I just don’t get a lot of sleep, as many of you know. For whatever reason, I’m up odd hours, ruminating, stargazing or watching old SC-FI movies with my Scottish Deerhound Lilly on my lap. And at times, my healthful diet notwithstanding, I will grab a snack. Oh, usually something like peanut butter or a banana, but not always. I too hear the irresistible mandate of junk food calling me.
Tearing cellophane late one night, I got to thinking about the snacks in our stores, and how they got their names. In my somnambulant state I had visions of marketing teams drowning in research, sweating unwanted double entendres and weighing trendiness. Oh so serious business, this name choosing must be.
Well, not always. I looked some of it up. Sometimes it’s serendipity, or just coin toss. For example, the creator of Pringles — those canned, uniformly shaped potato chips — got his product’s name from a Cincinnati phone book. That’s right: he liked the sound of “Pringle Drive.”
Another chip, Frito-Lay Ruffles, was named for its physical characteristics. A ruffle, after all, is a strip of fabric which, when gathered, creates folds. Hey, at times you have to play up the obvious, or at least a unique aspect. I get that. Lay’s chips, on the other hand, were simply named for Herman W. Lay, who had opened a snack food operation in Nashville.
What about Funyuns, you ask? Well, introduced in 1969, the onion-flavored corn snack started its pre-shelf life as “OnYums.” Turns out, that name was taken. (Who among us has not conceived a wonderfully clever computer password, only to learn that, ah, we’re not all that clever?). Frankly, I find default “Funyuns” easier to say.
Let’s move on to cakes, shall we? And isn’t this a nice break from my usual eat-your-veggie rants? Consider the Ding Dong, that venerable chocolate, creme-filled delicacy produced by Hostess Brands. In stores since the mid-60s, Ding Dongs were named to coincide with a television ad campaign featuring a ringing bell. Cute and simple, right? Well, turn down the ovens, because serious litigation resulting from a corporate merger forced a temporary, compromise new name — King Dons — until 1988 when successive corporate predation allowed the use of the Ding Dong name once again. The real world, folks.
And yes, there really was a Little Debbie. Seems the co-founders of the cookie and cake-based company named a product after their four-year-old grandchild. In fact, the image on the original packaging was based on a black-and-white photo of Deb.
Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, meanwhile, were named for pop art, which in the 1960s was pretty prevalent. Are you as electrified as I am by this?
My Doberman Alfred eats Pop-Tarts…… He thinks they are gourmet fare…. Fortunately so do thousands of my customers.
Oh, and then you have Cracker Jack, those golden kernels of Americana. Widely considered the first junk food, the product was the brainchild of Frederick William Rueckheim and his brother Louis, who originally called the boxed stuff, mass-produced for the first Chicago World Fair, “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts.” The name was changed in 1896 when a customer, after sampling, exclaimed, “That’s crackerjack!” Loosely translated as, “Damn! This is good.” Of course, the snack soon got free publicity from “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Lucky stiffs.
And … that’s probably enough trivia for now being as it’s 4:10 am. The next time an infomercial sends you padding to the cupboard, perhaps you’ll pay attention to more than what’s in the bag.
Bags. Hmm. I wonder how they’re constructed, and how much that’s evolved.
Oh, never mind. I’ve got to get some sleep!