Posts filed under ‘Marketing’

Candy Doll Novelties in the 1920s

Today candy novelties are mostly cheap plastic toys, usually generic one-offs. Advertising and brand loyalty are the keys to the success of the biggest candy companies.

High-quality candy novelties were much more important in the early days of the candy industry. Success in the candy business hinged on moving quickly to introduce new kinds of candy and new novelties to catch the eye of child or adult shopper. Higher priced candy was often bought as a gift, and clever or eye catching presentations would increase a gift’s value. For children’s candies, the novelty could transform a simple candy into something much more appealing.

These candy dolls from the 1920s were manufactured by Huyler’s, a large confectioner better known for quality chocolates. Although these goods are for children, they would have been sold at higher-priced shops and department stores alongside Huyler’s chocolate goods and similar candies. Each was made by hand. These candy dolls appear primitive to the modern eye, but must have been charming and appealing to a child in the 1920s.

The first is described as a  “grotesque candy doll … of a type to endear it to the hearts of children.” I think in this context “grotesque” is supposed to mean “comical,” but you can judge for yourself:

Here is Simple Simon, fashioned of candy sticks, with his chocolate pies.  The book motif is cleverly carried through from the shape of the box to the hand-written rhyme, with the figures and candies playing out the theme.

In the Simple Simon package, the Huyler’s name is featured prominently. The transformation of candy box into part of a toy novelty assures that the manufacturer’s name stays in the child’s mind. The novelties are not only for children’s delight, but also to build business:

The children of today are the candy buyers of the future. [These novelties] give the manufacturer a chance to get first place in the child’s affections.

Source: Edward T. Tandy, “Place of Novelties in Merchandising,” Confectioners Journal April 1921 (Printers Ink March 1921)

November 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

Retailing Halloween in the 1920s

One of the fun things about looking back at the beginnings of the commercial candy trade is to see how modern ideas about marketing, sales and promotion first began to take hold. Today we are so accustomed to the annual round of seasonal sales and holiday decorations. But in the early 1900s, these were new ideas for retail.

In a 1917 issue of The National Druggist (St. Louis, MO), for example, a writer explains the basic idea of holiday promotion:

Holiday times are always good times for business. In the first place, people are then in a spending humor. “Other days they go around with their pockets buttoned up tight,” says an old druggist. “On holidays they open them.” … The point is that it will pay a retail merchant to capitalize the holidays as they come along, that is, to catch people while they are in a spending humor.

The description for window display possibilities for Halloween from this same article gives a useful description of the kind of commercial decorations that were widely available from stationery and novelty shops in this era:

Halloween gives us a fine opportunity for working up timely business. The wholesale stationers and novelty houses supply a big line of Halloween favors, place cards, paper table covers, paper napkins, noise makers, Halloween hats and a variety of Halloween decorations. Halloween suits for small children are coming into vogue now and some good sales may be made. Halloween is always a great time for window displays. The season’s colors, yellow and black, are extremely effective.

Interesting to note the reference to “Halloween suits for small children.” Although trick or treating was not yet invented, it was popular in some cities and towns to parade about or to go visiting door to door on Halloween. Here is an early glimmer of the costume business that will become so central to Halloween in our day.

Publications for soda fountains and candy shops made similar efforts to persuade business proprietors of the necessity of dressing up for the holidays. In the October 1921 issue of  The Soda  Fountain (New York, NY), a column urges “More Window Displays Needed”:

Window displays and fountain decorations are more important factors in business than is generally realized and the establishments which make use of them to the fullest extent are loud in their praise of them as business-getters.

This column offers some ideas for Halloween display as well:

Halloween, with its traditional orange and black color schemes, its pumpkins and black cats and witches, offers the excuse for any number of effective decorative schemes. With these displays may be joined various devices for attracting trade: souvenirs, special dishes, contests, etc., may all be tied up with the Halloween displays. Special candy sales, using appropriate containers are effective and often used to attract attention.

Soda fountains often sold candy as well, so the reference to special candy sales is not unusual. But it is notable that while special sales are mentioned, special candies are not.

While many small businesses seem to have been timid about taking advantage of holiday themes, some retailers in this era were extremely creative and adventurous in mounting impressive seasonal displays. A 1918 story in The National Drug Clerk (Chicago) describes in detail the Halloween display of one large New York druggist:

The ceiling and walls of the window were covered with grey crepe, and were cleverly decorated with black witches sailing on their brooms, black cats, and yellow pumpkins. To give a different effect, some of the witches were sailing in aeroplanes, and had a black cat sitting on one of the wings.

