WTF are Bugles?

Mornings can be rough when you’re a parent. There are no day offs. No real moments alone. Just a legal requirement to keep your child alive. So, when it’s 8am and you aren’t entirely awake yet, your judgement can slip a bit. I realized this when my son was sitting with little triangular Bugles on his fingers. Not a care in the world. 

It’s weird that we instinctively do that, right? Bugles fingers. 

My kid was satisfied and I got to dip into the Nacho Cheese Bugles in our cupboard. They were pretty good. Unique texture. Really, nothing like it. Which is what got me thinking — what the f*** are Bugles?

Bugles are a North American snack food by General Mills and can be found in grocery stores and Dollaramas across the USA, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, France, South Korea, Thailand, and several more countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Bugles were among three snacks which were launched by General Mills in 1964, although its siblings, the cheddar-flavoured Whistles and the flower shaped Daisy’s, both failed within a couple years. 

May 18, 1964 press release — provided by General Mills

There are four core flavours of Bugles — Original, Nacho Cheese, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Caramel, but a number of different varieties have been released over the years, largely dependent on where they are being released. Past flavours have ranged from sour cream and onion, salsa, hot buffalo, and barbecue, to Korean kimchi, spring onion, tomato seafood, roasted rib and seaweed. 

Each variety of Bugle has their own ingredient list, but the common elements are yellow corn meal, coconut oil, sugar, salad, baking soda and BHT. You’re basically eating puffed cornmeal. At the very least they’re vegan and contain no hydrogenated oils. Still not exactly healthy (they are a snack food after all), but they’re no Crispers

Interestingly, there was a period I can remember not being able to get Bugles in Canada. General Mills had stopped selling the snack food here in 2008 and their return to shelves in 2012 marked one of the first times a Facebook campaign had successfully forced a major corporation into a corner. It’s something I take great pride in largely because General Mills is a terrible, soulless company. 

Since 1964, Bugles had been cooked up at the same plant in West Chicago, Illinois. That was until General Mills closed the facility in 2017. The company had claimed it was part of a broader cost-cutting effort throughout the company, but 500 employees lost their jobs. It wasn’t just the Bugles line either, as people who worked on Hamburger Helper and Cinnamon Toast Crunch were also laid off. If you check out the company’s Glass Door page you’ll see that its reputation isn’t one of the worst but by no means the best. There’s a disposability to the way General Mills treats their people that is borderline ironic given their product lines. 

Having scoured the internet for whatever details on Bugles I can glean I’ve come to a similar conclusion to that of Crispers. It’s a snack food that has a weird history and should only be consumed in moderation. Or, I suppose you can just wear them on your fingers.

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