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Pudgy, squishy and temptingly pinchable – words that describe not only the perfect piece of dough but also the mascot of flour brand Pillsbury. The rotund, anthropomorphic “Dough Boy” has been associated with the flour brand for over half a century. According to Pillsbury lore, the mascot idea was born when a Leo Burnett copywriter was testing the dough in his kitchen. Since then, Doughboy has starred in 600 ads and has promoted over 50 Pillsbury products. 

Fresh start

Pillsbury originally sold dry goods, focusing mainly on flour, but eventually diversified to cake mixes, biscuit mixes, pasta, etc. In 1965, it forayed into refrigerated dough products with the launch of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.

Rudy Perez, a copywriter working for Leo Burnett, was assigned the Pillsbury account for the new product. Perez, tasked with designing a mascot for the brand, pictured a humanoid dough emerging from a can of refrigerated Pillsbury Crescent Rolls can.

Perez envisioned him with a cherubic face, blue eyes, a scarf, and a chef’s hat to give him some character. He also imagined letting out a gratified chuckle “hoo-hoo” whenever someone poked his doughy stomach.

The design was brought to life by Milt Schaffer, who also worked for Disney. Perez initially worried about the mascot looking too similar to Casper the Friendly Ghost, given its cherubic appearance and white colour; however, Schaffer ensured that the mascot bore no resemblance to the much-loved cartoon character.

Leo Burnett teamed up with Los Angeles-based Cascade Studios to animate the mascot with stop-motion clay animation.

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With a single second of the film comprising 24 shots, it was a tall task to bring the character to life. Only in 1992 did the company replace stop-motion with CGI animation.

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Over 50 voice actors auditioned for the role of the legendary mascot, and eventually, Paul Frees was selected.

Fresh facts

Widely known simply as Pillsbury Doughboy, the pudgy little mascot was originally christened Poppin Fresh. He introduces himself in the mascot’s first commercial aired on November 7, 1965: “I’m Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy!”

He is known as “El Masin” in Latin America, “Teigmännchen” in German-speaking countries, and “Efi” in Israel.

The child-like appearance of the mascot was meant to evoke feelings of friendliness, charm and trust among consumers. Over the years, Doughboy’s role underwent a change from being just a mascot to a kitchen helper, offering encouraging words to the ladies and lending a helping hand to them. Eventually, in the ads, he went on to explain new product attributes such as resealable packages.

 “His durability lies in human involvement ……That’s why you have to give him a meaningful role within the context of each commercial as if he were the lead player in a 30-second drama. And it all has to be cute and human,” said Leo Burnett about the icon. 

Being a mascot for a flour brand may seem like a boring proposition. Still, Poppin has been a dynamic character, donning hats of an opera singer, rapper, rock star, painter, dancer, skydiver, skateboarder and many more. He’s even been a cuckoo inside a cuckoo clock. 

Poppin endeared himself to the American public. By 1968, he could be picked out by 9 out of 10 people, giving him a recognition factor similar to US presidents. According to General Mills, which owns Pillsbury, the mascot had an 87% recognition factor among consumers within three years of its introduction. With all the years that have passed, the recall has only gotten stronger.

The mascot, who recently turned 58, is listed among the top 10 ad icons in the Museum of Broadcast Communications. In 1999, he was ranked 6 among by the Advertising Age.

He even got a wife “Poppy Fresh”, created by Perez’s colleague Carol H Williams. She had the same cherubic features as her husband, complete with blue eyes and chubby cheeks. While her husband Poppin was a mascot for the dough products, Poppy endorsed Pillsbury’s sweet products like Danishes.

Even back then, the ad executives were aware of the semantics of using a female mascot, and for the sake of consent and Poppy’s modesty, she was never poked in the belly like her husband.

The brood eventually increased and the couple went on to have two children: Popper and Bun Bun. Other characters were later added to the Dough Boy universe such as Granmommer (the grandma), Granpopper (the grandfather), Flapjack (the pet dog), Biscuit (the pet cat) and Uncle Rollie (the uncle).

Meet the Pillsbury Doughboy's Family! | HuffPost Contributor

The Fresh family was so beloved by the masses they were turned into vinyl toys in 1972.

Pillsbury comes to India

The brand entered the Indian market in 1996 with Pillsbury Chakki Fresh Atta, becoming the pioneer of packaged wheat flour in India. The product became an instant hit among housewives who loved the convenience of buying readymade atta instead of the long and arduous process of drying and cleaning the grains and grinding them at the “chakki” or flour mill.

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A part of the product’s success in India can be attributed to the Doughboy who starred in the TVCs, helping housewives make piping hot rotis. Indians were quick to connect with the cute mascot who retained his distinct “hoo-hoo” laugh on being poked in the belly even in the Hindi commercials. More importantly, it created an instant recall for the brand thanks to Poppin’s endearing screen presence. 

The universally endearing traits of an innocent face, rotund belly and child-like chuckle made Pillsbury Doughboy the icon he is today worldwide. Even more than half a century later, he continues to create instant recall for the brand. 

Conflicting stories?

Recently, Chris Richmond, the founder and president of Moving Pillsbury Forward, said that he found an early prototype of the Doughboy, scribbled on a piece of paper at the Springfield plant of the company.

A close-up of what may be an early image of the Pillsbury Doughboy. Chris Richmond, founder and CEO of Moving Pillsbury Forward, found the image on a control panel at the abandoned site of a mill in Springfield, Illinois, once operated by Pillsbury.

According to Richmond, the drawing was made before General Mills’ origin story and could conflict with the company’s account. The owners of the plant have hired a patent and trademark attorney to shed more light on the origins of the mascot. 


The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. (2007). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

General Mills website