Ugly Sweater Pop-Tarts: How Did We Get Here? A Decades-Old Trend Appears in Unexpected Places

Ugly Sweater Pop-tarts and Sugar Cookie Cookies on table

Dec. 18, 2019
By Elizabeth Walker, Walmart Corporate Affairs

If you’re of a certain age, you probably have childhood memories of an adult in your life (perhaps a grandmother or your fourth-grade teacher) wearing a holiday sweater. These knit sweaters, worn in earnest, often involved a pom-pom or applique, and they were almost always hideous. (Like, did people think they looked good? We have questions.)

These days, children are making memories of their millennial parents wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, but that’s because ugly Christmas sweaters are A Thing. Trends in sweaterdom include mixed media (contrasting prints, lots of tinsel), cheeky slogans (“Sleigh All Day!”) and adorbs animals. The pullovers are loud, tacky and worn ironically by men and women to what has developed into a ubiquitous holiday event, the Ugly Sweater Party.

Ugly sweaters from Walmart

Walmart’s buying team has built out the ugly sweater assortment so that customers can find the perfectly tacky garment they seek without blowing the holiday budget. Associate buyer Allie Harris said, “I think our customers love Walmart’s sweater assortment because we give them true Christmas craziness that they can’t find anywhere else at a better price.”

This year, Harris has seen trends that range from subtle – think Fair Isle – to loud.

I don’t think these Christmas sweaters speak to customers so much as they yell their names as they walk by.
Allie Harris, Associate buyer

As the ugly sweater trend has blossomed, it has begun to appear in unexpected places – party supplies, pets, ornaments and even food. This year, Walmart is carrying an Ugly Sweater Cookie Kit, containing cookies and decorating supplies.

But of all the unusual takes on the ugly sweater trend, there is none so surprising as the Ugly Sweater Pop-Tarts.

Yes, you read that right.

Ugly Sweater Pop-Tarts are sugar cookie-flavored toaster pastries with images of cartoon animals wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. The animal lineup includes a sloth, a flamingo and a llama, all with quirky-cool seasonal accessories. Wondering how Kellogg came up with such a hipster mashup? Same. Hard same.

Augusta in an Ugly Sweater holding a Pop-tart

“The limited-edition Ugly Sweater version of Pop-Tart Sugar Cookie was born from the desire to take a popular, winning seasonal flavor, Sugar Cookie, and add extra relevance and personality to it. We looked at a range of holiday ideas and settled on Ugly Sweater for its cultural relevance with our younger Gen X and Millennial consumers. The playful nature of the mix-and-match pastries is quirky and matches the Pop-Tarts’ ingenious personality,” said Phil Schaffer, senior director of marketing for Pop-Tarts.

Whether it’s found in an actual ugly sweater or in an ugly sweater Pop-Tart, this trend comes down to one thing: nostalgia. Ugly sweaters remind millennial and Gen Z customers of auld lang syne, with Gram in her pullover and sugar cookies warm from the oven. Now, they are ready to create new memories together while eating Pop-Tarts as hors d'oeuvres and document it all for the other ‘Gram (Insta).

Everything old is new again.


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