March 8th, 2012 by CrispRoot
We’ve all had them. When we were kids, they’d cause our mothers to yell things like, “No, you can’t have a snack, you’ll spoil your dinner!” As adults, thankfully, we’re a bit freer to indulge ourselves… and since Americans love our freedoms, indulge ourselves we do!
This started a conversation the other day – what are some of America’s favorite snacks, and how long have they been around? Well, first we had to agree on what a snack was, because the definition can vary widely. For example, to a teenage boy, that pound and a half of leftover pot roast sitting in the ‘fridge is a perfectly good snack.
So, we agreed that “snacks” meant things intended to be a snack…not leftovers that weren’t nailed down securely enough to prevent a teenager from inhaling them. After a little research (during which a lot of snacks were eaten), here’s what we came up with:
1.) Cookies. For brevity’s sake, let’s limit it to one kind… Oreos. Invented in 1912, they were brought to market with the unappealing name of Oreo Biscuits. (The inventor must have been British – for some reason, Brits call cookies “biscuits”… which has always made me wonder what a Brit pictures when an American orders biscuits and gravy for breakfast.) Anyway, the first of many variations to the classic Oreo came out in the 1920’s, when a lemon flavored center was offered. The unfortunate original name didn’t seem to hold Oreos back – over 500 billion have been produced.
2.) CrackerJack. Yes, it singular. “Jack”, not “Jacks”. Where’d the name come from? It seems someone tasted the unnamed snack made of caramel-covered popcorn and peanuts at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Using a quaint expression of the time, he declared them “crackerjack!” (a.k.a. “really good!”). In possibly the first example of adding a kicker to get kids to bug their moms to buy something, CrackerJack added the toy surprise inside every box circa 1912.
3.) Jello. Yes, that jiggly stuff that helped make Bill Cosby a very rich man. (You don’t think he made all those commercials for free, did you?) In 1893, a guy added cough syrup flavoring to gelatin, and bingo, Jello Brand Gelatin was born. It hit the market with that one flavor, strawberry – which, incidentally, is still #1 to this day. For variety, cherry was added a decade later, eventually followed by coffee and cola flavors. Somewhat understandably, those last two didn’t stay on the market very long.
4.) Cake. But since this is about snacks and not birthdays, lets talk about the ever-popular, indestructible Twinkie, OK? You ever hear necessity is the mother of invention? Well, that pretty much sums up how Twinkies came to be. A guy who made strawberry shortcakes back in the 30’s was annoyed that he only had product to sell during the relatively short fresh strawberry season. The rest of the year, nada. So, he came up with the idea of a cream-filled shortcake… and hence the Twinkie was born. The filling was originally banana, but a banana shortage (really?) in WWII caused the flavor to be changed to vanilla, which it remains to this day.
5.) Chips. (particularly, Lays Potato Chips… read on to see why) A guy named Lay started Lays Potato Chips in 1932. A guy named Dolin bought a recipe for corn chips the same year, and took it to market under the name Fritos. The two merged companies in 1961, and Frito-Lay was born under the slogan, “Betcha’ can’t eat just one”. Guess they were on to something – today, Frito-Lay products make up 60% of the snack chip market. (The other 40%? CrispRoot! Well, not quite yet – but we can dream, can’t we?)
And that’s our take on what America has been munching on for the past 100-plus years. What’s yours? Post up your answers – and somebody, please say CrispRoot Cassava Chips… it’ll make our marketing department’s day!