Honey Nut Cheerios made their debut in 1979 as a supporting player in the General Mills (GIS) cast, and three decades later it overtook the star. Launched by a team that included former-Chief Executive Stephen Sanger, it was the first of 10 extensions of the venerable Cheerios brand, which now include MultiGrain, Banana Nut, and Yogurt Burst. In 2008 it finally became the top-selling cereal in the U.S.; last year it sold 102 million units (not counting sales at Wal-Mart), according to research firm SymphonyIRI Group.
In part, Honey Nut Cheerios owes its success to the U.S. Hispanic market, the fastest-growing demographic. Marketing targeted to Hispanics touted the cereal's cholesterol-fighting benefits and helped boost sales to them by 65 percent over the past three years. The brand was also likely helped by a Latino preference for sweeter products, according to the Latinum Network in Bethesda, Md. The product comes by its sweetness the old-fashioned way—it really does contain honey—although it uses "natural almond flavor," not actual nuts. —Matthew Boyle
3. Post Honey Bunches of Oats
4. Kellogg Frosted Mini Wheats
5. Kellogg Frosted Flakes
(Corrects time period in first sentence and Sanger's title in second sentence.)