Delicious Blasts from the Past: Vintage Food Ads

Since the very first food advertisement appeared in the sixteenth century – quickly following the invention of the printing press – advertising has had a huge influence on our food choices. Because the food industry represents such a large percentage of consumer spending, with shoppers making repeat purchases and developing loyalties to their favourite brands, food companies put big bucks into the promotion of their products – especially fast and convenience foods. A recent report by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity estimates that in 2009, 189 fast food restaurants spent $4.2 billion on advertising across all media. Of course the ad world has evolved along with food production, and the campaigns you see today spread across multiple mediums, often featuring celebrity endorsements. Here’s a peek at how they did it in the good old days – and how some of today’s most popular brands got their start.


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  • Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix (1932) 1 of 9
    Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix (1932)
    "Men just can't resist 'em!" Aunt Jemima has been the standard for weekend pancake breakfasts for over a century, since Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood of the Pearl Milling Company developed the first ready mix in 1889. In 1926 Quaker Oats bought the company, and in 1933 for the Chicago World's Fair they hired Anna Robinson to travel the country promoting Aunt Jemima until her death in 1951.
    Try using the mix to make cinnamon roll pancakes!
  • Sanka Decaffeinated Instant Coffee 2 of 9
    Sanka Decaffeinated Instant Coffee
    Decaffeinated coffee was developed in 1903, and Sanka was one of the earliest brands. In fact, the name "Sanka" is derived from the French phrase sans caféine (without caffeine). So you actually can "drink Sanka and sleep!"
    Try stirring some into Chocolate Pots de Crème!
  • Quaker Oats (1905) 3 of 9
    Quaker Oats (1905)
    Quaker Oats was the first to register a trademark for breakfast cereal. The trademark was registered with the U.S. Patent Office as "a figure of a man in 'Quaker garb.'" Since then Quaker oats has been the breakfast of choice for many generations of oatmeal lovers - building strong boys and girls!
    Try spiced cranberry oats for breakfast!
  • Nestle Baby Food (1897) 4 of 9
    Nestle Baby Food (1897)
    In 1867, Henri Nestlé developed a milk-based baby food. Following the second world war, his company expanded beyond condensed milk and infant formula products, and today, Nestlé is the world's largest food company. It's known largely for its chocolate, but in 2007, Nestlé bought Gerber (for $5.5 billion) and is now one of the larges producers of baby foods in the world.
    Try the original Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookie!
  • Del Monte Foods (1932) 5 of 9
    Del Monte Foods (1932)
    The Del Monte brand came to be in 1886, at first to designate a premium blend of coffee prepared for the Hotel Del Monte on the Monterey peninsula. The company soon expanded to incorporate a line of canned peaches. Today, Del Monte Foods is one of the world's largest food production and distribution companies, with $3.6 billion in net sales in fiscal 2009 (according to Wikipedia).
    Try canned pineapple or peaches in an upside-down cake!
  • Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (1900) 6 of 9
    Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (1900)
    First made in Worcester, England, by dispensing chemists, John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, the Lea & Perrins brand was commercialised in 1837 and was purchased by the H.J. Heinz Company in 2005. They continue to manufacture and market "The Original Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce", under the name Lea & Perrins, as well as another Worcestershire sauce under their own label.
    A glug of Worcestershire makes this meatball sub the ultimate!
  • Tabasco Sauce (1879?) 7 of 9
    Tabasco Sauce (1879?)
    The legendary hot sauce and other Tabasco® products are made by the McIlhenny Co., founded in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana. Although the ads have changed, to this day, the company is still family-owned and operated on the very same site.
    Try a shot of Tabasco to spice up a pot of real baked beans!
  • Wesson Oil (1918) 8 of 9
    Wesson Oil (1918)
    Light Wesson Oil has been a staple in household kitchens for over a century. Originally a trademark of the Southern Oil Company, it's now produced by ConAgra.
    A nice light oil is perfect for light, crisp apple fritters!
  • Fleischmann’s Yeast (1932) 9 of 9
    Fleischmann's Yeast (1932)
    Founded in 1868 by a pair of Austrian brothers, who produced and patented a compressed yeast cake that revolutionized home and commercial baking in the US. Fleischmann's has since become the go-to yeast for home bakers - for 140 years.
    Try it in Julia Child's white sandwich bread!

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