In the middle of the window was the customary large pumpkin. The eyes, instead of being square, were large and round.and long eyebrows tilting down toward the nose, were painted in, in black. The nose was cut in a V-shape, with black whiskers twirling around the mouth. The eyes were illuminated with tiny red lights.To the left of the pumpkin was a large mask (about two or three times the size of a regular mask) resembling a pirate. … To the right of the pumpkin was a mask resembling the Giant in “Jack the Giant Killer.” …  Suspended on different colored strings, which hung from the ceiling, were numerous kinds of masks of regulation size. 

On the floor of the window, which was also covered with grey crepe, were dainty little printed invitations. Some of the invitations were decorated with black cats while some were plain. Here and there were favors for the party, consisting of tiny boxes of candy in the shape of wishing wells and cats, whistles shaped like witches on their brooms, small dolls dressed up as witches and apples made of a wire frame, covered with red transparent paper, and filled with candy.

Leaning against the walls were books of games, conundrums and some of the popular ghost stories and superstitions connected with Hallowe’en.

This is a display for a druggist, not a candy store, but it is nevertheless striking that candy is so inconspicuous in the display. Druggists were perhaps the next largest retailers of candy, after specialty candy shops.Yet in this display, candy is only featured as the filling for party favors.

I imagine these paper-covered wire frame apple favors as the ancient ancestors of today’s trick or treat plastic pumpkin buckets. A century ago, kids would take home an apple’s worth of candy corn from their Halloween festivities. Today, we fill those huge pumpkins to the brim.

October 20, 2010 at 10:30 am 3 comments

Gum Passion

What’s your passion? What gets you really excited? Is it…gum?

Seriously. The gum market is looking for a way to expand, and consultants have decided that what gum consumers are looking for, what is really lacking in their gum, is excitement. This is the theory behind the marketing for recently introduced Stride Shift, a someone disappointing attempt at getting something to happen while you’re chewing gum. In a New York Times piece on the new gum marketing campaign, the Stride spokesman explains:

Stride speaks to younger consumers who chew gum not for functional reasons but for emotional reasons. Younger consumers have a disdain for the ordinary, and they like to be snapped out of boredom.

At the time, it seemed to me a little bit of a stretch. Little did I know that it was the first glimpse of a future of mandatory gum excitement.

Here’s the latest from Trident Layers, a promotion that is as far as I am concerned just one more symptom of American capitalism’s hurling of itself off the rails. It turns out that if the gum itself isn’t so exciting (after all, it’s just gum), promoters can certainly make a lot of noise around the gum to simulate excitement.

On October 21, rush to Times Square between 6:30 am and 2:30 pm, where you’ll be able to pay for a taxi ride anywhere in the city limits with a pack of new Trident Layers “Cool Mint+Melon Fresco” gum. And you don’t even need to buy the gum. Just take one of the sample packs, stand in a big long line, and play gum games while you wait for your taxi.

This doesn’t even make sense to me. If you need to go somewhere, why would you first go to Times Square to wait for a gum-accepting taxi? And as for excitement, do these people realize that waiting for a cab is one of the least exciting things to do in New York City? Gum or no gum?

The real kicker in all of this is that the whole theme seems to have gotten reversed. You’ve probably seen the TV commercials where teen babysitters get all excited about getting gum instead of money for their labors. Trident Layers is “So Good You’ll Want to Get Paid in Gum!” But its not the Times Square targets tourists who are going to get paid in gum. It’ s the taxi drivers. And if the gum is so good, why would people be willing to trade it for a taxi ride? But the whole thing kind falls apart if you say “it’s so good you’ll try to pay for stuff you’d rather have with the gum you’re happy to get rid of.” Obviously, none of this matters. What matters is EXCITEMENT! It’s gum, it’s taxis, it’s Times Square! Yeah!

I got riled up about this because of two other items that floated across my desk recently. One is a news story in the Chicago Tribune describing the accelerating pace of product innovation in gum:

Want to manage your weight, strengthen and whiten your teeth, increase your vitamin intake? Just bored out of your mind? Have some gum.

Candy manufacturers are rolling out gums for all occasions. Some of the gums seem to have been pulled from science fiction, or at least Willy Wonka’s factory.

Kraft Foods’ Stride Shift, for instance, changes flavor while you’re chewing. Trident Vitality, available early next year, contains vitamin C for those who can’t be bothered to eat fruit. Wrigley’s Extra Dessert Delights, meanwhile, gives dieters a reason to pass on cake, with flavors like chocolate mint chip and Key lime pie.

