Nothing says summer like a cold pitcher of powdered drink mix, ready to stave off dehydration and quench the thirst after a day of playing in the hot sun. At mere pennies a serving, these colorful and fruity concoctions have been a favorite of parents and kids alike for decades. Of course, we all know who the leader of the pack is, with their familiar mascot ready to burst through a wall at the first mention of his name, but even a star as recognizable as the Kool-Aid Man had to contend with a worthy competitor in the 60s and 70s, a fondly-remembered drink mix called Funny Face.
Introduced by Pillsbury in 1964, Funny Face came out of the gate strong, offering an assortment of seven flavors, each with their own character on the package. In order to win the approval of parents, the product didn’t contain sugar. Good strategies, both of them, but the product mascots and the choice of sugar substitutes would eventually lead to a fair share of controversy.
Five of the original flavors were innocuous enough – Lefty Lemon, Goofy Grape, Loud-mouth Lime, Freckle Face Strawberry and Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry. The other two, Chinese Cherry and Injun Orange, didn’t exactly thrill members of the Asian and Native-American communities. They responded with protests and Pillsbury wisely changed the offending flavors to Choo Choo Cherry and Jolly Olly Orange.
Furthermore, the choice of artificial sweeteners was problematic. The company originally chose a substance called cyclamate, but within a few years, it was deemed dangerous by the FDA and Funny Face was pulled from store shelves. After a bit of reformulation, the product returned with good ol’ saccharin in its place, and also offered an unsweetened version so consumers could add their sweetener of choice. Eventually, larger packages of Funny Face were made available that contained sugar.
For a decade or so, Funny Face rivaled Kool-Aid in popularity, with many a kid preferring the welcoming cartoon faces on each package. In 1972, Pillsbury even added vitamin C to give the drink a little more nutritional value than the competition. Still, there could only be one winner in the powdered beverage wars and, by the end of the 70s, Funny Face was all but defeated. They attempted a comeback in the early 80s, with a flavor called Moo Joice, which was actually a chocolate flavor that you added to milk. It didn’t catch on and that was pretty much the end of the Funny Face brand on store shelves.
Not in the hearts of millions of former kids, however, who still have plenty of fond memories of an ice-cold pitcher of Funny Face on a hot summer day. If you are one of those, we’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section, as we pay tribute to an extinct drink mix that may be gone, but is certainly not forgotten.