We all know him. He’s the oatstess with the moatstess, the cream of the crop (specifically the oat crop), the “It” girl of the oat world—he’s the Quaker Oats guy.
But who is the Quaker Oats guy really? What’s his name? Is it Gus? What’s his story? And does he actually have anything to do with the iconic oats we know and love? Let’s dive in.
Who is the Quaker Oats guy?
Turns out his name is not Gus. It’s also not William Penn, namesake of Pennsylvania, even though that has been a persistent rumor due to their striking aesthetic similarities. No, it turns out that the Quaker man on the ubiquitous oat brand’s packaging is simply called “Larry” by those in the know. And, what’s more, he isn’t a real person. The folks at PepsiCo, which owns Quaker Oats, even go out of their way to specify in their website FAQs that, “The ‘Quaker man’ is not an actual person. His image is that of a man dressed in the Quaker garb, chosen because the Quaker faith projected the values of honesty, integrity, purity, and strength.”
Okay, so if it’s not a real guy, why did they put a Quaker on their packaging?
You’d think it would be because the company was started by Quakers, right? Wrong. Turns out because Quakers were known for telling the truth, back in the late 19th century people would pretend to be Quakers or pretend to be affiliated with Quakers in order to more effectively sell things. In 1877, an oat company in Ohio submitted to the Patent Office “a figure of a man in ‘Quaker garb,’” which, coincidentally, was the first trademark for a breakfast cereal. At the time, oats weren’t popular in the U.S. since they’d traditionally been fed to horses in Europe and were generally seen as a lower-class food, so the Quaker Mills company quickly went bankrupt. Shortly afterward, it was bought, and the brand did a giant advertising push for Quaker Oatmeal (the first-ever breakfast cereal advertising, by the way—Larry walked so Tony the Tiger could run).
Today, Quaker Oats is huge. One might even say it’s the biggest oatmeal company out there—and the one who said that would be right. And although a recent poll indicates that one in five Americans regularly skip breakfast, I think vegans, gym bros, and health nuts everywhere will keep oats alive for some time yet. Also, oatmeal cookies exist so I don’t imagine we’ll be forgetting about oats any time soon. If you’re itchin’ to try some Quaker Oats and spend your mornings eye to eye with Larry, Quaker makes quick oats, flavored instant oatmeal, granola bars, breakfast bars, cold cereals, and more these days, so you can definitely get your Larry fix without having to eat just straight-up oatmeal.
Well, we’ve learned a lot here today. I’m not going to lie, writing this has inspired me to go get some oats just for the Larry of it all—because there’s always room in the budget for a little bit of oats and a whole lot of Larry.