31 Food Manufacturing Ads to Dull Your Thanksgiving Appetite

A trip into the daily lives of the people who brought you Pringles, Cheez Whiz, and TV dinners
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The original Edible Arrangement eschewed the strawberries and pineapple for the salami, potato chips, and candy corn. (Journal of Food Technology)

I love food technology because it's such a strange combination of things: process engineering, flavor science, and things I ate yesterday. So, every Thanksgiving, I write a bunch of stories about how we breed larger turkeys, or why potato flakes exist, or the nature of cranberry jelly in a can. 

To do so, I end up leafing through trade magazines like Food Manufacture, Food Processing, Food Engineering, Food Technology, and the Journal of Food Technology. And when I do, I marvel at the advertisements, especially the ones from the 1960s through the 1980s, the heyday for this sort of trade lit.

The ads are simultaneously gross and fascinating. How do companies that make flavors or smells or deboning machines sell their services to each other? There's braggadocio and proto-Geico weirdness, jokes and puns, flattery and chemistry.

This is a trip into the day-to-day work concerns of the people who brought you Pringles, Cheez Whiz, Pop-Tarts, frozen juice in a can, TV dinners, boxed mac-n-cheese, and all the other stuff in the center aisles of the grocery store. These are the people Michael Pollan warned you about, or at least their ancestors. 

Anyway, enjoy: You have to check out the ads to really see what I'm talking about.

 

No, you know what, your new food idea is not great. That is just hamburger glued onto a cow bone.

Food Technology, February 1974

 

This is, roughly, the ideology of the American food industry. I mean, where else would an old-timey corn grinder and patriotism be used to sell Isomerose high-fructose corn syrup?

Food Technology, April 1982 

 

This is the crux of things. To processors and manufacturers, food is just another "process industry" like coal or non-ferrous metals. But food is different. It goes inside our bodies, repairs our bones, refreshes our blood. Import ideas from ore and minerals to food and you get the strangeness of processed foods.

Food Engineering, July 1967

 

But I can't lie to you: I've always wanted a high-speed encrusting unit. (Just think of the nuggets!) And one that comes attached to an extruder with many nozzles. What more could one guy ask for?

Food Processing, September 1987

 

This is why heirloom tomatoes happened: "CRYO-MAID freeze-dried tomato granule."

Food Technology, January 1974

 

"Institutional feeding" is not a pleasant combination of words.

Food Engineering, July 1967

 

I mean, dream a little. 

Food Engineering, July 1967

 

"..."

Journal of Food Technology, February 1976

 

The conceit of this advertisement is that your product is a man and that Miles Laboratories' citric acid is a woman, and they are getting married: "From the moment you match them up, you'll know that this is the acidulant to have and to hold from that day forward." 

Food Technology, January 1974

 

Long have I wondered where exciting gum systems come from. The answer is space, apparently. (Gums are usually used as thickeners in processed foods.)

Journal of Food Technology, February 1976

 

Oh boy! Meals like these, you say?

Food Processing, August 1987

 

From STARCH ... to finish. Get it?! :| (Brought to you by the makers of the JUMP ... to Conclusions doormat.)

Food Processing, September 1987

 

Just a simple question: "Converting flavors, fragrances, or other essential oils and liquids into powder form?"

Food Technology, April 1982

 

The Flavor & Color Creators will never tell. It'll be your little secret. 

Food Technology, February 1974

 

So, given the time frame, I'm almost positive this is a cocaine joke, but I'm not sure who was in on it. Possibly not the Philpot Dairy Products company of Rayleigh.

Food Processing, July 1987

 

July 1983: "Today more and more people are rejecting the idea of artifical colours being used in food and drink. At Roche we dismissed it back in the 1940's when we started research into food colouring .... We make pure carotenoids."

Food Processing, July 1983

 

Flavors that are GOING PLACES! Like mountains! On snowmobiles!

Food Technology, January 1974

 

It's about time we got some new waxy maize starches. Also, what's that stuff in the spoon at the bottom? Oh, cream corn.

Food Technology, February 1974

 

Can't really add much here.

Food Technology, February 1974

 

"OK, Tom, what do you want the ad to say? 'Nuts and bolts of desserts?' I know just the thing."

Food Technology, January 1974

 

So wait, is this still pronounced Cheese-Tone? Or does the ē make it something else? Chaise-Tone? Shay-Tone? Anyway, I love dehydrated chaise. 

Food Technology, January 1974

 

"So concentrated that just 2 ounces approximates the flavor and aroma of 30 bushels of ripe tomatoes." Approximates.

Food Technology, January 1974

 

What I love about this ad is how Allied Chemicals is so obviously tired of being pigeonholed as the "apple acid guys." 

Food Engineering, July 1967

 

Meet the company that likes funky fruit hats!

Journal of Food Technology, February 1976

 

You know what I expect from my pectin? MORE.

Food Manufacture, July 1993t

 

I mean, who doesn't?

Food Engineering, July 1967

 

What could go wrong?

Journal of Food Technology, February 1976

 

FORGET ALL YOU'VE KNOWN ABOUT BACON BITS. WE'VE REWRITTEN THE BOOK. (Where is this book? Seriously: I would like to read the bacon bits book.)

Journal of Food Technology, February 1976

 

Why buy the cow when you can get all the commercially known forms of concentrated milk proteins at a very low cost? 

Journal of Food Technology, February 1976

 

The sixth sense being kebab, obviously.

Journal of Food Technology

 

And, finally, the salami/potato chip/candy-corn flower arrangement that started it all.

Journal of Food Technology

 

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Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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