Gum is stagnating, it seems. What gum needs is a little excitement, something to make it “relevant” to today’s youthful gum chewers. That, according to the Buisness School models, is what consumers want. Not any simple thing like gum with a good texture and a flavor that doesn’t fade too fast or go off. That’s what us cranky oldsters want, evidently, and we don’t chew enough gum to really matter (and by oldster, I refer to anyone over 30, as per the gum marketing people).

Flavor? Texture? That is so twentieth century. These are gums to uplift! To inspire! To motivate! To cure! To indulge! Gum!

And then I came upon a press release from a market research company called NetBase which puts out periodical reports on their proprietary Brand Passion Index for various products, most recently Halloween candy.

I’m starting to catch on: marketing today is all about this  creepy idea that you should have intimate emotional relationships with the stuff you buy and consume. It’s not enough to think the gum tastes just fine. Tools like the Brand Passion Index will “help companies understand not only the intensity of passion consumers have, but more importantly why consumers feel the way they do about the brand.” You should be passionate about your gum. Intensely passionate. And if you’re not, someone wants to find out why, and fix it.

I have nothing against selling stuff. I just don’t like when its done in such a manipulative and cheesy way.

And now, I feel a SOAP BOX coming on. Gum is not life. Passion is not relevant to buying gum or detergent or ball point pens. Genuine passion is about our real relationships and real projects and real goals. If gum owns passion, there’s not much meaning or value left for the real stuff.

So go ahead, chew your gum. Enjoy it. But save your passion for things that really matter.

October 18, 2010 at 10:21 am 1 comment

Get Your Own Tootsie!

Kids! So much energy! So much enthusiasm! What is their secret? Could it be…candy?

Life Magazine, 1 November 1943

Hey grown ups! Get smart! Do what the kids do: eat Tootsie Rolls!

Tootsie Rolls from the very beginning struggled to be accepted as a candy for adults. When they were launched in the early 1900s, they chose “sophisticated” browns and golds for the wrapping, packaged the penny pieces into larger boxes, and advertised heavily as a treat for all ages. (See my post Tootsie Roll: Penny Candy That’s Not)

Fact is, kids may love candy, but they don’t have the big bucks. Alas, as you can see can see in this series of ads from the 1940s, Tootsie Roll candies seemed to just naturally roll back into the children’s candy market. And frankly, it’s no surprise. Tootsie Rolls are chewy and a little tough, and the spectacle of an adult gnawing on one of these big sticks of sticky is just a little undignified.

So to stir things up a bit, Tootsie Roll came up with the idea of an epic battle of the generations over control for the nation’s Tootsie Rolls.  In this next ad, things have really gotten out of control, with soldiers stealing Tootsie Rolls out of the mouths of babes:

Life Magazine, 26 October 1942

Did you catch that WARNING at the top? The Adult practice of stealing children’s Tootsie Rolls has grown to a national menace!

It is unclear whether the soldier’s job is to protect children from the “national menace,” or if it is the soldier himself who is the “national menace.” World War Two, the implicit backdrop for this ad, would certainly have been a lot more fun if it was just about wresting Tootsie Rolls out of the wrong hands.

And look at this poor little moppet who lost all her “beeyootiful, chocolate, chewy” Tootsie Rolls to the greedy grownups:

Life Magazine 23 Nov 1942

They brought the Tootsie Rolls for her, and then they ate them all up! No fair!

In all these ads, the adults are shown doing something sneaky or even criminal: they are spying on children, and stealing their treats. This makes the message a little confusing: one one hand, Tootsie is persuading adults that they too should eat Tootsie Rolls because they taste good and give you that “pep.” On the other hand, adults are “stealing” them from children, which seems to imply that the Tootsie Rolls really belong to the children. The ad tells adults to “get your own,” but the only way adults seem to be able to get candy is by pretending it is for children and then gobbling it up themselves. Hmm, with Halloween coming up, that might just sound about right…

Life Magazine 28 Sept 1942

Tootsie Rolls make adults into children, and children into little swaggering adults. This tough guy complains:

Gotta watch those grown ups! They sight a Tootsie, sink same.

Grown ups are naughty, and the kiddies have to keep an eye on them to keep them from swiping the candy. In this  installment, grown ups are depicted as ignorant as well:

Most of those Tootsie swipers don’t even know that Tootsies are pep food!

It’s the kid who knows that Tootsie candy is quick food-energy, while the grown ups only seem to care about the “chocolatety luscious flavor.”

