Carnation Breakfast Bars Fed A Generation

Sweet, filling, and gritty but in a good way

You don't hear much nostalgia for Carnation Breakfast Bars, but they are a touchstone of the 1980s that can bring a misty look back into the eye of many a Gen X-er. We were a generation of latchkey children, and we ate Carnation Breakfast Bars after school, after walking home alone and letting ourselves into the house with our own house key. 

It felt so grown up, so mature, to go home and let yourself in and fix yourself a snack without adult intervention. But it felt lonely, too. And as long as we were unsupervised, we were tempted to get an unhealthy sweet treat. Who would know? 
Our parents knew, which is why they bought us Carnation Breakfast Bars.

Prior to Carnation Breakfast Bars, you basically had only two options: Nature Valley Granola Bars (healthy but oh so boring and unappealing to a little kid) or Pop Tarts (delicious and kid-friendly, but decidedly NOT parent-approved). Carnation Breakfast Bars were a middle step: an ostensibly healthy and filling snack, coated in chocolate and given candy-like flavors. 
The wrappers were crinkly, and featured a classic 1980s shade of mustard. The bars were surprisingly hefty, dense for their size, with more protein than you might expect. Their texture was finely milled, and distinctively gritty. 
My own memories of Carnation Breakfast Bars are inextricably intertwined with my memories of watching Star Trek: The Original Series re-runs on television. I walked to my father's house after school (it was closer to school than my mother's house) and let myself in. He always had several boxes of Carnation Breakfast Bars in the pantry (if little else). 
I helped myself to two or three Carnation Breakfast Bars (hopefully he had remembered to buy the kind with tiny chocolate chips) and sacked out on the couch. Bonanza came on first, and I zoned out while reading comics or flipping through the newspaper to pass the time. 
(This was back when most people subscribed to the newspaper, because how else would you learn about what was happening in the world?)
Then Star Trek came on at 4, and I would watch an episode while eating my Breakfast Bars. My father was home around 5, after Star Trek had given way to the local news. He gave me a lift home in time for my mother to get home for dinner, my afternoon hunger needs safely contained thanks to Breakfast Bars.
Why did they quit making these? I seem to remember that they lost out to Kudos bars when those made an appearance, and Carnation shifted its marketing focus to those horrible powders you mix into a glass of milk. BRING BACK THE BREAKFAST BAR!

Image copyright Nestle/Carnation


Joel Cawthon's picture

Joel Cawthon

To see them return. I signed an online petition about it and just checked back after many years to see if anything came of it. Does anyone know of any in the world that taste like the Carnation ones. I tried dozens of them but they all taste like dirt. Some from Finland were pretty good though called Nutrillett. I want to taste more flavors to see if there's a better one.


Kim P's picture

Kim P

Please keep posted if we have a prayer of ever getting them again...I also have tried many none which live up to the original


Anonymous's picture


Man, I *totally* miss those things. "Gritty in a good way," is a perfect descriptor. They had a nice, understated, not-over-sweet taste. And yea, they had heft. They were like a snack *and* a meal. A sneal, if you will (although I wouldn't, given how unappetizing that term sounds. Oh well, I tried.)


jz's picture


My brother and i actually had to hide these from each other. Haha. Try kellogg's special k protein chocolate peanut butter meal bars. Closest in taste that I've found. If memory serves!


Mike's picture


Got some Market Pantry peanut butter bars from Target. Closest thing I've found (if memory serves), but I'll try the Special K ones too!


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