Dylan Reeve revisits a childhood breakfast food betrayal in an attempt to settle the Weet-Bix score once and for all.
One recent morning, while watching my kids enjoy their Weet-Bix* one of the many advertising jingles of my childhood popped into my head. “Kiwi kids… are Weet-Bix kids…” Just like that, it all came flooding back.
I was on the lower playground of my primary school, probably playing bullrush or some other illicit game. It was early 1991. We were singing various TV jingles from Polar Pops (“I’m the Polar Pop bear…”), to Bournvita (“Better better better better better by far…”), to Bluebird (“Bird bird bird, Bluebird’s the word…”) and more, saving the best for last, of course. “Kiwi kids… are Weet-Bix kids…” we chanted over and over, until Brendan interrupted.
“Actually,” he said, “Aussie kids are Weet-Bix kids too!”
Brendan had recently come back from a trip to Australia with his parents to visit family. We all knew this because he’d brought various koala and kangaroo toys to school to show us and, frankly, he never shut up about it.
“When I was in Australia,” continued Brendan in a tone we were all pretty used to, “I saw an ad for Weet-Bix. They sing ‘Aussie kids are Weet-Bix kids’ over there.”
We didn’t want to believe him. Did Australians even have Weet-Bix? How would they get them over there? But then one of us tried it out. “Aus-sie kids…” It worked. The same tune and timing, it seemed like it could be possible.
It was a betrayal.
For ages, we’d been told that Weet-Bix made us special. We were innately connected to the crunchy and, let’s be honest, not that tasty breakfast biscuits. They were the building blocks of a Kiwi kid. We ate them. Sporting heroes ate them. It was a point of childhood national pride.
Now it turned out we weren’t that special at all. Apparently, Aussie kids were also Weet-Bix kids. Did their rugby players eat Weet-Bix too? It was upsetting, but we were forced to come to terms with it.
Until this morning, 27 years later. As the betrayal came rushing back, I had a sudden sick feeling… what if we weren’t the original Weet-Bix kids? What if it was the Australians that were the real Weet-Bix kids and we were the pretenders?
I wanted to know for sure, so I did the obvious thing… I went to YouTube.
This was the ad I remembered… December 1990, apparently. That seemed about right. What about the thieves from across the water?
Oh dear. A totally different jingle, but the slogan’s definitely there. And this ad is apparently from 1987. Could it be?
Google searches weren’t especially fruitful, although I did learn that the Australians are really laying claim to being Weet-Bix Kids now: they revived the slogan and campaign in 2016.
Sanitarium New Zealand had taken a shot at identifying Weet-Bix Kids in 2010 with their ‘Nothing Stops A Weet-Bix Kid’ campaign, but they were no longer seemed willing to brand us all as Weet-Bix Kids.
I had no choice, I had to go to the source. Jaclyn at Sanitarium media relations didn’t know the answer, but seemed to relate to my heartbreak. “I think they might have run at the same time,” she offered, but I was having none of it. I had our ad from 1990 and the 1987 Australian one. “Hmm,” she said, “I’m not sure who might know, but I’ll see what I can find out and I’ll get back to you.”
An hour or so later, an email arrived from Sanitarium. Jaclyn enclosed a timeline of Weet-Bix in New Zealand which firmly planted the Kiwi Kids campaign as beginning in 1986.
“We are quite confident that it was 1986 here in NZ when the TVC launched as ‘Kiwi Kids are Weet-Bix Kids’,” Jaclyn wrote, “and unless our Australian counterparts can prove otherwise for their 1987 date on YouTube for ‘Aussie Kids are Weet-Bix Kids’, then we will claim that one.”
And there we have it: New Zealand did it first!
What? Right of reply? Journalistic ethics? FINE! I emailed Sanitarium Australia’s media relations people to see what they might know.
“That’s the age-old question, isn’t it?” Corrina replied a short while later, but she didn’t have any solid answers. “I’ll talk to our team here to see whether we can shed any more light on this for you,” she offered.
By the following day I was fairly sure the Australians were ghosting me in the hopes I’d stop digging. But then, late in the day, an email arrived from Sydney.
“Our history books over here in Australia say it was 1985 that Sanitarium launched the ‘Aussie kids are Weet-Bix kids’ jingle,” Corrina offered, “pipping New Zealand by a year.” My heart sank. It seemed that Aussie kids really were the original Weet-Bix Kids. I considered deleting the whole article and burying this sad truth, but then Corrina put it in perspective for me.
“Millions of Aussies are proud to call themselves Weet-Bix kids – wearing the title like a badge of honour, a quintessential expression of what it means to be Australian,” she wrote. “Their shock and dismay if it were ever to be proven that Kiwi kids were the first Weet-Bix kids – or even that Kiwi kids identify as Weet-Bix kids at all – would bring into question their entire identity. Or would it serve to bring the two rival nations closer? Perhaps in all of us being Weet-Bix kids, we’re not too different after all?”
She was right. We can all be Weet-Bix Kids – we do, of course, have more in common than we’d like to admit.
But from now on I’ll be eating my Weet-Bix** covered with pavlova and swimming in flat white.
* Not actually Weet-Bix, but Pam’s Wheat Biscuits, given that Sanitarium – wholly owned by the Seventh Day Adventist church – pay no tax on their earnings, so I try not to buy their products. Except some of their Lisa’s dips. Those things are AMAZING.
** See first note.