Wonder Bread was originally produced by the Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis, Indiana and debuted on May 21, 1921, after a blind promotion with ads that only stated a "Wonder" was coming on May 21, 1921. When it was launched, the new brand was named by vice president for merchandising development Elmer Cline, who was inspired by the International Balloon Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Cline was filled with "wonder" by the scene of hundreds of balloons creating a kaleidoscope of color resulting in the iconic red, yellow and blue balloons featured on the Wonder Bread logo. The logo was designed by commercial artist Drew Miller while he was on staff at a Chicago ad agency.
Taggart was purchased by Continental Baking in 1925. This made Wonder Bread a national brand and added "It's Slo Baked" to the logo. In the 1930s, Continental Baking began shipping Wonder Bread in sliced form, one of the first companies to do so and a significant milestone for the industry and for American consumers, who, at first, needed reassurance that "wonder-cut" bread would not dry out. Unsliced bread returned for a while during World War II due to a steel shortage that led to an industry-wide slicing suspension in 1943. Bread slicers returned two years later.
During the 1940s, Continental Baking began adding vitamins and minerals to Wonder Bread as part of a government-sponsored program of enriching white bread which was notoriously deficient in vitamin and mineral content, to combat certain diseases. Known as the "Quiet Miracle", this development is credited with greatly reducing the incidence of the diseases Beriberi and Pellagra. Wonder was also the first national bread brand to feature open-dating as well as nutrition information on its packaging. In the 1950s, Wonder Bread further expanded advertising of its nutrient enrichments. The company sponsored Howdy Doody with host Buffalo Bob Smith telling the audience, "Wonder Bread builds strong bodies 8 ways. Look for the red, yellow and blue balloons printed on the wrapper." By the 1960s, Wonder Bread was advertised with the slogan "Helps build strong bodies 12 ways," referring to the number of added nutrients. In 1986, the lower-calorie Wonder Light bread was introduced.
In 1995, Continental Baking was bought by Interstate Bakeries Corporation, now known as Hostess Brands. In 2004, Interstate Bakeries declared bankruptcy, putting the future of Wonder Bread in some doubt. In February 2009 Interstate Bakeries emerged from bankruptcy marking a "new beginning" for the baking company. In 2012, Hostess Brands declared Chapter 11.
In 2006 Wonder was one of the first bread brands to introduce whole grain white breads such as Wonder Made with Whole Grain White as a bread that appeals to consumers who love the taste of white bread but who are looking for more nutrition. These breads are made with an albino wheat variety that doesn't have the harsh taste of whole red-wheat flour.
On August 28, 2007, it was announced that Interstate Bakeries would soon end production of Wonder Bread in the Southern California market, leading to a loss of 1,300 jobs. This is due to the judgment in the suit and a decline in sales, as Southern Californians in particular are partial to whole-grain breads and "premium" loaves. As of September 2009, Wonder Bread and other Hostess Brands breads such as Home Pride returned to Southern California supermarkets in response to significant consumer demand. In connection with the re-introduction, the company donated thousands of loaves of bread to the San Diego Food Bank and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to support their missions of providing food to people in need, advocating for the hungry and advancing human caring.
In August 2009 Wonder reformulated its Wonder Classic and Wonder Classic Sandwich bread varieties to include more calcium and vitamin D. Two slices of Wonder Classic and Wonder Classic Sandwich bread now provide 30% of the daily recommended intake of calcium, the same amount as 8 oz of milk.
Wonder 100% Whole Wheat (16oz variety) qualifies for the Women, Children & Infants program in most states.
In March 2010 Wonder extended its line of bread products for families who prefer the taste of white bread but want more nutrition, with the addition of Wonder Smartwhite a new bread with the taste and soft texture of white bread – but with the fiber of 100% whole wheat bread.
Wonder bread also recently launched its first national advertising campaign in years titled "Always Wonder". The campaign reminds moms that new Wonder Smartwhite offers the nutrition families are looking for today. The creative campaign plays off the phrase "you wonder," by showing kids doing quirky things, and adds that one thing you don't have to wonder about is the goodness of new Wonder.