February 7, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Joseph Vlasic

It was Joseph Vlasic’s reputation as a milkman that made his name the best known name in pickles in America. Born in 1904, Vlasic acquired an inconsequential night milk run in Detroit while still in his teens. Within ten years he had built the business into Michigan’s largest wholesale milk company.

In 1937 a small Detroit picklemaker suggested that Vlasic carry his pickles. Vlasic agreed to sell the pickles on a small basis in Detroit’s Polish community under his own name. Vlasic even printed the jar labels in Polish. He never expected the pickle business to be any more than a minor sideline to his milk business.

Joseph Vlasic ended his involvement with his company in 1960, turning operations over to his son Robert. Under his leadership Vlasic went national, on the wings of a cartoon stork. As a small private firm Vlasic sold more pickles than food giants Heinz and Del Monte.

Van de Kamp's

And the man behind the brand is...
Theodore Van de Kamp

Theodore Van de Kamp was an ambitious man but like many others his name was still obscure when he died in the 1950s. In 1915 Van Kamp and his brother-in-law Lawrence Frank established a potato chip stand in downtown Los Angeles. The specialty of the tiny family bakery was something called Saratoga Chips.

Van de Kamp stressed the cleanliness and the old-country Dutch quality of his operation. His sisters designed traditional Dutch costumes to wear while serving customers and Van de Kamp designed a windmill trademark to place on everything he sold. He hung promotional signs in his window: “Fresh Every Minute” and “Made-Kept-Sold-Clean Clean Clean.” When a selection of beverages were added the Van de Kamps were suddenly in the restaurant business.

Van de Kamp built his first retail bakery store in 1921 and, with typical flair, designed the building in the shape of a windmill, authentic right down to the rotating arms. Over the next ten years Van de Kamp’s bakery goods spread throughout Los Angeles. When grocery stores gained popularity in the 1930s Van de Kamp established his bakeries just beyond the check out counters and, eventually, into the markets themselves.

Theodore Van de Kamp had built a nice business by the time of his death in 1956, a half-century removed from his potato stand. But nothing that would have made his name nationally known. The family business was sold to General Baking Company after the founders’ deaths, which was later renamed General Host Corp.

General Host rapidly left its baking origins behind in 1959 with initial forays into frozen foods, retaining the Van de Kamp name. General Host also retained Theodore Van Kamp’s concept of promotion: when it built a two-building frozen food processing factory the plant was built in the shape of ice cubes. Van de Kamp’s Frozen Seafood pioneered the battered fish stick in the 1970s, spreading Theodore Van de Kamp’s name across the nation.

Van Camp's

And the man behind the brand is...
Frank Van Camp

There were many small family canneries serving America in the 19th century. But for a dropped tomato Gilbert Van Camp’s Indianapolis cannery would have carried on in anonymity just like hundreds of others.

The Van Camps from Holland settled in New Jersey in the 1600s. Gilbert Van Camp was born in Brookville, Indiana in 1817. He went to work in a flour mill at the age of 17, saving money for four years until he was able to buy into a small store selling stoves and tinware. Van Camp pounded out most of the tin himself.

By 1842 Van Camp tired of the pounding and returned to milling. He remained a miller until 1860 when he moved to Indianapolis to manage the grocery of Fletcher, Williams & Van Camp. Here he crafted a warehouse with walls three feet thick with two walls of iron insulated by cut straw. It was the first known satisfactory experiment with cold storage and a design later adopted for refrigerator cars.

With his unique storage space Van Camp directed the business into canning of fruits and vegetables for winter consumption. Van Camp built his cannery business steadily through the latter half of the 1800s until a fire damaged a warehouse in 1890. All the family’s attention was diverted to rebuilding the warehouse. One day Gilbert’s son Frank paused for a lunch of pork and beans and accidentally mixed a tomato into his meal. He thought about the unusual mixture and left to bake the beans and tomatoes together.

The result was so tasty the Van Camps began canning their new taste sensation and national advertising made it a success. Heretofore baked beans had been baked mostly in molasses but by the time Gilbert Van Camp died in 1900 at the age of 83 everybody was baking their beans in tomato sauce. But more than 100 years after Frank Van Camp absentmindedly introduced the tomato to the baked bean Van Camp’s remains America’s top selling pork and beans.


And the man behind the brand is...
William Underwood

In 1819, at the age of 32, William Underwood walked from New Orleans to Boston. He had landed in Louisiana two years earlier, hoping to parlay his experience as a tinsmith in England into a canner in America. After New Orleans did not work out, he set off for Boston. On foot. This sort of determination would serve him well in his attempts to establish the new industry of canning in America.

Food preservation began during the Napoleonic Wars when French foodmakers discovered heated food could be sealed in jars and safely eaten later on the battlefield. Commercial applications quickly sprang up in France and England, and, eventually, the United States.

Once in Boston Underwood joined up with his brother James. Here they started preserving local delicacies such as cranberries and broiled lobsters in a shop on Russia Wharf. He sold tomatoes, an exotic food in 1820s America, that he grew from English seeds in his yard. The early Underwood products were processed totally in glass bottles. By all accounts the Underwood cannery was America’s first successful canning operation.

William Underwood discovered a prejudice against American canned goods in his new country and was forced to ship most of his food to South American and Far East markets. He overcame this resistence by stamping “England” on his containers and gradually he built his American market. Canning was expensive and time-consuming but as developments in machine cutting and soldering advanced cans became the main vehicle for Underwood’s processed foods. Underwood canned meats went to sea and travelled west with the wagon trains and eventually to battle in the Civil War.

The canning business was run by Underwoods for almost 100 years after William Underwood’s death during the Civil War. In 1868, three years after the founder’s death, Henry Oliver Underwood introduced the “red devil” trademark for the company’s line of deviled meat spreads. The devil, a heavily-muscled, horned demon, was assigned No. 82 (the list went past one million in 1974). It is the oldest food trademark in the United States.


And the man behind the brand is...
John Tyson

During the Depression John Tyson sold his first chickens to pull his family through the tough times. In 1935, Tyson purchased 50 “springer” chickens and hauled them from his farm in Arkansas to Chicago to sell at profit. Two years later, he christened his business Tyson Feed & Hatchery.

The company prospered by buying and selling chickens but Tyson was constantly needing to monitor the quality of the chickens he bartered. Gradually he became involved in raising his own chickens. In 1947, the company was incorporated.

In 1952 Tyson’s son Don joined the company as head of operations. The younger Tyson pushed his conservative father into expanding production. Don convince his father to raise rock cornish game hens, a market Tyson would come to dominate.

Tyson took pains to achieve complete vertical integration, opening a processing plant in Springdale, Arkansas in 1958. By the 1960s chicken was becoming a regular visitor to America’s dinner tables; consumption increased fourfold from 1950. A drop in feed-grain prices lured many amateur chicken producers into the industry and the resulting glut caused big price cuts which drove several small companies out of business.

Tyson’s step into increased automation saved the company. In 1963 Tyson took his company public and changed its name to Tyson’s Foods, Incorporated. In 1966, John Tyson and his wife died in an automobile accident, and Don Tyson took over the business as president. The next year he began promoting the corporate name by labeling chicken wrappers with “Tyson Country Fresh Chicken” instead of the supermarket name. Tyson was on its way to being a giant in the poultry industry.


And the man behind the brand is...
Samuel Thomas

The story of Samuel Bath Thomas was the story of tens of thousands of American immigrants in the 19th century. Born in Plymouth, England in 1855 Thomas came to New York at the age of 21. He worked a succession of menial jobs until he had saved enough to set up a business of his own. In 1880 Thomas opened a bakery.

He didn’t even have enough money to hang a sign over his door. For the most part he relied on the aroma of his breads and muffins to bring customers in to the shop on Ninth Avenue. Thomas baked the English specialties he knew so well. And they caught the fancy of New Yorkers, so much so that Thomas began supplying restaurants with his creations.

Thomas was making a living but so were millions of others whose names are unknown to us. But for one thing no one would remember Samuel Thomas either. He delivered his baked goods, especially his popular English muffins, to New York restaurants in glass-domed cases with “S.B. Thomas” stenciled on them. People began asking for Thomas’ English muffins in their corner stores as well.