My impression of these ads is that despite the explicit intention to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls, they seem to be reinforcing the message that Tootsie Rolls are really children’s candy. Given the nature of the Tootsie Roll, maybe failure was inevitable. By the 1950s, Tootsie had pretty much given up trying to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls. Ever after, the focus was on selling Tootsies to children directly and on selling Tootsies to adults as treats for children.

Rich in Dextrose for Quick Food Energy: if you’re wondering what all the dextrose excitement was about in these 1940s ads, see my posts on dextrose, candy, and food energy:

  • Candy and Corn: “Rich in Dextrose!”
  • Dextrose: All-American Corn Sugar
  • October 1, 2010 at 9:57 am 2 comments

    Dextrose: All-American Corn Sugar

    Life Magazine, 8 September 1941

    “Dextrose helps make candy a delicious food.” The key word here is FOOD: candy isn’t just a treat, it’s actual sustenance. This ad contrasts the old fashioned notions of grandma, who thinks of candy as a simple confection, with the new modern knowledge of nutrition possessed by the younger woman. The new generation knows that:

    Candy is a veritable bulwark against between-meal fatigue. Even doctors consider candy a desireable requirement of the daily diet. … The concentrated food-energy of candy is obvious because it is simply a delicious combination of many highly nutritious foods everyone eats every day–chocolate, milk, butter, corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, eggs, fruits and nuts.

    And that’s why:

    Intelligent health-minded people prefer candy products made with Dextrose because they appreciate its great value as the chief quick energy fuel of the body.  … Whenever you buy a bar or box of candy, look among the ingredients on the wrapper for “Dextrose”: it assures you always of genuine food energy to sustain your body in work or play.

    Dextrose is making its debut in ads like this one. American consumers are getting to know this “ALL-AMERICAN SUGAR” which is appearing in a wide variety of familiar foods. This ad copy makes dextrose sound somewhat miraculous: food, but better than food. Among all those candy ingredients, it’s dextrose that you are supposed to look for and demand for real “food energy.” Not sucrose (sugar), not eggs, not milk, not nuts, not chocolate. To today’s consumer, this seems a little fishy. Or better, a little corny.

    This ad promoting candy as delicious food appeared as a part of a series produced by the Corn Products Refining Co. promoting their sweetening product derived from corn. Dextrose had been around since the early 1900s, but was pretty much known only to the food and confectionery industry.

    According to the Corn Refiners Association’s official history, the corn refining industry was born in 1844 with the development of technology to extract starch from the corn kernel. The principal use of corn starch was: laundry.

    But by 1866, someone figured out how to derive dextrose from that corn starch. Something new under the sun: corn sugar (as syrup, or further refined to crystalline dextrose, a technology that arrived in the 1920s). Unlike cane sugar and beet sugar which were extracted from the sweet stalk or bulb, corn sugar was the product of a chemical reaction, an enzymatic transformation of not-sweet laundry starch to sweet syrups and powders.

    Dextrose as corn syrup was an important ingredient in its own right. And as crystalline dextrose, it could be substituted for refined beet or cane sugar in some uses. Dextrose was cheaper than regular sugar, so there were some manufacturers who were substituting it on the sly prior to the 1940s. But when WWII food disruptions led to sugar rationing, dextrose suddenly had a new allure.

    Chemically, dextrose is identical to glucose. Glucose is the simple sugar from which living cells directly extract energy. Our bodies use glucose immediately as it is absorbed through the blood stream (hence “blood sugar”); other simple sugars, like fructose, have to be metabolized before they become available as fuel. Corn sugar is sometimes called glucose. In fact, when corn sugar, in the form of a syrup, was first introduced as a food ingredient, producers used the term “glucose”: problems with confusion with “glue,” however, led to the new term “corn syrup” in 1914, which is pretty much what we’ve called it ever since. (See Glue-Cose for the whole story.)

    But by the 1940s, corn refiners and food producers were using the term dextrose to refer to any kind of sugar derived from corn. In any event, corn sugar, glucose, corn syrup, and dextrose pretty much mean the same thing as far as the chemistry of sugars goes. In many contexts today,  the word glucose is reserved for the sugar that is zooming around in your blood, while the term “dextrose” refers to the corn sugar that is chemically identical but hasn’t entered your blood stream yet.

