Cocoa Puffs
At this point, General Mills had already produced Cheerios and Trix, but they created the fruity vs. chocolate cereal debate with the release of Cocoa Puffs.
1957: The Whopper
Gotta love the prices in the 50s. For only 37 cents, people enjoyed the new Burger King’s Whopper. Co-founder Jim McLamore created it to challenge the other large burgers advertised by other local burger joints.
Potato chips were already well-established snack food products, but the Frito Company changed the game when they acquired the rights to Ruffles. The unique crinkled edges and incredible taste made them a big hit.
Reuben Mattus began to market his brand in 1959, and the ice cream game became a lot more rich and indulgent.
1960: Oatmeal Creme Pies
Here’s another food product that truly stood the test of time: the first Little Debbie snack cake. By the way, the little girl on the boxes is the founder of McKee Baking Company O.D. McKee’s granddaughter.
Sprite was created by Coca-Cola to compete with 7-Up. At first, it was named after an old Coke mascot called “Sprite Boy.” They dropped the mascot but kept the name.
1962: Goldfish Crackers
Founder of Pepperidge Farm, Margaret Rudkin, visited Switzerland and discovered adorable fish-shaped crackers a baker made for his wife, who’s a Pisces. She brought the recipe to the USA, where it was met with great success.
1963: Chips Ahoy!
Nabisco released these cookies, advertising them as tasting as good as a homemade recipe.
Post and Kellog’s competed in the breakfast market, but Kellog’s won this battle with Pop-Tars, breakfast on the go.
1965: Kraft Singles
Canadian brothers James and Norman Kraft had already perfected processed cheese loaves, but in 1965 they packaged them individually for easy convenience.
Surprisingly, Doritos were just tortilla chips at first. The iconic nacho-cheese flavor only came six years later.
By 1967, Slurpees became available in every 7-Eleven stores, with popular novelty flavors like Pink Fink and Sticky Icky.
1968: Big Mac
After the fries came the iconic McDonald’s Big Mac, invented by a Pennsylvania franchisee to satisfy customers with bigger appetites.
1969: Tic Tacs
The company behind Nutella blessed us with another delicious food product: Tic Tacs. Although they were originally called “Refreshing Mints,” but they were later renamed for the sound they make in their little containers.
1970: Orville Redenbacher Popping Corn
Believe it or not, Indiana corn grower Orville Redenbacher is a real person. He actually appeared in commercials to prove his existence while promoting his popping corn.
1971: Starbucks Coffee
This company all began with three roommates obsessed with coffee, and in 1971, the first Starbucks store opened in Seattle. At first, it sold fine teas and specialty coffee beans until it evolved into the coffee bars we know today.
1972: Quaker Oats Granola
Granola became a healthy food trend in the 70s. After all, it’s easy to transport, crunchy, sweet, and the perfect addition to yogurt or trail mixes.
1973: Cup Noodles
In 1958, Japanese entrepreneur Momofuku Ando created ramen noodles and changed the lives of college students all over the world. Then in 1973, he created Cup Noodles, ramen noodles with dehydrated veggies all in one cup.
1974: Pop Rocks
These candies were produced by scientist William A. Mitchell. People loved the sweet flavor and the popping sensation of the treats.
1975: Yoplait yogurt
Yoplait was originally a French company, but it came to the Stateside in 1975 in the midst of the healthy-eating trend. Yogurt was an automatic hit.
1976: Jelly Belly Jelly Beans
Nut and candy distributor David Klein decided to up the game of the once meh jelly beans. Together with Goetlitz Candy Company, they invented Jelly Belly jelly beans with flavors like Cream Soda and Very Cherry.
1977: Mrs. Field’s cookies
Debbi Fields opened the first store in Palo Alto, California. Today, the name is synonymous with delicious cookies hot from the oven.
1978: Ben & Jerry’s
This ice cream shop opened in a renovated gas station where it met immediate success. Their customers loved the richness of the ice cream and the unique chunks of fillings. Soon after, they began to sell their pints in grocery stores.
