Betty Crocker, an invented identity whose face adorns the packaging of more than 200 food products manufactured by General Mills, is one of the most recognized icons in American brand-name marketing. Together with the trademarked red spoon logo, the Betty Crocker brand name is found on many cake mixes and dessert products, main courses like Hamburger Helper and scalloped potatoes, and snacks like microwave popcorn and chewy fruit items. The Betty Crocker brand name accounts for over $1.5 billion each year, which is nearly thirty percent of annual sales for General Mills.
The name originated in 1921 when Washburn Crosby Company, as General Mills was then known, sponsored a jigsaw-puzzle contest and found that the entrants, mostly women, wanted more information about baking. The two most significant factors behind the creation of the Betty Crocker name, according to a General Mills document, "were the philosophy and doctrine of sincere, helpful, home service and the belief that the company's Home Service contract with homemakers should be personalized and feminized."
The choice of "Betty Crocker" as a name for General Mills Home Services Activities is attributable to then advertising manager, James A. Quint. "Betty" was considered a friendly nickname while "Crocker" was used as a tribute to retired company director and secretary, William Crocker. The name suggests a particular lifestyle involving a woman who is a traditional, suburban, all-American mother and who takes special care in her cooking and of her family. Although the face was altered slightly over the years from a more matronly to a younger image, the familiar face still reinforces a strong visual image over several generations. To many, Betty Crocker reminds them of childhood memories of Mom baking in the kitchen or an idealized childhood including that nurturing image.
Betty Crocker has over the years created a trustworthy reputation as the First Lady of Food. She receives millions of letters and phone calls and is listed as the author of several bestselling cook books. Her weekly advice column appears in more than 700 newspapers throughout the United States, and in the 1990s she acquired her own website, which includes recipes from ingredients provided by users as well as personalized weekly menu plans and household tips.
The Betty Crocker name has been affiliated with food products since 1947. Her pioneering cake mix was called Ginger Cake, which has now evolved into Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix. Since then, the name has been licensed to several types of food products as well as to a line of cooking utensils, small appliances, and kitchen clocks. In the 1990s, General Mills leveraged this brand in the cereal market by introducing Betty Crocker Cinnamon Streusel and Dutch Apple cereals, with packaging primarily designed to attract dessert lovers.
Even as Betty Crocker strides into the new millennium, she continues to leverage her past history by successfully practicing the art of retro-marketing. Betty's Baby Boomer constituents have lately inquired about "nostalgia foods" such as "Snickerdoodles," "Pink Azalea cake," and "Chicken A la King," to name a few. In 1998, General Mills published a facsimile edition of the original Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, first published in 1950.
"Betty Crocker." http:www/betty-crocker.com. May 1999.
Salter, Susan. "Betty Crocker." In Encyclopedia of Consumer Brands, Volume 1. Detroit, St. James Press, 1998.
Shapiro, Laura. "Betty Goes Back to the Future." Newsweek, October 19, 1998.
BETTY CROCKER. Betty Crocker, an American cultural icon, was created in 1921 by the advertising department of the Washburn Crosby milling company just before it merged with General Mills. The consummate homemaker who could answer any cooking question with ease, Betty Crocker was based upon several real women, the two most notable being home economists Janette Kelley and Marjorie Child Husted.
Neither her name nor her face, which has been updated numerous times, was real. Both, however, became synonymous with good cooking and competent homemaking through newspaper columns, radio programs, television spots, and the publication of over 150 cookbooks. Betty Crocker's most significant contribution came in 1951 with the publication of Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, which remains a top-selling cookbook today. Unlike the extremely thorough The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook helped women cook by including both large illustrations and recipes on one page.
Betty Crocker's image and what it represents has created an automatic acceptance by consumers of numerous General Mills products from breads to cake mixes. Perhaps more important, her icon status has given her an active role in American life. Betty Crocker has helped generations of American women over the years deal with challenges including food scarcity during the Depression and World War II, a renewed emphasis on homemaking in the postwar years, and the increasing sophistication of American taste. From cutting food costs to increasing women's satisfaction through cooking to adding new ingredients to update old recipes, Betty Crocker continues to keep her finger on the pulse of American life and to respond accordingly.
See also Advertising of Food; Baking; Cake and Pancake; Cookbooks; Cooking; Marketing of Food .
DuSablon, Mary Anna. America's Collectible Cookbooks: The History, the Politics, the Recipes. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1984.
Erika A. Endrijonas
One of the most famous U.S. food-product brands, Betty Crocker, is symbolized by the smiling face of a young homemaker. Her picture, together with a trademarked logo of a red spoon, appears on more than two hundred items manufactured by General Mills, ranging from Hamburger Helper to cake mixes, dessert products, and snacks. The Betty Crocker brand name accounts for $1.5 billion in sales annually, nearly one-third of all General Mills sales.
The Betty Crocker name originated in 1921 when Washburn Crosby Company, an earlier name for General Mills, created the image as a way of personalizing its products and services. It was chosen by advertising manager James A. Quint, who selected "Betty" because it was considered a friendly nickname and "Crocker" as a tribute to William Crocker (1876–1950), a retired General Mills executive. The Betty Crocker brand first appeared on a food product in 1947, when General Mills introduced her Ginger Cake Mix, now known as Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix. By the 1990s, her face and name was appearing on dessertlike products like Betty Crocker Cinnamon Streusel and cereal products like Dutch Apple cereals. The name has also been licensed for a line of small appliances, cooking utensils, and kitchen clocks.
In the eight decades since her creation, the image of Betty Crocker has been altered to suit changing styles, but "Betty" has remained a trusted figure to several generations of families. Although she is not a real person, she has received millions of letters and phone calls and now appears on General Mills Web sites dispensing information about cooking and nutrition to a new generation of computer-savvy consumers. Her weekly advice column appears in more than seven hundred newspapers in the United States. She is listed as the author of several cookbooks, including Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, first published in 1950 and reprinted in 1998.
For More Information
General Mills. "The Story of Betty." Betty's Kitchen.http://www.bettycrocker.com/meetbetty/mb_tsob.asp (accessed January 22, 2002).
Shapiro, Laura. "Betty Goes Back to the Future." Newsweek (October 19, 1998).