    Confused? It’s confusing. The FDA defines “corn sugar” as a particular chemical [alpha]-D-glucopyranosetates and then notes that this chemical is “commonly called D-glucose or dextrose.”  Dextrose (a.k.a. glucose) is also found in fruits and honey; I’ve seen references to processed sugar from grapes referred to as “grape dextrose.” Fructose is another sugar that is commonly found in fruits and honey. Table sugar is sucrose: a fructose bonded to a glucose. Like I said, it’s confusing. But bear with me. The identity of glucose and dextrose turns out to be the key.

    The problem in the 1940s is: how is the corn refining industry going to transform their cheap sugar substitute, something that food processors don’t even want consumers to know they are using, into a desirable commodity? Answer: by using advertising to rebrand Dextrose as the patriotic, scientific, nurturing alternative to that other sweet stuff. Remember how I said that dextrose is glucose, and glucose is the form of sugar directly metabolized by the body? Here’s the way that gets translated into selling dextrose:

    Life Magazine, 1 June 1942

    The text reads in part:

    The chief fuel for bodily activity is a sugar called Dextrose. Dextrose is formed in Nature by the action of sunlight upon plant life. Human life depends on it for energy…. Keep the energy of sunshine in your body. Demand foods “Enriched with Dextrose.”

    So according to this ad, dextrose isn’t just an ingredient or a sweetener. It “enriches” the food with the “energy of sunshine.” The funny thing is, dextrose actually is not produced in corn by the sun. Dextrose is the result of lab work performed on corn starches.

    You can also notice how utterly nonsensical this idea of “energy” turns out to be. Behind the claim that Dextrose is energy from the sun is simple carbohydrate science. Dextrose is sugar carbohydrate, sugar carbohydrate, like all carbohydrates, is metabolized by the body for energy. All sugars give this “energy,” as do all breads, pastas, apples, bananas, and pickles.

    Another thing to notice is the emphasis on nature here (and this is decades before anybody is talking about “natural foods”): no mention of corn refining or enzymatic extraction. The path of dextrose is all natural: is from sun to plant to body. And the baby seals the deal: dextrose is the sugar in infant formula, the food for the beginning of life. If it’s good for babies, how can it be bad?

    The sharpest arrow in Corn’s quiver, however, was patriotism. This is during the Second World War, remember. Corn is an American crop. Sugar from Corn is All-American Sugar:

    Life Magazine, 9 November 1942

    Dextrose is the sugar that comes from American crops, the bounty of American agriculture, the wholesomeness of the American farm. Dextrose might even help America win the war:

    We, who must be strong, can build our strength upon the produce of our own farms. For instance, in our native fruits, vegetables and grain, we have an abundant supply of the natural sugar, DEXTROSE, which is food energy in its purest form–energy vital to the toiling, fighting Americans.

    This ad doesn’t quite say it, but the contrast with traditional sugar is implicit. Most Americans have associated refined sugar with cane sugar (although most of our sugar actually comes from beets). Cane is refined in the U.S., but the sugar cane is grown in hot, tropical places. The images of sugar cultivation popular in the first part of the twentieth century featured exotic tropical plantations worked by sweaty, dark skinned bodies. In this context, promoting corn sugar as “All-American” is also hinting that the other sugar is not quite so American at all.

    In contrast,

    Dextrose is an ALL-American sugar, derived from American corn, refined in American factories, distributed by American companies.

    Today, the Corn Refiners Association is struggling to re-brand High Fructose Corn Syrup as “corn sugar.” Seems Americans have decided that everything that has gone wrong in the last 30 years is the fault of HFCS, which is a fairly recent invention and reeks of the science lab. Re-branding it as “corn sugar” makes it seem more…natural. How funny to note that 70 years ago, corn was fighting pretty much the same battle to have sugar derived from corn accepted as a natural and wholesome food ingredient.

    More Dextrose: Candy makers also promoted Dextrose in the 1940s as a benefit of their candy products, as you can read about in my previous post, Candy and Corn: Rich in Dextrose!

    September 29, 2010 at 9:32 am 1 comment

    Candy and Corn: “Rich in Dextrose!”

    In the department of “virtue out of necessity,” I bring you the story of DEXTROSE.

    Dextrose candy: doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. In fact, if you don’t know what dextrose is, which I confess I didn’t until I started Candy Professor, it doesn’t even sound edible! But for most candy-buying and eating purposes, dextrose is just another kind of sugar that can be used for particular candy effects. In particular, “compressed dextrose” is the technical term candy people use to describe the powdery hard candies: Altoids, Smarties, candy necklaces, and all those Made-in-China candy trinkets like robot puzzles and building blocks that you can eat when you’re done.