With Thomas’ retail trade established it was not long before Samuel Thomas was selling throughout New York. He died in 1919, having created a taste for the English muffin. Thousands of bakers plied their trade in tiny shops throughout the 1800s; Samuel Thomas is one of the few whose name survived.


And the man behind the brand is...
Gustavus Swift

In 1855, when Gustavus Swift was 14, his father gave him $25 to go into the meat business. He purchased a heifer for $19 and when the young cow was ready the man who would eventually sell more beef than anyone killed her himself in a shed. Swift turned a $10 profit on his $25.

Swift went to work for his brother, a Cape Cod butcher, that year and drove around New England buying and selling cattle. In 1869 he opened Swift’s Market in Clinton, Massachusetts, incorporating all the ideas he had discovered in his sales trips. Above all else Swift valued cleanliness in what was a traditionally messy business. He deplored waste and always searched for new markets that could use his by-products.

In a day when a good meat meal could be had for 15¢ Swift was doing $40,000 of business in a small New England town. But Swift was always restless to expand. In 1875 he travelled to Buffalo to buy cattle closer to their source and eliminate middle men. He saved money but realized how much more could be saved if he didn’t have to ship live animals, feeding and caring for them, back East.

He knew he had to deal in dressed beef from the Midwest. He borrowed every penny he could to expand; Swift was never one to turn down a loan offer. Daily he staked his business on faulty refrigerator cars which failed to keep his perishable goods cold. No one took his efforts seriously; others had tried and failed. Technical problems with the cars hounded him, sending him perilously close to ruin.

Railroads didn’t want dressed beef and refused to build reefer cars. Swift convinced the Michigan Car Company to build him cars which blended the best features of previous failures. Swift built ice stations on the route in the event of failures and finally Swift had 100 train cars a year coming east with Chicago dressed beef.

The battle was hardly over. Some Eastern towns boycotted the refrigerated beef they couldn’t accept as fresh. When this happened Swift refused to allow his agents to move elsewhere. They sold beef directly out of the train cars until local agents accepted the shipments. Swift simply pounded on prejudice against Western beef until he won over his customers.

Now Swift borrowed all the money anyone would lend him. Sprawling plants went up in Kansas City in 1888, Omaha in 1890, East St. Louis in 1892. Across the Midwest Swift established slaughterhouses and shipped refrigerated beef to now eager Eastern markets.

The great speed and growth of his business caught Swift unaware. When the Panic of 1893 hit over ten million dollars of Swift’s notes were called in. Swift employees lent him money to help pay the debts and nearly all the company assets were converted to cash. Through the crisis Swift remained tranquil and composed in both his business and personal life as rumors of collapse swirled around his company.

The huge meat-packing firm survived. It was Swift’s last major battle. Western beef was now accepted everywhere, and the only things he spent his time on - his company and his family - were stable and prospering. The years until his death in 1903 were unsettlingly peaceful.


And the man behind the brand is...
Carl Swanson

Until World War II turkey was a treat reserved for holiday meals. The man who brought turkeys to American tables was a large rough-hewn Swedish immigrant who arrived in the United States with a tag around his neck: "Carl Swanson, Swedish. Send me to Omaha. I speak no English." The year was 1896. He was 17 years old.

Swanson joined his sisters in Omaha working on a farm as he learned a second language. He studied at the local YMCA where he paid $35 for a lifetime membership. In 1899 he invested $125 as part owner of a consignment store. Swanson started with one horse, one wagon and a little cash.

He soon moved into commodities trading. Swanson quickly became noted for his iron nerves in the risk-pervasive business, becoming one of the leading "butter and egg" men in the Midwest. In his spare time Swanson also enjoyed non-business wagers at roulette, horses and cards.

Dealing in fresh food opened the company to the vagaries of nature and producers. In the early poultry business the birds were transported live to the retailer. Many chicks died or were appropriated during the trip. Others were pecked to death by aggressive cellmates and still others succumbed to "roup", a fatal disease.

By the 1930s shippers began using the "New York Style" dressing of birds - killed, bled, plucked, eviscerated and refrigerated. But by 1943 only 10% of all chickens shipped were eviscerated. Dressing a bird was still considered the province of the man in the retail store. Many food processors were slow to adopt expensive plant changes to evisceration and delivery to supermarkets.

Carl Swanson was not one of them. He converted his business to quick freezing in 1934 and in 1936 moved into turkeys. Turkeys are difficult to raise and in the 1930s most growers felt fortunate to keep their turkey casualty rate at 15%. 1936 was a particularly bad year for turkey growers but Swanson guaranteed raisers a price of 18¢ a pound to convince them to continue production.

Swanson invested heavily in poults (chicks), production, processing and promotion. In 1937 he developed a bronze-colored, full-breasted bird with more meat. It looked better, sold better and became known as the "Mae West Turkey." He changed American's eating habits. From 1934 to 1942 Swanson's production increased 200 times. In 1943 Fortune Magazine tagged Swanson "the turkey king of the country."

Swanson applied his technology to eggs and developed powdered eggs. Demand soared in World War II, much to the distaste of enlisted men. One soldier wrote to Swanson, "I wish you would take some of your dried eggs, compare them to dirty water from the Missouri River and tell me which is which." Demand continued strong until the 1950s however.

Swanson changed the company name to C.A. Swanson & Sons in 1944. To heighten visibility and corporate image of the company he plunged into a new butter substitute, oleo, despite being in the heart of butter country. Sales were tepid at first until color was added to make the oleo look like butter. The product flew off grocer's shelves.

Carl Swanson remained president until he died in 1949. He had witnessed a revolution in the kitchen as women worked during World War II. There was a growing need for convenient prepared dinners for these working women. Swanson was soon to be a leader in the new frozen dinner market, introducing its "TV Dinner" for America's freezers in 1952.


And the husband and wife behind the brand are...
Abraham and Mahala Stouffer

As they reached their middle years Abraham and Mahala Stouffer decided to leave their creamery business in Medina, Ohio and move north to the big city - Cleveland. It was the beginning of a long and fortuitous bonding between city and family.

The Stouffers opened a small stand-up dairy counter in 1922 in an arcade in the downtown area. The counter featured wholesome buttermilk, fresh-brewed coffee and three types of sandwiches. The star of the menu was Mahala Stouffer’s deep-dish Dutch apple pies. The little stand was an immediate hit.

Two years later the Stouffer’s son Vernon, a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, returned to Cleveland and helped the Stouffers open their first full-service restaurant. The Stouffer Lunch, housed in the Citizen’s Building, used the same formula of clean, fresh-tasting ingredients that made the dairy stand a success.

The restaurant’s popularity spawned new eateries in Detroit and Pittsburgh. Growth continued even during the Depression; by 1937 the family had opened their first restaurant in New York City. Big city dwellers could always count on a respite from the impersonal urban life at the restaurants where they came to recognize the family motto: “Everybody is somebody at Stouffer’s.”

After World War II the Stouffer formula of locating in major cities changed rapidly with the times. Stouffer restaurants and inns followed families relocating in the suburbs. Again the Stouffers used Cleveland as their base, opening their first suburban restaurant in the Shaker Square area of Cleveland.

It was here that manager Wally Blankinship began filling customer requests by freezing popular menu items, like Macaroni & Cheese and Spinach Souffle, to take home. At the time the typical frozen dinner consisted of peas, potatoes and a few small pieces of meat. Blankinship realized the potential of a higher quality frozen food and sold items at a retail outlet called the 227 Club located adjacent to the restaurant. Suddenly, the Stouffer family was in the frozen food business.

In 1954 Stouffer Foods Corporation began, again in downtown Cleveland, to turn out distinctive frozen dishes. The food was always at the core of Stouffer businesses. Near the end of his career Vernon, who became president of the family firm, conceded that he was often more comfortable in the kitchen than the office. His Cleveland suburban home featured two kitchens, marked “His” and “Hers.”

NASA selected Stouffer’s products to feed quarantined Apollo 11, 12 and 14 astronauts following their landmark trips to the moon. Stouffer’s advertising proudly claimed, “Everybody who’s been to the moon is eating Stouffer’s.” It was a long way from Medina, Ohio.


