Posts tagged ‘sugar’

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

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 Band Aids

Sugar is a somewhat magical substance. In all its many crystalline and syrupy moods it gives us jellies, and taffies, and candy canes, and fudge. These days, we don’t often worry about spoilage, so its easy to forget that sugar is also an excellent preservative. Fruit preserves and candied fruits last a long time; the sugar draws moisture out of the microbes that would make the food spoil.

Doctor Bandaging a Knee

None of these uses would suggest that we could use sugar in the arsenal against injury and bloodshed. Yet just such a use was discovered among German surgeons during the early days of the first World War:

…it is said that many of the wounded have been cured by dressings of ordinary granulated sugar, the compresses being changed every second or third day.

Actually, it kind of makes sense. Sugar would impede the growth of infectious bacteria, just as it discourages the growth of spoiling bacteria in food. But Confectioners Journal offered a more metaphysical explanation:

Sugar is always vitalizing and it seems logical that it should purify and heal when thus applied externally.

And there was a suggestion for a new candy product:

One of these days our confectioners may be found turning out sugar plasters.

Candy band aids sounds like a great idea. Imagine how much easier it would be to sooth little Suzy’s scratched knee if you could offer one bandage for the knee, and another to suck on!

One final thought: Of course, salt would have the same effect. But in addition to the general non-yummyness of salt band aids, it should be pointed out that packing wounds with salt sounds like it would really hurt!

Source: “Sugar as a Life Saver,” Confectioners Journal April 1917 p 65

November 6, 2009 at 7:38 am 2 comments

Glue-cose

If you hope to create a smooth, creamy, or chewy candy, there is a particular kind of sugar you must add to your mix: glucose. In candy making, glucose creates long carbohydrate molecules that get all tangled up and prevents the other sugars from crystallizing. This is the molecular action that makes hard candies glassy rather than crystalline, and keeps grittiness out of butterscotch, caramels, and taffies.

In the early 1900s Americans were becoming more aware of the techniques of food manufacture in the new food industries. One worry was “adulteration”: were the factories adding cheap or harmful substances to the food they sold?

Commercial candy makers were under special scrutiny. They made chemically complicated concoctions, with strange and unfamiliar colors and flavors and qualities, and they sold them to children. Were the dyes and flavorings and ingredients really safe?

Some weren’t, to be sure. But one that got everybody riled up was “glue.” Glue obviously didn’t belong in candy; yet there it was, right on the list of ingredients: “gluecose.”

Dr. Cutler, a representative of the American Manufacturing Association of Products from Corn, explained the problem in a 1914 address to the National Confectioners Association:

The word ’Glucose’ is derived from that of ’Glukos, ’which was the name given to starch which had been converted into syrup, for the reason that it was sweet. The English spelling of the word was ’Glucose,’ which very easily became misspelled ’Gluecose,’ hence the conclusion by uninformed people that it was a product of ’glue,’ and as glue is made from a variety of objects such as animal hoofs, old bones, fish, etc., ’Glucose’ naturally enough became blacklisted by many. … It was found that even physicians and school teachers were actually teaching and preaching about the dangers and impurities of ’Glucose’.

Confusion about the relation between “glue” and “glucose” became so acute that the corn industry, the primary supplier of glucose, had to act. They went to congress to pass a law allowing glucose to be known henceforth by a name that would forever clear up the “glue” confusion, and would instead imply all that was wholesome and pure. So you won’t find glucose on the list of ingredients any longer. Look for this water-binding simple sugar under its common name: “corn syrup.”

For the story of corn syrup’s rise as a sugar substitute, see my post Corn Into Candy: 1918

Source: “Corn Syrup Education,” International Confectioner June 1914; Harold McGee, On Food and  Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (1984).

More on the science of Corn Syrup in candy making at Laura’s Candy Science Tuesday on Candy Dish Blog

September 28, 2009 at 6:42 am 8 comments


Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

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.

(C) Samira Kawash

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