    But still, what is dextrose?  Dextrose is sugar produced from corn. Today is is one of many many kinds of sugars that food processors can use for various effects. Like compressing it to make candy necklaces. But in the 1930s and 1940s, dextrose was the major competitor and substitute for the more traditional refined sugars from beet and cane.

    Three Ears of Corn

    Americans did not automatically embrace sugar from corn. As we can see today in the backlash against high fructose corn syrup, American consumers are suspicious of the whole corn refining process. In my next post, I’ll take a look at the marketing materials produced by the Corn Refiners Association back in the 1940s to sell Americans on this new kind of sugar. The story I want to tell today is about dextrose and candy:  how candy makers took a problem, sugar shortages, and turned it into a big candy plus.

    As WWII disrupted the world food supply, cane and beet sugar prices were rising and sugar shortages seemed likely. But sugar made from corn was not affected. So food processors began looking for ways to use corn sugar in the place of more expensive beet and cane sugar.

    Beet and cane sugar processors were not happy about this; in 1940 they sued to force peach canners to identify dextrose as an ingredient when they used it as a sugar substitute. This lawsuit shows how the public acceptance of dextrose was in transition; the department of Agriculture had allowed use of dextrose without disclosure on the grounds that it was not an injurious ingredient. But the beet and cane sugar refiners seemed to think that peach canners might be less likely to substitute dextrose if they had to claim it on the label.

    Sweet is sweet, but the sugars are slightly different. Cane sugar and beet sugar, you may recall, are “disaccharides”: they combine glucose, which our body uses directly, and fructose, which is first metabolized by the liver. Corn sugar, called dextrose in processing uses, is virtually all glucose.

    If you had to claim “dextrose” as an ingredient, it might turn consumers off. After all, what exactly was this dextrose to the average American? It sounds kind of chemical-ish. But instead of “cheap sugar substitute,” what if you could sell it as a miracle food? And so, dextrose stormed the market as: PURE ENERGY!

    Curtiss Candies, the manufacturer of Baby Ruth and Butterfinger bars, put serious money into advertisements that boasted that the candy was “rich in dextrose, the sugar your body needs for energy”:

    Life Magazine, 13 Nov 1939 (detail)

    See the little guy on the side? He’s sort of the candy bar cheerleader, and in the 1939 wrapper he’s saying “Slice and Serve for All Occassions.” Fancy!

    Soon, though, the cheerleader had a new name: N.R.G. (get it, energy!).  And a new cheer: “Rich in Dextrose.” In this 1940 ad, little N.R.G. appears as a runner, ready to win the race. The text next to the runner explains:

    By actual energy tests, a 150-lb athlete can run almost 4 miles at a speed of more than 5 m.p.h. on the FOOD ENERGY contained in one 5c bar of delicious Baby Ruth candy.

    And even though “dextrose” sounds like a pitch for the newest scientific views, the strawberries and the ad copy reassure us that dextrose is all natural and all good.

    Life Magazine, 11 March 1940

    And here’s N.R.G. in 1942: Baby Ruth gives food energy to soldiers overseas and office workers at home. And what about  that mama with the little baby? Dextrose is “an essential in infant feeding.” Is that candy bar for hungry mom, or sweet-loving baby?

    Life Magazine, 9 Nov 1942

    More posts on sugar, corn and candy:

    September 24, 2010 at 10:49 am 2 comments

    Keep Slim and Trim with Domino: Sugar Advertising in the 1950s

    Of course you know Domino sugar. It’s those little white packets next to the NutraSweet and Equal in the glass tray at the diner. The name “Domino” was coined in the early 190o’s, after the ancestor to the sugar packet: the sugar cube. The trademark name for an otherwise unremarkable commodity kept Domino, and its manufacturer, the American Sugar Refining Company, out at the head of the sugar pack through the 19th century. Today, the Domino Sugar  Corp. has no real rivals in the field of refined sugar, according to the experts at the International Directory of Company Histories (Domino history reproduced at FundingUniverse.com). No, the real competition to Domino Sugar is not sugar at all. Analysts warn: “the trend toward non-caloric artificial sweeteners has started to cut into the firm’s profits.”