And the man behind the brand is...
Jerome Smucker

Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman planted the apples but it was left to Jerome Smucker to sell them. Chapman devoted his life to sowing the fertile midwestern soil with domestic apple trees. In 1897 Smucker set out to process some of the bounty from the apple orchards around his Orrville, Ohio home.

Smucker started out in a wooden cider mill with a steam-operated press to convert his neighbor’s apples into cider. He charged a penny a gallon. It wasn’t long before he discovered that cider in wooden tanks could be concentrated quickly by heating it with steam piped through copper coils. The concentrate formed the basis for apple butter.

Smucker used an old family recipe for his butter. He was proud enough of his product to hand-sign the paper lid on every stoneware crock of apple butter he made. He peddled the crocks to neighboring housewives from the tailboard of a drummer’s wagon.

Smucker’s Apple Butter was indeed well received and local sales climbed steadily over the next two decades. Sales in 1915 topped $59,000. With the adoption of automatic machinery and glass jars Smuckers was able to expand distribution past Orrville.

In 1923 the “Apple Butter King” branched out into the jam and jelly business and soon the Smucker line included a full complement of preserves and jellies. In 1935 , the company began fruit processing operations in Washington state, their first plant outside Orrville. National distribution of Smucker’s products began in 1942, when the first shipment of preserves and jellies was sent from Orrville to Los Angeles.

When Jerome Smucker died in 1948 at the age of 89 he was the largest single apple-butter producer in the world; his fruit products were available in every state. Each year Smucker’s was processing nearly a million bushels of apples; enough to cover half a billion slices of bread.


And the man behind the brand is...
Richard Reynolds

Richard Reynolds began working for his uncle RJ Reynolds as a law student in the summer of 1902. His uncle told him flat out he was too good a businessman to stay in law. "We can hire all the lawyers we want," he said. Now it had been ten years, he was in his mid-thirties and it was time to RJ Reynolds Tobacco and do something on his own. RJ offered him $100,000 to stay but Richard had made up his mind.

Reynolds went out to Bristol, Tennessee and bought himself a mountain of pure silica crystal. He was going to grind it up into soap powder. Reynolds put his "Spotless Cleanser" in a can with a sifter top and his cleaning products quickly became popular around the mid-south. As Reynolds prepared to expand to national production his plant burned down.

Just as he got going again World War I broke out and when the government declared "Spotless Cleanser" a non-essential product Reynolds was out of business with no money. He reasoned that there must be products deemed "essential" by the War Department that nobody was producing. He went to Washington but the only product no one seemed to be making was waterproof barrels constructed of paper and not crucial steel.

Reynolds had no idea what this business was about but while walking around Washington by chance he saw some workmen applying paper material to a roof. If that paper kept roofs from leaking it must, he reasoned, be waterproof . He bought a roll of the asphalt felt and fashioned a barrel with steel on the top and bottom. Reynolds quickly entered into frenzied production of waterproof barrels for the war effort.

After the excitement of wartime production Reynolds had no desire to make cleanser again. He had a natural interest in metal foil for cigarette packaging and with financial assistance from RJ Reynolds he formed the US Foil Company. He changed the way a factory produced tin foil and saved 6 1/2¢ a pound that enabled him to survive a price war by more established firms. Soon the Reynolds Metal Company was the country's biggest producer of tin foil.

From the time Richard Reynolds saw his first piece of aluminum foil he knew the tinfoil business was doomed. He found himself the creator of a business that would soon be obsolete. He would not wait around. Reynolds immediately set up an aluminum fabricating plant in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1937 while in Europe seeking sources of aluminum Reynolds discovered Hitler producing 800 million pounds of aluminum a year - twice the combined production of the United States, England and France. Clearly he was planning to fight with light metal in the air. Reynolds appealed to the United States government to expand their production of aluminum but he was ignored.

Reynolds expanded on his own without orders. His producing capacity expanded seven times and he was buying bauxite everywhere. As a result of expansion Reynolds had to make Americans aluminum-conscious and he did this by heavily promoting Reynolds Wrap. Soon aluminum was used everywhere - including the United States government, for its strength, lightness and corrosion resistance.

Consumption exploded, growing 1500% in the last 15 years of Reynolds' life. Time and again before his death in 1955 he had turned crisis into opportunity since leaving the safe harbor of RJ Reynolds Tobacco.


And the man behind the brand is...
C.W. Post

At the age of 10 Charles William Post watched solemnly as his father walked through the streets of Springfield, Illinois as a member of the honor guard laying Abraham Lincoln to rest. The patriotic fires burned inside young Post and he left the Illinois Industrial College at Urbana, the forerunner of the University of Illinois, at the age of 15 to join the Springfield Governors Guards. He served in Chicago in 1871 after the Great Fire left the city under martial law.

This exciting event led Post to abandon the course set for him by his businessman father and his mother, a writer of verse. He left to explore the West with a friend. They borrowed $1000 from Post's mother and opened a hardware store in Independence, Kansas. After a year the young partners had doubled their money. Post sold his half-interest and returned home to pay back his mother and marry a neighbor girl.

Post planted his bride with his family and went to work as a travelling salesman with the Climax Corn Planter Company to study the frontier and earn money. Commercial travelling in the mid-1800s was fraught with hardships: bad water, worse food and uncertain accommodations. Post suffered from digestive disturbances, the first of many days spent in broken health.

In 1880 Post came home to manufacture his own improved seed planter and in 1881, at the age of 27, he formed the Illinois Agricultural Works. He patented cultivators, a haystacker and a harrow. Post prospered to such an extent that the banker who made his loans tried to take over his business. In 1885 Post collapsed from nervous exhaustion between his work and bank problems.

In 1887 Post moved to Fort Worth to recuperate more fully. While in Texas Post became involved in papermaking and a woolen mill. Always a fastidious dresser Post began marketing a "Scientific Suspender" he developed. But the strain of his new business ventures and lingering difficulties from his past entanglements led to a more serious nervous collapse in 1890.

Early in 1891 the family moved to Battle Creek, Michigan to entrust Post's care to Dr. Kellogg's nationally famous health Sanitarium. Post was a patient for nine months, confined to a wheelchair. Nothing seemed to work. Dr. Kellogg called Mrs. Post to say her husband had little time left, that he was not getting well.

She wheeled the frail Post across town to Elizabeth Gregory, a practitioner of Christian Science. Post listened to her theories and decided to stay under her care even though she had no facilities. She remodeled her home to accommodate Post. She admonished him over his fear of impure food and convinced him that he had to act well to get well. And Post recovered.

He liquidated all his holdings to establish La Vita Inn in Battle Creek to teach patients about dietary and mental influence in healthcare. Word spread around town of a patient rejected by Dr. Kellogg was got well on his own. Post devoured medical books on spiritual healing and medicine. He conducted experiments with food and dietetics. He wrote a book on "mind over matter," I Am Well, which sold well. In the meantime he revived his suspender business, which also did well.

Post developed a cereal drink as a coffee substitute in 1895. He called the food drink "Postum" and it tapped an America when the health and fad foods craze was at its zenith. Post was the first to introduce foods to the public through advertising. A $200 ad produced $5000 in sales. Post eventually became the largest advertiser in the world.

He wrote most of the copy himself using "plain words for plain people." He developed Grape-Nuts in 1898 as a "scientific food" that made red blood. In 1908 Post introduced Post Toasties and in 1911 came Instant Postum. Along with Postum these were Post's only foods - and they generated one of the country's greatest fortunes.

Aside from his food business Post created the Post Check Currency to end the problem of mailing money through the mail. In 1907 he developed his own community in Texas but Post City, the most ambitious of projects, couldn't sustain its original momentum and Post sold most of his holdings. Charles William Post died in 1914, leaving the business in the capable hands of his daughter.


And the man behind the brand is...
John Pillsbury

Listen to the Podcast http://oscarmeyerpodcast.podbus.com/Pillsbury.mp3

John Sargent Pillsbury was the first of the New England Pillsburys to leave the East. He settled in St. Anthony Falls, Minnesota in 1853 and became a hardware merchant. Shortly after he arrived fire destroyed his entire inventory - $40,000 worth.