1979: Ring Pops
This nostalgic candy has an adorable origin story. A food product engineer created Ring Pops to help his daughter stop sucking her thumb.
1980: Jell-O Pudding Pops
Pudding cups are a popular school snack. However, these Jell-O Pudding Pops have been discontinued.
1981: Lean Cuisine Meals
Continuing the healthy-eating trend, these frozen dinners were marketed as low-calorie alternatives to the other frozen entrees. 
1982: Bagel Bites
Speaking of frozen food products, then came the frozen pizza bagels, the perfect snack to please any child after school.
From the 80s to today, everyone wants to “taste the rainbow” in a bag of Skittles. However, they were originally called Glees when they were initially manufactured in the United Kingdom.
1984: Hot Pockets
As the frozen convenience food trend continued, hot pockets entered the market. It was invented by two brothers, pleasing the generation of 90s kids.
1985: Sour Patch Kids
In case you’ve ever wondered, yes. Sour Patch Kids’ titles were inspired by Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. These candies were a hit with a chewy texture and sour flavor.
Steve Bruner created these chewy and tangy candies. They are now available in over 16 flavors, from watermelon to grape, to cherry.
1987: Snapple Iced Tea
Snapple made its name amidst the rest of the bottled drinks on the market. After all, it has a delicious flavor made from “the best stuff of Earth.”
1988: Hershey Kisses With Almonds
Crackers and cheese were already a favorite combination. However, Lunchables brought the snack together in one easy container for an easy-to-pack lunch and snack.
Dunkaroos come in a small package containing little cookies and frosting to dunk them into, thus the name. However, they were disconnected when companies got new restrictions on unhealthy food products marketed to kids.
1991: Fruit By The Foot
Created by Betty Crocker, the iconic fruit roll-ups became a favorite snack for kids. The brand also advertised tie-dye, tongue tattoo, and red and blue varieties.
Here is another ‘90s kids’ favorite snack made by Betty Crocker: Gushers. These fruit-flavored, jewel-shaped gummies appeared in lunch boxes all over the states.
1994: Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme
Hershey had already come out with its original chocolate bar. However, this Oreo-type candy bar became a favorite among white chocolate lovers in the 90s.
1995: Blue M&Ms
Yes, seriously. Before now, M&Ms were only orange, red, green, brown, yellow, and tan. In 1995, people voted for a new color between blue, purple, and pink. Of course, blue won and the rest is history.
1996: Triple Power Push Pop
Push Pops were already a major step-up for lollipops, but the company completely upped their game. Triple Power Push Pops gave customers three lollipop flavors at once. Unfortunately, this candy was discontinued.
1997: French Toast Crunch
The iconic cinnamon and maple syrup cereals were also discontinued in 2006. However, French Toast Crunch fans fought to get the cereal back, and the company relented in 2015.
1998: Cini Minis
Burger King’s breakfast cinnamon rolls have many fans. Who won’t love four pastries spread with vanilla frosting? These rolls are no longer on the menu, but they do return as short-term special items.
The yogurt craze continued, as well as the market for convenient food products. Putting these two together, Go-Gurt was a no-brainer, and consumers loved it.
2000: Gourmet Cupcakes
After watching the main character munch on cupcakes on Sex in the City, everyone went crazy for cupcakes. For instance, Manhattan’s Magnolia Bakery had lines around the block after this episode. As a result, gourmet cupcake stores opened all over the country.
- “Psychologists Explain Why Food Memories Can Feel So Powerful.” Huffpost. Julia R. Thomson. May 10, 2017
- “What Food Product Came Out the Year You Were Born?” Taste of Home. Nancy Mock. March 16, 2021
- “This Was The Biggest Snack Trend The Year You Were Born.” Women’s Health Magazine. Isadora Baum. October 8, 2020
- “Here’s What Candy Came Out The Year You Were Born.” Delish. Shana Lynch. October 30, 2018