    I laughed when I read this. The sugar industry has been grappling with how to sell its product to “diet conscious consumers” for 60 years. And as I described in previous posts, the explosion of artificial sweeteners in the 1950s challenged the sugar producers and the candy industry alike. (See especially The Plague of Overweight and  1954 Fake Sugar Smack Down)

    Back in the early 1900s, the American Sugar Refining Company dominated the American refined sugar market. It was the first to successfully apply a branding strategy to sugar: not just sugar but DOMINO sugar. Sugar demand and sugar consumption exploded in the 1920s and 1930s. After the painful (and, due to sugar shortages and rationing, much less sweet) war years (1942-1945), Domino was back in full force, feeding the nation’s demand for sugary sweets to the tune of something like $180 million in annual sales.

    But their was a cloud on the sugar horizon. A big, fat cloud. After a decade of post-war binging, America was feeling the effects. “Overweight” was a national health crisis. Everyone was reducing. No fattening sugar!

    What’s  a fattening sugar producer to do? Domino had one idea: prove that sugar isn’t fattening.

    Life Magazine, 20 April 1953

    Counting calories these days? You should know that generous amounts of Domino’s Granulated Sugar, used in your favorite foods and beverages, contain fewer calories than usual servings of many foods regularly included in reducing diets.

    By 1955, this campaign had evolved from “sugar has fewer calories than you think” to “sugar is for reducing”. the message in this ad, a revision of the 1953 ad above, suggests that heaping three spoons of sugar into your coffee is a better strategy for weight loss than munching on an apple:

    Life Magazine, 3 October 1955

    And it wasn’t just apples that dieters might want to reconsider. From the same ad series

    The final piece of this marketing campaign was this little cookbook for the “slim and trim”:

    America Sugar promoted this booklet as

    the safe, sure way to lose weight without losing pep or giving up sugar! … It’s Domino’s effort to put SUGAR–and sugar-containing foods and beverages–back in Reducing Diets…where they belong! (ad to the trade in Confectioners Journal, April 1955 p 9)

    Domino Sugar is going through some changes today. Heard of the Domino Sugar Building on the Williamsburg waterfront? The American Sugar Refining Company built its first sugar refining plant here in my native Brooklyn,. It shut down in 2004 (and will likely be reborn as luxury condos, what else), but this is what it looked like in the late days:

    And sugar? Domino is branching out in new directions. They have developed a perplexing array of products for food processing applications known as “non-sweet sugars”: such oxymorons are evidently useful in things like sports drinks which are sweet but not so sweet, and also in non-fat frostings, frozen desserts and salad dressings where the non-sweet sugar takes the place of some of the fat. The company has also teamed up with erstwhile enemy NutraSweet to develop and market…artificial sweeteners.

    See my related posts on candy, calorie counting, sugar and artificial sweeteners:

    September 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

    Candy Box Insert Promotes Weight Loss, 1954

    As sugar goes, so goes candy. When artificial sweeteners moved from the nutritional fringes to the dietary mainstream in the 1950s, the sugar producers and the candy industry realized quickly that their fates were intertwined.

    Sugar Information Inc. had one idea for helping candy keep its market. In 1954 the industry group produced a little pamphlet called “Memo to Dieters.”

    At about 3 inches square, it was the perfect size to slip into a box of chocolates or a sack of sweets. The publication was designed to give prominent display to the name of the candy brand, and it featured the new sugar message that sugar and candy were weight loss aids:

    New medical research finding now confirm that you can have your sweets and your waistline too. … Sugar before meals raises your blood sugar level and reduces your appetite. … And don’t forget that candy is also a wonderful source of quick energy. … So don’t be misled into thinking candy is necessarily fattening. Candy can actually be effective in helping you to reduce.

    My favorite part of this  little pamphlet is the new twist on an old candy marketing strategy. Back in the ‘teens, the National Confectioners Association came up with a punchy candy slogan that captured the aspirations of candy makers to move their product from the category of luxury and treat to the category of everyday purchase: Candy is Good Food. Eat Some Everyday.

    In the Sugar Industries insert, we get a new twist on the theme: Candy is a delicious food, eat some every day to help your diet work.

    The shift from the old slogan to the new diet variation suggests a new role for candy. The old slogan posed candy as another kind of food, just as good as meat and fruit. All foods are for energy, and candy gives you energy too. The new slogan says candy will “help your diet work”: that is, candy will help you eat less of all the other kinds of food that are making you fat. Food is fattening, and candy is the solution. Candy is food, and better than food.

    Jump forward 60 years, and you are in CVS, choosing between the SlimFast bar, the Full Bar, and the ThinkThin bar. Eat more candy, lose more weight.

    For the backstory on artificial sweeteners in 1954 and the impact on sugar marketing, see the first two posts below. You can read more about the “candy is good food” idea in the other posts listed below.