Slowly John Pillsbury paid off his creditors. He and his wife had no new clothes for six years. When he finished settling his debts Pillsbury was so well-respected that the new Farmers & Mechanics Bank loaned him $1000 when they had only $8000 in deposits.

Within a few years Pillsbury became prosperous and was offered the presidency of the bank. He diversified his business interests to include land, railroads and timber. Sawmilling was the number one industry in Minnesota in 1865 but Pillsbury believed the new reaper invented by Cyrus McCormick would make flour milling the new big business.

Pillsbury persuaded his nephew Charles Alfred Pillsbury to bring his new bride to join him in milling flour. Their first venture was a broken-down 250-barrel Minneapolis flour mill. The Minneapolis business community regarded it as a very foolish investment. In the heart of "America's Bread Basket", Minnesota was actually importing flour. Minnesota wheat was hard, brittle and produced inferior flour. It cost more to make and sold for less than other flours from the region.

The Dartmouth-educated Charles Pillsbury, however, saw potential in the unpopular grain. He believed he could make superior flour from the gluten-rich kernels. He installed a new purifier that blew the bran out of the wheat kernel and made a $6000 profit in his first year.

Charles took the profits and started a new firm, C.A. Pillsbury & Co., in 1872. By now John Pillsbury had become more involved in community affairs. He pioneered the University of Minnesota, establishing the faculty and even recruiting the first student, an unwilling Easterner. John Pillsbury became a popular governor of Minnesota.

Charles Pillsbury was always quick to adopt new milling technologies that were bursting on the scene and the fine, strong flour he produced, which made more and better bread per barrel than soft winter wheat, soon commanded a premium as the best flour on the world market. He now set out to build the world's largest flour mill in 1880.

Minnesota was in the throes of four years of crop failures, including the Grasshopper Plague of 1877. Grasshoppers flew so thick that Governor Pillsbury called for a day of prayer to end it. A sudden temperature drop the next night froze every grasshopper in the state stiff. Despite the grain shortages Pillsbury began turning out 10,000 barrels of flour a day.

In 1889 Pillsbury's vast milling interests were sold to an English syndicate which also operated The Washburn Mills, England's leading flour producer. Despite the considerable clout of the Pillsbury-Washburn Flour Mills Pillsbury, who headed the organization, opposed the establishment of a monopolistic trust and the attempt ended.

Through the last decade of the 19th century Charles Pillsbury's influence over the company waned. He was still spending two hours a day in the office, however, when he died suddenly of heart disease in 1899.


And the man behind the brand is...
Frank Perdue

Arthur Perdue was a Railway Express agent in the years after World War I who loved living on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Rather than accept a transfer away from Salisbury to another station Perdue quit his job. He built a small chicken coop and began raising 50 Leghorn chickens. Soon Perdue's eggs were showing up in produce markets in New York City and other eastern towns.

During the Depression Perdue's always slim profit margins tightened even further. He mixed his own feed and salvaged leather from his shoes to make hinges for the coops. Perdue stayed out of debt through the hard times and even made a little money. He took great pride in his eggs, never missing a chance to boast about their quality.

The Depression forged the Perdue business values which would foster further growth. He scrutinized costs and never borrowed money or took on partners, fearing an inability to pay and a loss of independence. By 1940 his flock had grown to 2000 Leghorns when the chickens were decimated by leukosis, a fast-spreading avian disease.

Perdue couldn't take the chance of another devastation in his barnyard and switched from eggs to chickens and bought 800 hardy New Hampshire Reds. With his broilers he needed new distribution outlets but World War II generated great demands for all farm products and soon Perdue was realizing his greatest profits to date.

Perdue hatched chicks by the thousands, raised on a special blend of feed superior to any on the market. He trucked his broilers to market in Selbyville, Delaware where they were snapped up by large meat packers like Armour and Swift.

In 1953 Perdue was selling $8 million of chickens each year and raising 2.6 million broilers when he turned the daily operations of the farm over to his 33-year old son Frank. The poultry business was changing completely in the 1950s. Chicken raising evolved from a labor intensive business into an automated one with a chick going from egg to store in eight weeks virtually untouched by human hands. Frank Perdue convinced his father to keep up with the radical changes and build a huge chicken processing complex in Salisbury.

The new plant opened in 1958 and company growth continued modestly until 1967 when Frank convinced his father to do the unthinkable - borrow $500,000 to expand into the New York retail chicken market. In a short time Perdue Farms was selling 800,000 broilers a week and advertising the new Perdue Farms chickens in a small way when Frank Perdue decided to expand again.

Account executives from his advertising agency came to visit the Perdue operation in Salisbury for ideas. They focused on the unique yellow color of Perdue chickens, which was achieved with marigold petals in the feed, as a way to distinguish Perdue chickens as meat of the highest quality.

One other thing caught their eye. As one adman would recall, "Frank was very, very involved in everything to do with his company. So we realized that what really set Perdue chickens apart from other chickens was Frank Perdue. He looked a little like a chicken himself and sounded a little like one. He squawked a lot."

They decided to use Frank Perdue as his own spokesman, one of the first executives to do his own commercials. Revenues jumped from $58,000,000 to $500,000,000 over the next decade. Other established packers leaped into the brand chicken market launching the "Great American Chicken War" in the mid-1980s but Perdue continued to take command, exceeding one billion dollars in annual sales.

Oscar Mayer

And the man behind the brand is...
Oscar Mayer

Sausage was a popular table food in America in the late 1800s, served up by thousands of German wurstmachers cooking up old family recipes in corner butcher shops. But Oscar F. Mayer, who was to become the most famous of the sausage-makers, descended from a family of ministers and foresters.

Mayer came to America in 1873 at the age of 14. He joined family members in Detroit where he immediately went to work in a meat shop. The family moved on to Chicago and Mayer found work in Kohlhammer's Meat Market. In 1883 the 24-year old Mayer opened his own small butcher shop on Chicago's North Side.

Pork was selling for 8¢-12¢ a pound and first day sales were $59. From the beginning Mayer placed an emphasis on quality above all else and soon his salesmen could be seen carrying large orders in wicker baskets out of the neighborhood. The business grew rapidly to meet the lively demand for quality Oscar Mayer meats. The business was so successful that the former owner of the shop refused to renew Mayer's lease after five years, saying he wanted to make some money himself.

Mayer bought property and moved the business into a new two-story building. At the turn of the century Oscar Mayer & Company ledgers listed 43 employees, included among them "five wagon salesmen, one pig-head and feet cleaner and cooker, and two stablemen to take care of the delivery horses."

In 1929 Oscar Mayer became the first to break the traditional anonymity of meat producers by branding its weiners with a yellow paper ring. It guaranteed that Oscar Mayer wieners could be distinguished from others in the grocer's case. This brand identification paved the way for consumer advertising - an unheard of concept for meat products. The "Oscar Mayer Wiener Song" eventually became so famous it was performed by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

Mayer remained active until his death at 95. His obsession for quality had steered his company away from the herd of local butchers in the 19th century to the forefront of national processing in the 20th.


And the man behind the brand is...
Joy Morton

The Mortons are one of the oldest families in America. The first Mortons arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1623. Julius Sterling Morton brought his young family to Nebraska in 1855 as one of the territory's earliest pioneers. He became well-known as a newspaperman and Democratic party leader, eventually going to Washington to serve as Secretary of Agriculture under Grover Cleveland.

His son Joy was born in his mother's home in Detroit just before the family emigrated in 1855. He was educated in Nebraska City schools until the age of 16 when he went to work in the Merchant National Bank in town. Morton stayed at the bank for five years before going to Illinois to work as a supply agent for the Chicago-Burlington-Quincy Railroad.

Shortly afterwards he entered the Chicago salt business as a member of the firm of E.I. Wheeler & Company. The company had started in 1848 with the opening of the Illinois-Michigan canal. It served as the agent for the Michigan Salt Association, a co-operative of lumbermen who made salt as a byproduct.

In 1885 Wheeler died and the 30-year old Morton assumed control of the newly named Joy Morton & Company. Under Joy Morton the company grew into the largest, most important salt producer in the country. In 1902 Morton merged with other salt manufacturers to form the National Salt Company. In 1910 Joy and his brother Mark bought out the western properties of the combine and formed the Morton Salt Company.

