William Post, who helped create pop-tarts, dies at 96

William Post, who helped create pop-tarts, dies at 96

William Post, a businessman credited with a major role in the invention of Pop-Tarts, a classic American snack and cultural touchstone with a seductive sweetness and simplicity, died Saturday in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was 96 years old.

His son, Dan Post, said he died of heart failure in a senior living community.

Post ran the baking plant that developed the first Pop-Tarts for Kellogg’s in 1964, his son said. The snack quickly became a popular treat for many people in the United States, including Mr. Post’s children, who were among the first to try it.

Today, billions of Pop-Tarts are sold each year, according to Kellogg’s. They have also been represented in muralsexhibited in museums and parodied by “Saturday night live.” And later this year they will star in “Unfrosed: The Story of Pop Tart”, a ridiculous chronicle of the ’60s race to win the breakfast pastry war, led by comedian (and Pop-Tarts enthusiast) Jerry Seinfeld.

Over the past 60 years, Pop-Tarts have expanded from four flavors to more than 30. But they’ve also kept the classic shape that has made them an American institution: two thin layers of dry rectangular dough with a sweet, glazed filling.

William Post was born June 27, 1927 in Grand Rapids. He was one of seven children of Henry Post and Johanna Jongsta, Dutch immigrants. His father, who was self-employed, drove a truck that he used to empty the ashes that people took out of their coal ovens.

He attended Grand Rapids Christian High School while working part-time on the wash trucks for Hekman Biscuit Company. A year after his graduation in 1945, he was drafted into the Army Air Corps in occupied Japan.

After completing his military service, he returned to his part-time job, began studying at Calvin College and began a 72-year marriage to Florence Schut, who died in 2020, his son said. Mr. Post left college in 1950 and became a full-time personnel manager at Hekman, which later became part of the Keebler Company.

When Kellogg’s approached Mr. Post in 1964, he was managing the Hekman plant in Grand Rapids. At the time, Kellogg’s competitor Post was creating a toasted pie called “Country Squares,” which was later called “Toast’em Pop Ups.” Executives at Kellogg’s, which sold cereal, asked Mr. Post if his plant would have the capacity to create a similar product.

“Being the absolutely positive person that he was,” his son Dan recalled, “he said, ‘absolutely, give me two weeks.’”

There were “a lot of naysayers” and some of his friends said Pop-Tarts “weren’t such a good idea,” Post said. he told WWMTa television station serving western Michigan, in 2021. He ignored them and formed a team to create what Kellogg’s wanted.

During those two weeks, he offered prototypes to his children at various stages of the product’s development, his son said.

“They went from cardboard to a cake,” he said. “She would bring samples home almost every day and say, ‘Kids, try this,’” she added. “We’d say, ‘This isn’t so good.’ After two weeks, we said, ‘Hey, these are pretty good.'”

After Post brought the recipe to Kellogg’s, the company sold its first shipment in Cleveland.

Kellogg’s had originally considered calling Pop-Tarts “fruit muffins.” But its final name, coined by one of Kellogg’s executives, William LaMothe, was inspired by the pop culture movement of the time: “Pop Art.”

The first Pop-Tarts were not frozen. The cherry on top was added a few years later, when Mr. Post came up with the idea, according to his son.

“I said to our superintendent: Hey, why don’t you take some Pop Tarts and put them under that ice cream?” Mr. Post said in a video published earlier this year by Kellanova, the corporate name currently used by Kellogg’s. He faced skeptics who believed the frosting would melt in the toaster, but it didn’t. “The decision to make ice cream in all four flavors took one day,” he said.

As Pop-Tarts became an increasingly important part of his work, Mr. Post moved to Illinois in 1967 to begin working at Keebler’s corporate offices, where he became senior vice president.

He retired at age 56, but continued to work as a consultant for Kellogg’s until he was 76. He was also involved in his church and served as a board member for schools, churches, and a local YMCA.

In addition to his son, Mr. Post is survived by his daughter, Rachel DeYoung, as well as four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

kellogg’s history of pop tart on its website cites Mr. LaMothe, the president, as having the idea of ​​a “toaster-ready rectangle” and asking Joe Thompson to create it. He doesn’t mention Mr. Post.

But after Mr. Post’s death, the company said in a statement: “He played an important role in co-creating the iconic Pop-Tarts brand.”

Post told his Pop-Tarts story to 80-year-old students, his son said. He often talked about being the son of immigrants who barely spoke English and challenged students to do their best and work hard. He would also bring them samples of his unlimited supply of Pop-Tarts.

Every time he walked into a classroom, his son recalled, he would tell students, “’If you want attention, always do more than expected.’”

Victor Mather contributed reporting.

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John C. Johnson

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