and Grocery Store Personalities
By Brewster Hudspeth
The Quality Goes in Before the Face Goes On
may have started in the 1960s with Chiquita Banana. Noticing that
most bananas resemble one another, United Fruit started attaching
tiny stickers to their product – creating both brand recognition and
personifying the yellow fruit with their once-famous, Carmen Miranda-like
Later, stickers were added to plums, avocados and even onions,
identifying a particular variety or more recently, the country of
According to a recent report by the people who report on these kinds
of things, the watermelon market of 2010 is healthy – but sales are
This summer in watermelon-rich Texas,
with towns vying for fame, there’s
a new kid on the block – from a region long famous for another type
| The fame of
is said to have spread from railroad dining cars that were supplied
at the town of Pecos
and served allong the line.
|From the rather
arid acreage of Pecos,
Texas comes Mr. Brown's 4032, a strain of seedless watermelon
that satifies your palate and doesn't clog the u-trap of your kitchen
sink. Don't let its compact size fool you. It is equal to its counterparts
McAllen or Luling.
The only place this little melon wouldn’t be welcome would be a seed-spitting
bond between grower and consumer - something we'd like to see more
| Placed into
cardboard-walled pallets and placed at grocery store entrances, the
melons (usually still cool from the produce room) are a double threat.
If you aren’t tempted going in – they have a second chance of tempting
you as you leave.
Attached to these succulent little bowling balls at the grocer near
me, was a sticker with a photo of an earnest young man named Luke
Brown. At first I mistook the sticker to be a public service ad –
of the “Have you seen me?” sort, but when I saw an email address and
“Comments Welcome,” I realized that I was seeing something that’s
increasingly rare nowadays: pride and accountability.
From Aunt Jemima to Betty Crocker, companies have, for years, tried
to personalize their products. The two ladies just mentioned were
of course, fictitious. There had been several women hired to “play”
Aunt Jemima at county fairs and public gatherings but that practice
died years ago. Betty Crocker’s image continues to be made-over every
generation – her current incarnation being a composite of several
dozen contemporary women.
| Not to be confused
with Adolphe Menjou
| Likewise, the
smiling Chef on the box of Cream of Wheat never drew breath, nor did
the jovial Quaker on the familiar round box of oats. The reality of
Uncle Ben and his “converting” of rice is still being debated in theological
circles, while scores of people make a yearly pilgrimage to the grave
of Chef Boyardee – a very real person who appeared in his own television
commercials and lived to be 97 years old.
(Chef’s birth name was Hector Boiardi but he appeared in print ads
with his surname [considered insulting by some] spelled phonetically
across his toque as Boy-Ar-Dee. Hyphens were later dropped.)
personality familiar to Texas shoppers is C.B. Stubblefield, founder
of the famed Austin, Texas
restaurant that bears his abbreviated name "Stubbs." Stubblefield,
originally from Navasota,
Texas was a combat veteran of the Korean War, and a Purple Heart
recipient – certainly not your everyday grocery personality.
get more honest than this.
|The son of a
Baptist Minister who often cooked for his congregation, Stubblefield’s
product slogan is the sober proclamation: “My Life is in These Bottles.”
It’s been a while since we’ve seen such a straight-forward attitude
and we wish Luke Brown the success of Orville Redenbacher, Duncan
Hines or C.B. Stubblefield – and the longevity of Chef Boyardee.
| A slogan everyone
can agree with.
(One of many semi-humorous sayings attached to the stickers.)
| A wistful but
strong-jawed look at modern marketing.
| As for certain
Texas grocers, they bond their business with their host communities
the way armies march (on their stomachs) and the way women
used to navigate their way to men’s hearts (through their stomachs).
If the personality trend of marketing continues, who knows who we
might meet? May I soon be introducing you to Aida Avocado? Pierre
Dijon? Rudolph Tomitillo?
Will watermerlon stickers become the 21st Century equivilent of baseball
cards? Will Luke Brown become the new Honus Wagner? You might consider
making room on your refrigerator door.
August 1, 2010