Factories were established in Fort Hutchinson in Kansas and Port Huron and Ludington in Michigan. Brine was pumped from wells into settling tanks where all insoluble matter drifted to the bottom. The salt was purified in a second set of tanks. Coopers built barrels to ship the salt. There were also rock salt mines in New York, Michigan, Kansas and Louisiana. The companies owned gigantic lakefront storage houses in Chicago, Milwaukee and Superior, Wisconsin.

By the 1920s Morton employed over 1000 people in his salt factories. Each year he produced 600,000 tons of evaporated salt and 400,000 tons of rock salt. He remained in charge of the firm until his death in 1934. Shortly thereafter the Morton Salt Company passed out of the hands of the Morton family.


And the man behind the brand is...
Edmund McIlhenny

Edmund McIlhenny’s world was being torn apart. A self-made banker of Scotch-Irish descent, approaching Union troops forced him to flee New Orleans in 1862 for the safety of his wife’s ancestral home on Avery Island in the Louisiana bayou country.

The McIlhenny’s refuge was short-lived. The family island yielded minable rock salt - the nation’s first salt mine is there - and salt was needed to preserve meat for feeding troops. The Union invaded Avery Island in 1863. The Averys and McIllhennys fled to south Texas for the duration of the War.

When they returned their house was plundered, their plantation in tatters. About the only thing that seemed to survive the Yankee occupation was a patch of hearty Capsicum peppers that thrived in a kitchen garden. No one knew exactly how the peppers got there but Edmund McIlhenny knew what he wanted to do with them.

He chopped the peppers and blended them with vinegar and Avery Island salt. The fiery potion was left to age in wooden barrels. When ready McIlhenny portioned off the resulting sauce into discarded cologne bottles. Local opinion was unanimous: the former banker’s pepper sauce was extraordinary.

In what must be one of the most eclectic of all product christenings, McIllhenny called his sauce “Tabasco” after the name of a river is southern Mexico. He had heard the name and liked it. Tabasco sauce was an immediate hit. His initial shipment of 350 bottles in 1868 sold swiftly and the next year he sold many thousands of bottles for one dollar apiece. Within three years McIllhenny opened an office in London to service European tastes for his spicy sauce.

For the next twenty years until his death in 1890 Edmund McIllhenny sold as much pepper sauce as he could make. Today, the company started by a former banker whose life was turned inside out, sells fifty million tiny bottles of Tabasco sauce in America alone.


And the man behind the brand is...
Willoughby McCormick

"Make the best - some will buy it". That is the credo by which Willoughby M. McCormick ran his business of flavor extracts, exotic spices and teas. McCormick was born in rural Virginia in the midst of the Civil War in 1864 and after hostilities ceased his family emigrated to Texas where he found work as a clerk in a general store at the age of 14.

As a young man he returned east to begin a career in food merchandising. He chose Baltimore, then one of America's largest distributing centers. His first plant in 1889 on Hanover Street was one room and a cellar. The small back yard was used to store the flavoring extracts, spices and teas. McCormick never revealed where he happened upon the financing for the venture. "I saved a little and borrowed a little," he always said.

At the time food distribution was controlled by wholesale grocery houses. Quality was not a consideration to these profiteers who sought only the best margins in their dealings. McCormick was convinced that if a manufacturer supplied consistently high quality brand name products he could create consumer demand.

McCormick produced such goods under private names and trademarks for wholesalers. His business prospered until the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. The entire business district was consumed, including the McCormick building. As he rebuilt McCormick began to realize that the goodwill generated by his products was reaped by his customers and not his company. He decided to market his own brands.

McCormick teas, introduced in 1905 became his leading seller. For his line of insecticides McCormick chose the Bee Brand because, " The study of bee culture has always been fascinating to me. One of the cleanest and most valuable of insects, the bee is discriminating. He selects the best for his production."

McCormick, who died in 1932, pioneered several marketing techniques. He always believed in sales conferences to train his field personnel. McCormick distributed a book of recipes using his exotic food products and published books on teas and spices. He opened the plant to tours of how spices, extracts and salad dressings were prepared. As one Baltimore paper paid tribute to the McCormick legacy: "Within the brick walls are all the odors of the Orient."


And the man behind the brand is...
Arthur Libby

Arthur Libby was born in 1831; his brother Charles seven years later. Like many others in mid-America in the middle 19th century the Libbys gravitated towards the slaughterhouses of Chicago. In 1868 Arthur, Charles and a third partner, Archibald McNeill, pooled $3000 to start producing corned beef in barrels to ship to eastern markets.

Arthur got up at 3:00 each morning to scour the stockyards on the South Side of Chicago for the very best beef. But others were hustling the yards as well. The Libbys separated themselves from the competition in 1875 when they became the first firm to market meat in tin cans. By 1879 the Libbys were processing 200,000 cattle a year.

Charles Libby, the youngest, died first, in 1895. Arthur Libby died four years later at the age of 68. Their tinned meats insured their name would carry into the new century.

Lea & Perrins

And the men behind the brand are...
John Lea and William Perrins

In 1835 Sir Marcus Sandys returned to England from a stint as governor of Bengal in India. A renowned gourmand, Lord Sandys carried with him a secret recipe for a flavorful sauce. He settled back into his country estate in Worcester and sought the assistance of two chemists in town to conjure up some of the exotic sauce for his personal use.

He selected John Lea and William Perrins, who had been in business since 1823, building a catalog of more than 300 items in their apothecary. Company lore maintains that the original brew from Lord Sandys recipe was so foul it was dispatched to a dark corner in the cellar and forgotten for two years. When it was rediscovered, with great trepidation, the partners tasted the sauce and were greatly surprised.

Lord Sandys began serving the sauce at his extravagant parties and delighted guests soon carried word of his exotic sauce beyond the shire. Lea and Perrins obtained permission to sell some sauce to other customers and by 1839 bottles of Worcestershire Sauce (it was only “Worcester” in England) were finding their way to New York City packaged amid boxes of Lea & Perrins surgical supplies.

Lea & Perrins supplied luxury liners with cases of sauce, helping spread Worcestershire Sauce around the world. The sauce was amazingly versatile; it held its flavor in the hottest jungles and in the coldest tundra. It would eventually be marketed in more than 100 countries - each batch made exactly as it was when it was brought back from India in 1835. Lea and Perrins would go on to become the first Englishmen to open a chain of drugstores but they are remembered today for the sauce “from the recipe of a nobleman in the county.”


And the man behind the brand is...
Herman Lay

Herman Lay’s business career started in 1919 when he was 10 years old. He opened a soft drink stand in his front yard in Greenville, South Carolina. Location is everything and the Lay home was opposite the town ball park. Business was so good Herman opened a bank account, bought a bicycle and hired assistants to tend the stand.

His business career was interrupted by schooling. Herman attended Furman University on an athletic scholarship but dropped out after two years, anxious to resume selling. Lay worked at a succession of jobs before setting up as an independent snack food distributor in Nashville in 1932.

By the end of the decade Lay was able to buy a financially ailing snack food manufacturer in Atlanta. He renamed the company H.W. Lay & Company and made Lay’s Potato Chips the star of his line. Over the next two decades Lay’s potato chips became the most asked-for brand in the South. There were no national brands of potato chips at the time but Lay was about to change that.

He merged his company with the Frito Company of Dallas in 1961 to form Frito-Lay. As board chairman of the new company he advertised extensively and Lay’s Potato Chips were soon on grocery shelves across America next to regional brands. In 1965 he negotiated another merger with the Pepsi-Cola Company to form the massive conglomerate Pepsi-Co. In his role as chairman Lay pushed the company into many new product lines.

Although sitting at the pinnacle of corporate America Lay was an active advocate of entrepreneurship. He spoke frequently promoting entrepreneurship and endowed chairs at several colleges to encourage young people to go into business for themselves. When he retired from Pepsico in 1980 he heeded his own advice.

As soon as he departed the corporate world Lay began starting new businesses. He set up several family corporations engaged in real estate and oil and gas exploration. When cancer caught up with him in 1982 Lay was still starting businesses; echoing his early career he had just returned to the food business with the launching of State Fair Foods, a manufacturer of frozen foods.


