Posts tagged ‘advertising’

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

Ancient Candies Sell New Technologies, 1950s

Today I wanted to share with you a couple of candy industry ads from the 1950s that caught my eye. When I saw them, I wondered, why the sudden appearance of these “ancient” motifs and references?

Here we have Monsanto Chemical Company advertising their Flavor Chemicals in 1952 (yes, its the same Monsanto). This is the fruit and flower of modern science, the efforts of chemists at the cutting edge of food engineering. And what image do they use to promote their oh-so-modern product? Ancient Egyptians and Classic Greeks in togas.

And two years later, Annheuser-Busch brings a full-blown pharaonic fantasy to promote its starches and corn syrups.

This ad describes candy as “one of the oldest manufactured food products.” I think this phrase tips us off as to what these ads are doing.

The food business was undergoing a major technological revolution in the 1950s. All sorts of food engineering and food chemistry, much of it developed for the military during WWII, was hitting the marketplace in the form of new kinds of food, new kinds of packaging, and new ways of cooking and eating.

It was “better living through chemistry,” to be sure. But as much as there was the excitement of progress and the new, there was also anxiety: after all, was  chemistry really food?

I think these ads are about creating psychological links between the old and the new to make the new seem more a continuation of the old, more familiar and less of a dramatic break.

The problem is not so acute for Annheuser-Busch’s starches and corn syrups, perhaps. After all, they have some recognizable relation to corn. But Monsanto was peddling additives that were radically new and absolutely artificial: ethavan, vanillin, coumarin and methyl salicylate, flavorings that created the effects of “real” foods like vanilla and mint. The question on some people’s minds must have been: Was Monsanto selling chemicals? Or food ingredients?

Monsanto reassures its customers of its rightful place in the candy kitchen by establishing links to the candy past. “Hebrews, Greeks, Romans… history-making men of nearly every nationality… have listed candy among their foods,” and now Monsanto joins this distinguished line as part of the “modern Candy Industry.”

Note: yes, that’s the same Annheuser-Busch better known for beer. For the full story on how a brewer ends up provisioning the candy trade, see my post Beer and Candy III. For more on Monsanto’s chemicals in the candy industry, see my posts Please Don’t Eat the Wrapper and A Complete, Well-Balanced Diet.

Ads appeared in Confectioners Journal: Monsanto, Feb 1952; Annheuser-Busch, Aug 1954.

April 7, 2010 at 8:30 am 2 comments

Fresher in Cellophane

Oooh...that candy looks good!

This 1958 Du Pont ad declares: “Candy’s at its best in Cellophane!”

And it was no exaggeration. From the 1930s through the 1960s, Cellophane was the very best wrapping material for candy. Cellophane was transparent and impermeable. This made it the ideal wrapping material for Americans who were worried about germs but who were also very picky shoppers. Cellophane meant they could see what they were getting, but still be confident that “germs” were kept out.

From the very beginning, candy makers loved cellophane. Some industry observers dated the birth of the modern candy trade to 1923, the year Du Pont began manufacturing Cellophane in the U.S. Cellophane revolutionized the packaging of candies. Individually wrapped candies sparkled, like glowing gems, a huge leap from the old dull waxed papers. Cellophane could be make into transparent bags for bulk candies, the whole package a tantalizing window on the candy inside. For the high-end market, cellophane covered and sealed fancy boxed candies, guaranteeing hygienic freshness. The candy buying consumers certainly found these qualities appealing. But Cellophane also helped the candy seller. Candy wrapped in Cellophane would maintain its freshness and visual appeal for longer periods, so merchants worried less about old goods. And wrapped candies could be sold as a “self-service” item to be stocked on modern grocery store shelves, which would mean fewer expensive clerks to serve the customers.

1936: “Delicious hard candy, Can NOW be kept handy!”

“New, clean wrap is a sweet idea!”

Ads from the 1930s emphasized cleanliness and convenience. The individually wrapped candies in these ads will be happy in a pocket or handbag, with no worry for sticky messes. The girl peering over the candy bin seems ready to reach in for a handfull. There is no clerk standing over her waiting for her order. She can just help herself! Compare this image of the open candy bins to the image of a 1900s candy store in Ye Olde Candy Shoppe.

1937: “Each piece always clean, never sticky, easy to carry!”

Many of these ads feature sweet little girls. But of course: little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice,” and what is nicer or sweeter than fresh candy!

Here’s adorable Shirley Temple pouring out a candy dish in a 1954 ad.

In the 1950s ads, Du Pont emphasized the official line of the NCA, “Candy is Delicious Quick-Energy Food.” The advantage of Cellophane is to keep the candy fresh. In this and the ad at the top of the page, the candy is wrapped in Cellophane bag. Compare this to the 1930s ads, which suggest the little girls might be choosing individual pieces of candy. By the 1950s, the children’s candy market had moved away from little penny candies (see Langston Hughes Sings the Blues for Penny Candy).

1955: “You can be sure candy is fresh and clean–and you can see to choose the kind you like best–when you buy CANDY IN CELLOPHANE.”

Is the “you” who buys the candy the mother? She’s probably the one who cares that the candy is fresh and clean. Or is it the kids? They can choose the kind they like best. The jelly beans they are holding are pre-packaged in the Cellophane bag. It’s a pretty big sack, not likely to be purchased by a child alone. Candy here is something mother buys for her children, not something they go out to buy for themselves.

Related Posts:

  • La Cellophane
  • Langston Hughes Sings the Blues for Penny Candy
  • Ye Olde Candy Shoppe
  • January 22, 2010 at 11:41 am 2 comments

    Candy Discovers Television, 1950

    In 1950, candy woke up to a whole new realm of candy selling and candy eating possibilities: television.

    Watching TV

    5 million television sets were in use in 1950, with another million expected to be added by years end. In the days of “family viewing,” that meant 15-20 million Americans gathered around the black and white hearth.

    But what really caught the candy industry’s eye was this: families gathered around the television were eating candy. Lots of it.

    TV was a perfect candy eating opportunity. TV created “a concentrated attentive audience, in a relaxed pleasure seeking mood. An audience that should be receptive to eating candy.”

    Marketing professionals had some advice for exploiting this new opportunity. Henceforth, candy manufacturers would

    1. sell the consumer on the idea of eating candy while watching television.

    2. create special television candies and packages

    3. investigate the potentials of television as an advertising medium for candy.

    The observations of a reporter for Candy Industry proved prophetic:

    As a new confectionery outlet it is still in infancy, if not the incubating stage. But it has taken root, and if properly developed, it may well have a terrific impact on the candy business in the months and years to come.

    Source: “Television Opens New Candy Market.” (p 1, 31) Candy Industry 25 April 1950, 1, 31.

    Related Posts:

  • Howdy Doody, brought to you by Candy
  • A Musical TV Tribute to Candy, 1951
  • October 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm 1 comment


    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

    Welcome to Candy Professor

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