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First Mover Advantage & PopTarts


Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts. We’ve all had them. They are a huge staple in the breakfast market.

Who hasn’t “popped” one in the toaster on their way out the door (or, to be honest, skipped the toaster for a quicker -- although inferior -- option).


While I’m sure there are knock off brands for Pop-Tarts (as there are for most products), the pop-tarts we know and love is produced and sold under the Kellogg’s brand.


How did Kellogg’s come up with the idea for a packaged pastry? They copied it!


Turns out the brand Post was actually the first to come up with a long-lasting-pastry-in-a-bag-breakfast. They called them Country Squares. They developed the process of storing food in a package that keeps it fresh using the example of dog food… but that makes them sound gross, so let’s ignore that.


So, where did Post go wrong? They made the mistake (in retrospect) of telling people about it but then not putting them on the shelves immediately.


Six months after Post made the announcement of their new breakfast food… Kellogg’s had a new pastry treat available BEFORE Post had started shipping their products out.


Pop-tarts were immediately a hit.


One of the possible reasons that pop-tarts were so popular was that women were entering the labor force in greater numbers during that time (mid 1960’s on). If two parents were working and trying to get kids fed and out the door to school, then a quick packaged pastry treat was pretty handy to have! For some cool graphs on labor force participation of women in the U.S. and other countries, check out this Our World in Data article. https://ourworldindata.org/female-labor-supply)


Pop-tarts continue to be popular. According to this WSJ article, pop-tart sales have gone up every year for the past 32 years! That’s quite a record. 2014: “Sales of Pop-Tarts have gone up each year for the past 32.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/amid-kale-and-quinoa-pop-tarts-keep-hanging-on-1410305326


How did pop-tarts do during the pandemic? Pretty well! At least at first! Remember those early pandemic days of buying canned goods because you weren’t sure if you were going to be able to go to the grocery store? Non-perishable products such as ramen noodles were in high demand (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-03/-restricted-living-sparks-online-ramen-frenzy-for-walmart). Pop-tarts were the same. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kellogg-results-idUSKBN2AB1IK I’m curious whether the demand for pop-tarts stayed strong as people started working from home and presumably had more time to sit down for breakfast when not rushing out the door…


So, what happened to Country Squares? Post ended up selling their marketing rights to them. They lost the battle to Kellogg’s


So… moral of the story. If you have a great idea you are ready to launch… wait until you are ready to put the product on the shelves before telling everyone. Firms will respond and produce their own version. Patents and copyrights can prevent people from producing an exact replica of something, but a new and popular idea will definitely be followed! So, if you can have a first mover advantage… go for it!


For more on this Pop-Tart / Country Squares battle, and fun facts about Pop-Tarts check out this Mashed article: https://www.mashed.com/117295/untold-truth-pop-tarts/ and this Huffington Post article: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/best-selling-poptarts-flavors_n_5836520



Homemade Pop-Tarts


Homemade pop-tarts are quite easy! I haven’t tried putting them in the toaster yet, but even without that they are much better than the store-bought packaged kind.


What you need:


Pie crust dough (store bought or homemade).

If homemade:


1.5 cups (187 grams) flour

1.5 Tbs. sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup ice water


Filling


Choose your jam of choice! I did cherry preserves


Icing


1 cup flour

1 Tbsp. milk (add more in 1/2 tsp. amounts if too thick)

1/2 tsp. almond extract (can use vanilla if you want).


Steps:


Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl for the pie crust. Cut in the butter (take two knives and cut the butter into pieces, but you want to leave some pieces in fairly large chunks). Stir in the ice water, and using your hands combine the dough into a ball. It is best if you then refrigerate your dough for about 1/2 an hour.


Once the dough is chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface. I used a playing card to determine the size of the pop-tart (an index card, or something like that would also work). Roll out and cut an even number of pieces of dough.


On 1/2 of your rectangular pieces, add about 2 tablespoons of jam and spread it out, but leave about 1/2 an inch on every edge.


Add the second piece of dough on top and using a fork, seal the pop-tarts together.


Bake at a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden color on the outside.


Once the baked pastries have cooled, then add the icing on top.


Then you are done! Enjoy!


These can easily be made the night before so that you can serve them for breakfast or brunch in the morning.