And the man behind the brand is...
P.L. Lance

P.L. Lance always tried to look out for his customers while operating his food brokerage business in Charlotte, North Carolina. Although he dealt primarily in coffee from time to time Lance was asked to obtain peanuts for his customers.

On one such occasion he obtained an order for 500 pounds of peanuts only to have the customer turn down the order at time of delivery. Rather than back down on his bargain with the farmer from whom he obtained the peanuts he decided to roast the goobers in his own kitchen and sell them in small bags on downtown streets.

It was 1913 and, after much deliberation, Lance decided to roast peanuts, make peanut butter and deliver to Charlotte merchants to promote the use of this nourishing food. With $60 to start he installed a peanut roaster and peanut butter mill on the 2nd floor of a downtown building. He called his new venture the Lance Packing Company because the partners actually packed the peanut butter into containers.

The product line expanded in unconventional ways. It was Mrs. Lance who came up with the idea for the company's famous peanut butter cracker sandwich, believed to be the first such combination sandwich ever offered for sale. A soldier at nearby Camp Greene offered the Lances a recipe for peanut brittle and it became a big seller.

Lance products were offered by mail and soon Lance was the largest parcel post business in North Carolina. P.L. Lance died in an automobile accident in 1926 when the company was still mainly a candy manufacturer and peanut processor. The big shift in product line took place during World War II when Lance decided its sugar allotment would go further in crackers than candies. Production shifted to the 5¢ peanut butter sandwich, the staple of the Lance line today.


And the man behind the brand is...
James Kraft

For the consumer in the early 1900s buying a wheel of cheese was as risky as a spin of the roulette wheel. Quality and flavor varied from cheese to cheese. Big wheels dried rapidly and shrank noticeably. Shelf life was measured in hours, not weeks. There were no brand names nor advertising to guide the buyer. All in all the average American bought less than a pound of cheese a year.

One of eleven children born into a Mennonite family, J.L. Kraft developed a life-long love of cheese working behind the counter at Ferguson's store in Ft. Erie, Ontario. In the summer of 1903 the 29-year old Kraft set out for Chicago with $65 and an unshakable desire to start a cheese business. The $65 paid for one month's lodging and breakfast rolls, rental of a horse named Paddy, a wagon for Paddy to pull and a small stock of cheese to be sold to Chicago grocers. Paddy and his wagon would grow to be a Kraft Company trademark.

A popular early Kraft item was a variety of club cheese and his profits soon moved him into larger quarters. He asked his four brothers to join the business and the young company became J.L. Kraft & Brothers in 1907. Kraft expanded his business into the vibrant cheese markets of New York and began importing popular European cheeses.

All the while he toiled over his double boiler and old copper kettle searching for the elusive process that would enable him to package the highly perishable commodity. After years of failure he finally perfected a method of blending and pasteurizing natural cheese that could be packaged in tins and stamped with the Kraft name. For the first time the consumer could expect high quality and uniformity when buying cheese in convenient packages.

In 1921 Kraft introduced his famous 5-pound loaf of pasteurized, blended cheese - cheese without rind or waste and carrying the name and guarantee of its maker. National per capita consumption of cheese soon increased by half. To meet demand Kraft persuaded farmers in regions outside the traditional milk-producing regions of Wisconsin and New York to expand their herds for his cheese factories.

Kraft & Brothers became the Kraft Cheese Company in 1924 and expanded the line to include Velveeta, a cheese food with milk sugar and minerals incorporated to form a nourishing "family" cheese food. Kraft merged with the Phenix Cheese Company and began marketing Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, a spread first made in New York in 1882 but named Philadelphia because it was considered the home of quality foods at the time. Destined to become the largest selling package cheese in the world, Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese was never manufactured there.

J.L. Kraft purchased several salad dressing companies as it diversification continued. Finally in 1930 Kraft and his company were absorbed into the National Dairy Products Corporation. Kraft, now in his fifties, was absorbed with other pursuits. Prior to his death in 1953 Popular Mechanics called him “America’s #1 rockhound.” Among other achievements James Kraft was credited with discovering American jade.


And the man behind the brand is...
William Kellogg

William Keith Kellogg once estimated that 42 cereal companies launched in the breakfast cereal boom during the early years of the 20th century. His, the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, started when he was 46 years old, was among the last. How did his company become the most famous?

Today Battle Creek, Michigan is widely known as the cereal food capital of the world. But in the middle of the 19th century it was a small town of 1000 where the seeds of the Seventh Day Adventists were sown. The Kellogg family made the pilgrimage to Battle Creek to be nearer the center of Adventist teachings. Kellogg's father manufactured brooms in addition to his church activities.

In 1878 at the age of 18 Will went to Texas to help start a broom factory for an Adventist family in Dallas. When he returned to Battle Creek he began a stretch of 25 years living and working in the shadow of his brother Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a celebrated physician and director of the Adventist Battle Creek Sanitarium. Dr. Kellogg invented and marketed various health foods based on Adventist beliefs in health reform.

While searching for a more digestible form of bread the brothers were running boiled wheat through rollers in the Sanitarium basement. The day was long and one failed experiment followed another. They retired for the night. The next day they discovered the wheat dough had dried out. When broken up by the rollers thin flakes fell out. Flaked cereal was born.

The original flakes would be unrecognizable today. They were tough and rather tasteless but popular with patients at the Sanitarium and soon mail-orders came in from ex-patients. The Kellogg brothers called their cereal "Granose" and marketed it through the Sanitas Food Company. The factory on the Sanitarium grounds turned out 100,000 pounds of flakes in the first year.

The Kelloggs sold a 10-ounce box of wheat flakes for 15¢- a return of $12 for a 60¢ bushel of wheat. This sort of profit did not go unnoticed. The secret of the flakes leaked out and triggered a cereal boom in Battle Creek. Soon there were 30 cereal companies in a town of 30,000 people.

Will Kellogg broke with his brother in 1905 after building a new factory for $50,000. Dr. Kellogg said he had not authorized such an expenditure and Will would have to pay for the plant himself. Will started his new company in 1906. He was 46. The thin, brown-haired boy had given way to a stocky man with thinning hair. Kellogg was a shy, deeply religious man with strong convictions. So it was no surprise that despite the enormous popularity of wheat flakes and sneers of the cereal community Kellogg never wavered from his plan to make corn flakes his main product. To that point only one company had manufactured corn flakes and it had gone bankrupt. Only Will Kellogg saw the future of this breakfast table staple.

His first flakes were ground from whole corn and their taste was indistinguishable from the box. Kellogg switched to corn grits and the boom was under way. He built his company on advertising in a market glutted with look-alike products. He spent one-third of his initial capital on an advertisement in Ladies Home Journal. It is not clear why the famous "W.K. Kellogg" signature began gracing company cereal boxes but it probably was an attempt to ward off imitations. Orders outpaced production from the beginning.

In 1907 a fire destroyed his main factory building. Kellogg made plans for a new plant with a capacity of 4200 cases a day. "That's all the business I ever want," he told his son John. By 1920 capacity had reached 24,000 cases a day.
Kellogg advertised relentlessly. He made cases oversized so he could pack samples for grocers to distribute free. His ads hinted, "Wink at your grocer and see what you'll get." You got a free sample of corn flakes. He pioneered test-marketing his products with trial runs in Dayton. Later, during the Depression when sales drooped he doubled the advertising budget.

The Toasted Corn Flake Company became the Kellogg Corn Flake Company in 1909 but his brother had renamed Sanitas the Kellogg Food Company in 1908. A decade of litigation began between the brothers in 1910 before Will won the use of the name in 1919. Afterwards the two men saw each other only briefly two or three times a year.

Will's son John was instrumental in the company from its early years, helping to invent All-Bran cereal and waxed paper inserts. In 1925 Will forced his son, who served briefly as president, out of the business after John Kellogg bought an oat-milling plant and divorced his wife to marry an office girl. Will Kellogg objected both to his son's moral lapse and to his preference for oats.

