Posts tagged ‘reducing’

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

1954 Fake Sugar Smack-Down

America’s love affair with artificial sweeteners started in the 1950s when cyclamate became widely available. Reports linking the sweet chemical to cancer in lab rats were decades away.  Artificial sweeteners promised the triumph of chemistry over the messy stuff of appetite and fatness.

This all put actual sugar in a tricky spot. The marketing of artificial sweeteners didn’t mince words: sugar is fattening, fake sugar is not. Real sugar needed to find an angle.

The sugar trade group, Sugar Information Inc., came up with an ingenious solution. They embraced the idea of reducing, but turned sugar’s calories from a deficit into an advantage in the battle against the bulge.

In a massive advertising campaign launched in early 1954, Sugar Inc. told this story: Why do people get fat? They eat too much. Why do they eat too much? They are hungry. Why are they hungry? Their blood sugar has dropped. How to ward off that hunger that leads to overeating? Have a little sugar.

The idea of blood sugar and appetite regulation was cutting edge nutritional science in 1954. When Sugar Inc. started running these ads, the idea of appetite regulation and the relation to blood sugar was quite new, while the menace of caloric excess was widely recognized.

These sugar ads which ran as a series through 1954 in national publications such as LIFE, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, and New Yorker evoked “research scientists at a leading university” to explain the idea that “if you are overweight, a moderate use of sugar in your diet may actually be more effective in helping you reduce than no-calorie artificial sweeteners.”

In a statement to retailers and manufacturers, Sugar Information Inc. called this advertising a “nutritional bombshell”: “a mighty effective answer to the confused calorie claims that seek to undermine confidence in quality foods and beverages that you have helped to build up over the years.”

Ta da: sugar is transformed from waistline menace to the ultimate diet aid. Who needed “diet candy” when candy was the perfect diet pill? As madame exclaims in this ad for Refined Syrups and Sugars, Inc., “What! Eat candy and reduce? — Yes, here’s why…”

See more of the ads in LIFE Magazine: 18 Jan 1954; 5 April 1954; 12 July 1954

August 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm 2 comments


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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