Where Did Dunkaroos And Other ’90s Snack Foods Get Their Crazy Names?

The last decade of the 20th century is memorable for oh-so-many reasons. The 1990s were filled with Y2K doomsday predictions, Bill Clinton’s scandalous relations, and grunge galore. “The Rachel” haircut was hot, the O.J. Simpson trial had us mesmerized, and The Gulf War was waged.

As we watched the events of the 1990s unfurl, we chowed down on some pretty memorable snack foods, too. Organic wasn’t “in,” and besides, there were too many fantastic junk foods to devour instead. It was the era when SnackWell cookies were considered healthy, and many days started out with a bowl of Oreo O’s and a glass of Sunny D.

Here we take a look back at some of the most scrumptious snack foods of the 1990s and the meaning behind some of their delectable-sounding names. See how many you ate … and may still be eating.

Dunkaroos

Introduced by Sydney the Kangaroo in 1992, Dunkaroos were the stuff of lunchbox dreams. On one side, the package was filled with cute little cookies, and on the other was creamy, dreamy frosting. The cookies were meant to be dunked into the frosting, thus the first part of the snack's name.

Dunk means "to dip or submerge" something into another substance. It’s an Americanism that dates back to 1865–70 and comes from the Pennsylvanian German word dunke ("to dip"). The ending -aroos comes from the snack mascot, Sydney the Kangaroo.

Alas, they stopped producing Dunkaroos in the United States around 2012. But don’t despair, Dunkaroos devotees; they’re making a comeback. While they’ve been available in Australia all the while, General Mills announced earlier this year they’ll be back in the United States this summer. Get ready to dunk! 

Lunchables

Though they officially launched in 1988, the lunchboxes of the 1990s were filled with Lunchables, which soared in popularity and made kids with plain old sandwiches green with jealousy. Originally designed to sell bologna, they blossomed into a booming assortment of meats, cheeses, and crackers, and today Lunchables include pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, and chicken nuggets—all meant to be eaten cold ... yum?

While the company reportedly considered other names for the product, including On-Trays, Crackerwiches, Snackables, and Fun Mealz, it was Lunchables that stuck. 

The term lunchable is a combination of the word lunch, which was first recorded in 1585–95, and means "a meal eaten between breakfast and dinner," and -able, a suffix meaning “capable of, susceptible of, fit for, tending to, given to.” 

Warheads

Though they'd been making candy connoisseurs pucker since 1975 in Taiwan, it wasn’t until 1993 that Warheads exploded onto the US market. These supersour candies aren’t for the weak; the package even sports a warning.

Their name stems from the fact that they feel like real warheads—"the forward section of a self-propelled missile, bomb, torpedo, or the like, containing the explosive, chemical, or atomic charge"—going off in your mouth. 

They’re still around too, making people pucker on the regular.

Fruit Gushers

Fruit Gushers hit the market in 1991, and kids have been, well, gushing about them ever since. The fruit-flavored chews have a liquid fruit juice center that gushes out when chomped.

The word gush means “to flow out or issue suddenly, copiously, or forcibly, as a fluid from confinement” and also “to express oneself extravagantly or emotionally; talk effusively.” It comes from Middle English and is found since 1350–1400.

Fun geometry lesson: Fruit Gushers are shaped like elongated hexagonal bipyramids. Say that five times fast, before popping the treat into, and inside of, your mouth.

Uncrustables

For every kid who was forced to finish his entire sandwich, Uncrustables were a dream come true. These sealed, crustless sandwiches had only the best parts—the middles—with not a speck of crust in sight. 

Their name is pretty straightforward. The word crust is found as early as 1275–1325; it stems from the Latin word crusta meaning “hard coating, crust.” Un- is a prefix meaning “not.” 

Uncrustables hit the market in 1995 and have been a lunchtime staple ever since. They’ve proliferated way beyond PB&J over the years, and these days include options such as BBQ Chicken Bites and Turkey and Colby Jack Roll-Ups.

3D Doritos

Doritos weren’t new to the 1990s, but the 3D version that took these delicious tortilla chips to a whole new dimension hit the market then. Introduced in 1998, the puffy, three-dimensional chips were hollow inside and came in four flavors including Nacho Cheesier, Jalapeno & Cheddar, Texas Paprika, and Zesty Ranch. We say “were,” however, because just like the Rollitos that were introduced in the 2000s, 3D Doritos are no longer found on US shelves. 

As for the name, Doritos, it likely stems from the Spanish words dorar, meaning “to brown” and doradito meaning “golden brown.”

Yummy fact: Doritos were not the cheesy chips they are today when they first hit the shelves in 1966. They were introduced with no orange powdery flavoring, and it wasn’t until 1972 that “Nacho Cheese” Doritos were introduced. They’ve had snackers licking their fingers ever since.

Go-GURT

Yogurt in a tube? It was a novel idea when Go-GURT portable yogurts entered grocery store coolers in 1998. These fruit-flavored, grab-and-go yogurts eliminated the need for a spoon and became a tubular sensation with kids.

Their name obviously stems from go, a nod to their portability, and yogurt, which is defined as “a prepared food having the consistency of custard, made from milk curdled by the action of cultures, sometimes sweetened or flavored.” Yogurt stems from the Turkish word yoğurt. 

Fun fact: Go-GURTs were initially shaped like cones and destined to be called Fun Cones ... which just doesn’t sound as fun as Go-GURTs.  

Fruit by the Foot

The '90s were filled with a lot of fruit snacks, but none quite measured up to Fruit by the Foot. The name is a smidge misleading, as there’s no actual fruit involved. Rather it’s a fruit-flavored candy that’s made up mostly of sugar ... like everything else in the '90s.

The term fruit is defined as “any product of plant growth useful to humans or animals,” and we’re not sure Fruit by the Foot could be classified as useful, but the fact that it’s about three feet in length when unrolled (thus the “by the foot”) makes it pretty darn impressive anyways. 

Created in 1991 and still popular today, Fruit by the Foot comes in a variety of flavors and editions introduced over the years.

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