The two men remained close, however, and there were hopes John Jr. would carry on the Kellogg dynasty. The young Kellogg resigned, however, after trying to sell his grandfather a process he developed on company time for puffing corn. Shortly afterward the 26-year old Kellogg committed suicide in 1938.

After 1930, although he received weekly reports and a daily statement of the cash status of the company, Will devoted most of his energies to the Kellogg Foundation, endowed with a million shares of company stock. The Foundation was dedicated to the promotion of the "health, happiness and welfare of mankind, principally of the children and youth." Mr. Kellogg gave over $47 million of his $50 million fortune to the Foundation.

Kellogg lived to the age of 91, spending time at several fabulous houses. Despite blindness caused from glaucoma he indulged a passion for German shepherd dogs, one descended from Rin-Tin-Tin, and Arabian horses. He had lived long enough to see his name become synonymous with breakfast in America.


And the man behind the brand is...
Godfrey Keebler

Godfrey Keebler opened a small bake shop in Philadelphia in 1853. Around the neighborhood word got out that Keebler was baking the best cookies and crackers in the area. At the time there was no way to expand a bakery business, no matter how good; the available transportation just didn’t allow it. All around the country fine local bakeries like Keebler’s proliferated.

As horses and buggies gave way to automobiles and trucks, fresh baked goods could be delivered in a wider area than the neighborhood; distribution expanded to a regional level. Owners of local bakeries realized that certain advantages, such as purchasing economies and pooled transportation, could be derived by banding together into a business federation.

In 1927 the Keebler family bakery, now passed down from Godfrey, joined a consortium of bakeries to form the United Biscuit Company. The network eventually marketed cookies and crackers in every state east of California under a wide variety of brand names. In 1966 the company decided to operate under a single name. Of all the existing names “Keebler” was judged to be the most sound and memorable. The Keebler elves, created by a Chicago advertising firm in 1968, have made Keebler one of the most recognizable names in America.

Today Keebler is America’s second largest producer of cookies and crackers in bakeries across the country. None, however, operates in Godfrey Keebler’s hometown of Philadelphia.


And the man behind the brand is...
Jeno Paulucci

Ettore Paulucci came to Aurora, Minnesota from Italy to work in the iron mines. Work was sporadic and his son Jeno began hustling for money at the age of 12. It was 1930, the Depression just getting underway. Jeno collected cardboard boxes to sell for a penny apiece and gathered lumps of coal that fell off the passing trains. He unloaded boxcars for $1 a car, sold ore samples to tourists and conducted tours of the mines.

When he was 14 Jeno got a job as a barker on Duluth's produce row. The 5'5" Paulucci paraded around his stand hawking fruit so loudly that the city passed an ordinance outlawing fruit stand barking. Meanwhile the Great Depression continued to beat down on his father who deserted the family in 1933. He would not return until Jeno was successful.

There were never enough hours in a day for Jeno Francisco Paulucci. He worked in the City Markets of Hibbing, Minnesota after school and from 5 a.m to midnight on Saturdays. At 16 he became a sales rep for a food wholesaler, a business he worked in until 1945.

During World War II fresh vegetables became scarce and Paulucci noticed that Oriental families were growing bean sprouts in hydroponic gardens. Paulucci decided to form a partnership in the Bean Sprouts Growers Association. "I don't think I'll ever forget the look on the banker's face when I told him I wanted to borrow $2,500 to grow sprouts from mung beans," he said. But he got the money.

The bean sprout business struggled but as he talked to retailers Paulucci realized that they never had any canned Chinese food on the shelves. He would make chow mein. Paulucci named his food line Chun King, the first Chinese-sounding name that came to mind. But how was an Italian from Minnesota going to sell Chinese food?

He added flavor to the typically bland Chinese fare. He worked constantly to improve his profit margins. When the Minnesota growing season was too short to grow celery Paulucci had to buy his celery in Florida like everyone else. But when he noticed that farmers cut the stalks in even bunches to facilitate shipping he negotiated to buy the cut-off celery, typically discarded for cattle-feed. He paid one-quarter the going rate.

Every dollar saved in production became a dollar spent in advertising. The food processor who began in a quonset hut in Grand Rapids, Minnesota was the leading Chinese Food maker by the early 1960s. But there were growing pains - especially quality control. Food Fair, a major grocery chain and Paulucci's largest customer, threatened to discontinue handling Chun King over a rash of customer complaints.

He flew to Philadelphia to meet Food Fair's head buyer. Opening a can to demonstrate Chun King's quality Paulucci looked in and met the bulging eyes of a huge grasshopper. He reached in, snatched the grasshopper and ate it before the buyer noticed. The account was safe.

Paulucci sold Chun King for $63,000,000 in 1966 to R.J. Reynolds Foods. He came along as Chairman of the Board. The arrangement did not last long. Paulucci was used to arriving for work at 6:00 a.m. On his first day of work at RJ Reynolds the guard wouldn't let him in the building at that hour. Paulucci took his 63 million dollars and tackled the frozen pizza business.

At the time only local and regional brands of frozen pizza were available. Using his same formula of low-cost production and an aggressive national advertising campaign Jeno's became America's #1 frozen pizza by 1972. The big food processors now entered the field. To compete Paulucci needed more central distribution and moved to Ohio.

He was vilified in Duluth for taking away 1300 jobs from a depressed area and he vowed to replace every one of the lost jobs. The effort consumed him. It crushed Paulucci's ego to take jobs from his hometown. He offered his terminals rent-free for two years but was only able to attract five companies and 200 jobs to town. Paulucci helped build a new arena, recreation center and a downtown retail center. Still, the battle with Duluth raged.

In 1986 Paulucci sold Jeno's to hated Pillsbury for $150,000,000 and made one last attempt to revive Duluth. Nothing worked. And now the failures of Duluth haunted his business ventures as well. An Italian-American magazine failed. He opened and closed pizza delivery and Chinese food delivery businesses in Florida. A billion-dollar real estate project in Orlando floundered. But throughout his ordeals Jeno Paulucci remained a man of boundless energy still pursuing his dreams.


And the man behind the brand is...
George Hormel

Meat-packing was in George Hormel's blood. After several false starts Hormel finally settled into his life's work, establishing a reputation for innovative meat products that continues today. In an 18-month period during the late 1980s the Hormel Company introduced 134 new products.

George Hormel was born in Buffalo in 1860 before moving to Toledo, Ohio where his father opened a tannery. His mother came from an immigrant meat-packing family and at age 15 George left to work in his uncle's butcher business in Chicago. His health failed however, forcing Hormel back to Ohio.

The convalescing youth filled out his 6'2" frame and after stints in his father's tannery and a railroad yard he set out for Kansas City to seek his fortune. Hormel found a job as a wool-buyer calling on accounts in dusty frontier towns in the upper midwest. He was especially fond of the northern-most town in his territory, Austin, Minnesota. Here Hormel spent much of his leisure time joining several recreation clubs.

His Kansas City company failed and Hormel landed in Chicago as a hide buyer. On a trip to visit friends in Austin in 1887 he learned of a butcher shop which had been damaged by fire. With $500 borrowed from his employer Hormel joined a friend in refurbishing the building into a retail meat market and pork packing business.

After a disagreement over the direction of the business the partnership dissolved in 1891 and George opened the Hormel Provision Market. The next year in a small grove of oak trees along the Red Cedar River Hormel converted an old creamery into a packing house. George handled the production of sausage, hams and bacon himself. The first year he slaughtered 610 hogs.

Hormel poured every dollar of profit back into his business. Output increased to 2532 hogs in 1893 and soon he controlled most of the meat market in the region. That year large Chicago packers introduced improved refrigerator cars which allowed them to sell and deliver product in faraway communities, virtually eliminating competition from small midwest packers. All but four of several hundred packers west of the Mississippi closed their shops.

Hormel decided he needed more and better products to survive. He concentrated on a superior sausage which became popular locally and in 1895 he introduced the first of his company's new products - "Hormel's Sugar-Cured Pig Back Bacon", known today as Canadian bacon.

Before 1900 ice plants were non-existent. Meat shops butchered fresh beef and pork mostly on demand. This constricting system was inadequate for Hormel's ambitious operation. He installed an ice storage plant with ice cut in 18-inch slabs from the frozen Red Cedar. The business expanded rapidly and in 1899 Hormel sent for his father and three brothers to join him in the business. Their arrival allowed George Hormel to put down his cleaver forever.

