Why Food Company Histories are Important to
Food company histories can provide useful information to
advertising, cookbook or culinary ephemera collectors.
When collecting items related to a certain brand name, whether it's recipe
booklets or other ephemera, knowing some of the
following information about a food company can help you in your
search for items.
1. The dates or years that a company or brand has been in
existence helps narrow down the scope of your search.
Knowing that the Betty Crocker persona was not introduced to the
public until 1921 will let you know that you're unlikely to find
products or cookbooks related to Betty Crocker before that
year. In the event that something dated earlier is found, you
will know that it's possibly a rare item.
2. The concept of corporate mergers and the practice of
companies changing hands is not a new phenomenon. Many times
some of the smaller, or earlier, brand names are swallowed up by
The forerunner to the Quaker Oats Company, which was established in 1901,
was the American Cereal Company. The American Cereal Company
was made up of several smaller millers and their brands that had
been in production since the last half of the 1800's. The F.
S., Hower's, Quaker, Lion and many other smaller brands were
actually what made up the familiar Quaker Oats company. The
Quaker Oats brand name was chosen because it was the most widely
3. Knowing a brand's distribution area is also
helpful. Is it local, regional or national?
Birds Eye sells the same canned pie filling under several
different names: Wilderness, Comstock and Thank You
brands. The Thank You brand name has been phased out, and the
Wilderness brand is available primarily in the Midwest.
According to Birds Eye, they're all the same product.
4. Where was the product initially developed?
If you know that Jell-O came from LeRoy, New York, you will then
know where you might find the best source of early information about
the company. Minneapolis, once known as the flour capital
of the world, is the best source of early information on many of the
flour companies. Often there are museums or special library
collections about the brands or founders in the original
5. Knowing the company history can help you date an undated
For example, The La Choy Collection of Favorite Oriental
Recipes is a contemporary undated pamphlet with the Beatrice
name on it. Beatrice acquired the La
Choy Foods Company in 1943 and Beatrice was part of a leveraged
buyout in 1986. The La Choy brand name was sold to ConAgra in
The pamphlet does not have the look or "feel"
of the ones issued in the 1940's, 50's or 60's, so it was probably
issued sometime in the 1970's or 1980's. At At least one
booklet was published in 1975, and this book looks a bit
newer. The brand was
probably not promoted heavily during the 1986-1990 buyout period, so
it is probably safe to assume that the booklet was issued sometime
between 1975 and 1986.
Today, most food companies have an online presence and they often
include a company or brand history on their website. While
some sites provide a very detailed and informative history, in many
cases the early facts, which are often the most useful to
collectors, are left out. It is even more difficult to locate
information about products or brands that are no longer being
A successful collector is a knowledgeable collector, and will
know as much as possible about the object of their attention.