    Source: Confectioners Journal, July 1954, p. 32

    September 13, 2010 at 4:22 pm 1 comment

    A Sucker? or a SCOUT Sucker?

    When I say lollipop, what comes to mind? Dum Dum? Tootsie Pop?

    Well, if it were 1920, you’d probably think first of the Scout Sucker.

    Back in the early 1900s, there were suckers, sure. And every candy shop, no matter what other sorts of candy they sold, was sure to sell lots of suckers. But there was nothing distinctive about them. They were all more or less alike, no package or wrapper or brand to distinguish one from another. And a kid would just say “give me a sucker” and get whatever kind the shop happened to sell.

    Scout Sucker was the first one to come in a special box with a special wrapper, and an ambitious advertising campaign to back it up. So instead of asking for suckers, kids started asking for Scout Suckers.

    The man behind Scout Suckers was named H.W. Faulkner. In 1912, he was a scrappy 15  year old scrubbing out tubs in an ice cream parlor. But he had big dreams, and the way to riches was paved with candy. He got a bit of capital together, and by 1917 had his own little manufacture going in a basement. Faulkner knew from the start that it was all about branding and advertising. Of his first $900 investment, he put 20 percent into advertising. His business strategy was a success. Faulkner Candy grew and grew; by 1920 Faulkner had moved to a huge new factory in Mount Vernon, Illinois and was churning out millions of Scout Suckers. Faulkner was all of 23 years old.

    The factory was a model of modern manufacturing efficiencies. As you can see in the picture, it was built next to the rail road line and boasted its own side track. This meant that supplies could be shipped directly by rail car; corn syrup arrived in tanks and was piped into the basement, saving on the costs of unloading barrels. The corn syrup and other ingredients would be pumped to the top floor, where manufacture began, the goods being drawn ever downward by gravity until they would arrive in their final boxes at the bottom floor, flying out the chute and into customers’ waiting mouths.

    By the way, Americans didn’t used to call them “lollipops.” That’s an old word with a more general meaning, usually given as “sweetmeat.” The word was frequently used to denote something trifling and enjoyable; “Mrs. Lollipop” and “King Lollipop” were frequent characters in children’s stories of the nineteenth century, and “Lollipop” was also the name of an early 1900s literary magazine. In the early 1900s, Americans typically called candy on a stick an “all-day sucker” which soon was shortened to “sucker” simple.  Notwithstanding the adorable Shirley Temple warbling about the “Good Ship Lollipop” in 1934, here in the U.S. the word “lollipop” to mean exclusively candy on a stick does not seem to have been universally accepted until the 1940s. But then, “On the Good Ship Sucker” wouldn’t have been quite so catchy.

    P. W. Hanna, “Men and Methods: H.W. Faulkner” System, the  Magazine for  Business, March 1922 286-87, 310. Scout Sucker and factory images from Faulkner advertising in Confectioners Journal, February 1920.

    July 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

    Intermission: Candy is Delicious Food

    Feeling peckish between features at the drive-in? Head out to the snack bar!

    This intermission short, circa 1950, reminds hungry patrons that “Candy is Delicious Food. Eat Some Every Day.” Which just happens to be a slogan that the National Confectioners Association came up with as early as the 1920s to promote candy eating.

    For those of you under 30, a “drive-in” is an outdoor movie theater. You pull up your car to a pole that has a speaker on a long wire. You can hang the speaker off your window. In the waning days of drive-ins back in the 1980s, the sound was broadcast over FM radio. But the scratchy, tinny mono-phone sound of the window speaker is key for the full effect. Plus the steamed up windows.

    Some of my best child hood memories are of piling all us kids into the station wagon in our pajamas and heading to the drive in, where we would play in the jungle gym until dark, then settle in to fall asleep while the movie played. I think this worked pretty well for my mom, too.

    If you’re nostalgic for the full drive-in experience, or want to try it for the first time, head to Wisconsin this summer. The Hi-Way 18 Outdoor Theater just outside Jefferson has the real old-time deal, window speakers and all. Hi-Way 18 is going for the full nostalgia effect with a program of vintage intermission shorts including “Candy is Delicioius Food.” The ads are old, but the films are new releases. Now Playing: Despicable Me and Toy Story 3. Perfect movies to enjoy in your car on a hot summer night while you’re eating some delicious candy food.

    Here’s the Hi-Way 18 lot during the daylight hours (from www.highway18.com).

    Thanks to Beth Wheelock at GazetteXtra.com for breaking this candy story!

    July 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm 5 comments

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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    Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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