Hormel's own son, Jay, returned from World War I to join the firm and uncovered a scandal that rocked the Hormel Packing Company. An assistant controller had embezzled $1,187,000 leaving the company short of funds to pay three million dollars in bank notes. Hormel's integrity won him extensions that kept the business afloat.

He aggressively restructured the organization and in 1926, the year George Hormel retired from active management of the company, he introduced "Hormel Flavor-Sealed Ham", America's first canned ham. Hormel added Dinty Moore beef stew in 1935 and canned chili in 1936 to the product line.

In 1937 Hormel developed a spiced ham and ground pork product destined for pop culture immortality. Because the canned meat included shoulder meat it couldn't be called ham. Hormel sponsored a contest to name the new meat. The winner received $1100 and SPAM entered American lexicon. It became a World War II staple and though roundly ridiculed it sold one billion cans in its first 20 years.

Hormel withstood a bitter labor strike in 1933 when disgruntled employees armed with clubs physically removed Jay Hormel from his office and threatened to shut off the plant's refrigeration system endangering millions of pounds of meat. A compromise was reached in three days and Hormel subsequently became a leader in innovative labor relations policies. When George Hormel died in 1946 the company he founded in 1892 by dressing 610 hogs was processing 5000 hogs a day.


And the man behind the brand is...
Richard Hellman

Richard Hellman sold several varieties of his wife’s mayonnaise in his little deli on Columbus Street in New York City in 1905. To simplify his wife’s life he polled several customers and discovered the “blue ribbon” formula was the most popular. And so it was that “Richard Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise” became the first mayonnaise that most Americans ever tasted.

Hellman was born in Vetschau, Germany in 1876 and apprenticed in the wholesale food business as a boy. He then travelled the globe for Crosse & Blackwell, a British grocery concern. He landed in America in 1903 to work in a wholesale grocery business before opening his deli two years later.

To flavor his sandwiches and salads Hellman offered mayonnaise, a French cream sauce known since the mid-1700s. He sold ten-cent portions, ladled into wooden bowls. In 1912 he began packing his salad dressing in jars; his name emblazoned on the label beneath a bright blue ribbon. Within a year Hellman realized his small shop could not produce the amount of mayonnaise his customers demanded.

In 1915 a modern factory was up and running in Queens. By 1920 a second manufacturing facility was set up on Long Island. Hellmann merged his company with the newly formed General Foods Corporation in 1927, remaining on the board of directors of the parent company. He pursued other business interests, including banking, before his death in a Greenwich, Connecticut nursing home in 1971 at the age of 94.


And the man behind the brand is...
Henry Heinz

Henry Heinz looked around at his company exhibit at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The hand-carved antique oak glistened with polished oil. The small pagodas at each corner - graced by four international beauties - were stocked with a dizzying variety of free Heinz food samples. A trade paper had raved, “the Heinz exhibit is most comprehensive, showing every variety of sauce, relish and preserve put up, many of them being original with the firm.”

The pavilion had everything - except visitors. Heinz thought a bit and left for the nearest print shop. He designed a small white card promising the bearer a free Heinz souvenir when redeemed at the Heinz Company Exhibit at the fair. He directed his men to hand out the cards and hired boys to scatter the tokens by the thousands around the fair grounds.

The souvenir in question was a small charm one and one-quarter inches long shaped like a pickle, emblazoned with the name Heinz. And the people stampeded. The next day the New York Times reported, “It has just been discovered that the gallery floor of the Agricultural Building has sagged where the pickle display of H.J. Heinz Company stood, owing to the vast crowd which constantly thronged to procure a watch charm.”

Fair officials had to call on Chicago police to regulate the crowds until the supports of the gallery could be strengthened. Other exhibitors filed an official complaint with fair authorities, charging unfair competitive methods. All told Heinz gave away one million pickle charms at the fair. The Saturday Evening Post lauded the promotion as “one of the most famous giveaways in merchandising history.”

By the time of the Chicago Exposition Henry Heinz had been selling food for 41 of his 49 years. At the age of eight Heinz sold the surplus from his mother’s garden in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh. By the time he was 12 Henry was cultivating his own three-and-one-half acre plot. At an early age Heinz showed an intuitive sense of seed and soil, drawing on his German heritage.

Heinz specialized in bottled horseradish, a delicacy of the area. The food was prized as an appetite sharpener and hailed as a medicinal marvel. But its allure was not obtained without tedious kitchen preparation and a legacy of scraped knuckles. Heinz’s bottled, prepared horseradish - packaged in clear bottles for housewives to inspect for any trace of fillers - anticipated the desire for processed foods that was eventually to engrain his company in 20th century kitchens around the world.

Despite his success in the horseradish business Heinz was primarily a brickmaker until he was 25, first in his father’s brickyard and then as owner of his own brick factory. In 1869 he married and decided to forego all non-food business interests. His Anchor Brands started with horseradish and gradually expanded to include sauerkraut, pickles and vinegar.

By 1875 Heinz and his two partners had “built up the business with a rapidity seldom witnessed,” reported a commentator of the day. But it was too much too fast. A bumper cucumber crop left Heinz strapped for cash and the firm went bust. His parents’ house and furniture went to a sheriff’s sale; Heinz had to beg for credit for groceries for his family.

The stigma of bankruptcy did not settle long on Heinz. He was shortly back in the food business, managing a company started by his brother and cousin. His debts paid off, Heinz was solvent again by 1879, a year ahead of his self-imposed schedule. A small dervish of a man the restless Heinz now set out to expand the business.

An inveterate traveler, the Pittsburgh food merchant sailed to England in 1886 with dozens of jars of pickles, chili sauce and other condiments. Brazenly he marched into the leading London grocer of the day, Fortnum & Mason, and sold all his samples. Heinz products were quickly staples in every pantry in the British empire.

While riding a New York elevated train in 1892 Heinz studied a car placard that advertised “21 styles” of shoes. He reckoned the phrase would work for his own products. Although there were more than sixty of them at the time, Heinz hit on the number 57. Within a week the sign of the green pickle with the “57 Varieties” was everywhere Heinz could “find a place to stick it.”

He ordered New York’s first electric sign, a six-story, 1200-light display that advertised “good things from the table” from Heinz. Enthralled New Yorkers gathered nightly to watch the mechanically orchestrated lines of flashing lights, each of which cost $90 a night to burn.

His most successful promotion was the Heinz Ocean Pier at Atlantic City. Jutting 900 feet into the Atlantic Ocean the pier was popularly known as “The Crystal Palace by the Sea.” An estimated 50 million people visited the pier, most of whom left sporting their tiny Heinz pickle pin. Finally, in 1944 when the amusement pier seemed to be outliving its novelty, a September hurricane tore apart the pier casting the “5” from the giant “57” into the sea.

By 1900 Heinz had dwarfed his competitors. “Any one of our present buildings in Pittsburgh - there were 17 - is as large as the entire plant of any other concern in the same business in this country,” boasted a company statement. Heinz invited the public to visit his plant, one of the first industrialists to open his doors to factory tours.

In an era of reviled sweatshops Heinz proudly showed off his operation where Heinz girls stuffed pickles and peppers into glass jars and in their off hours enjoyed a paneled wood locker room, a library and a swimming pool. All food handlers enjoyed a free weekly manicure.

In an age when Americans began to turn away from home-grown foods concern grew over the quality of pre-packaged food products. Practically alone in the food industry Henry Heinz stood in favor of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and helped shepherd it into existence, generating priceless favorable publicity for his firm.

Into his seventies Heinz left much of the business details to his son and devoted himself to the national Sunday School movement. Still globetrotting, he had little time to enjoy his private museum collection and ten greenhouses at his Pittsburgh mansion. He was busy making plans for their expansion when he was stricken by pneumonia and died in 1919 at the age of 74.

Fifty years later in 1969, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the food processing firm by Henry Heinz, company officials quietly dropped the celebrated “57 Varieties” trademark. At the time the H.J. Heinz product list numbered more than 1,100.