View of female workers packing boxes of oats for the Quaker Oats brand company, Chicago, 1890s.
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Can You Guess What Year These Popular Food Brands Made Their Debut?

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View of female workers packing boxes of oats for the Quaker Oats brand company, Chicago, 1890s.
Transcendental Graphics / Contributor / Archive Photos / Getty Images CC

Culinary Chronicles

Though there are more food brands these days than any one person could possibly commit to memory, there are still a few that have been around for so long and are so iconic that we not only know them by name, but likely recognize their logos, jingles, and slogans decades or more after they enter the national lexicon. Here are some of those brands, in no particular order, as well as the year they first came into America's culinary landscape.


Related: The True Origins of 19 Classic 'American' Foods

Jell-O Hearts
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Jell-O

Though it wouldn't reach peak popularity for another 50+ years, this popular gelatin dessert brand was launched with four flavors: strawberry, raspberry, orange, and lemon. 

Advertisement for Jell-O
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Jell-O: 1897

Granulated gelatin had actually been patented in 1845, but Pearle Bixby Wait and his wife May took it a step further by trademarking the brand name Jell-O in the late 19th century, adding flavoring and sugar to the mix. 


Related: 22 Things You Didn't Know About Jell-O

12 Fl ozs Plastic Bottles of Coca Cola in a warehouse Rack
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Coca-Cola

Much of the history written about this iconic American brand focuses on the fact that, in its early years, it contained cocaine. For the record, it wouldn't be until 34 years after the birth of Coca-Cola that the drug was first made illegal. 


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Illustration of a Young Woman Enjoying Coca Cola
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Coca-Cola: 1886

The now-ubiquitous soda was first peddled by Dr. John Stith Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, on May 8, 1886. While Coca-Cola brand history leaves out the mention of the stimulant, History.com notes Pemberton's concoction did, indeed, include "cocaine and sugary syrup." First served at soda fountains, it would be another 13 years before the company began bottling its product in 1899.


Related: 17 Fun and Little-Known Facts About Coca-Cola 

Oreos
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Oreos

Now one of the best-selling cookies in the United States, this brand has had more than 100 years to cement that status. And here's a clue that will help presidential history buffs: Oreos were invented the same year that Woodrow Wilson was elected U.S. president. 


Related: The Favorite Foods of 21 U.S. Presidents

Nabisco Oreo billboard with two girls watching TV and old cars parked, old cars parked below, circa 1950 in Los Angeles, California
Gary Leonard / Contributor / Corbis Historical / Getty Images CC

Oreos: 1912

The Oreo was created on March 14, 1912, by the National Biscuit Company, which most people now know as Nabisco. Incidentally, this was just four years after the invention of what many people think of as Oreo's lesser competitor, the Hydrox cookie, which debuted in 1908. Despite the Hydrox's seniority, Oreo soon became the more popular cookie and remains that way to this day. Though the classic chocolate remains a favorite, Nabisco has released many limited edition flavors over the years, including Waffle & Syrup, Key Lime Pie, and Root Beer Float. 


Related: The Oreo 'Doomsday' Vault and Other Strange and Surprising Company Secrets

Hand takes out potato chip from Lay's bag
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Lay's Potato Chips

These chips were being sold across the southeastern U.S. by their founder, Herman W. Lay, long before the Frito-Lay company was formed in 1961. 

Potato Chips
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Lay's Potato Chips: 1931

Lay actually sold these chips out the back of his Model A at the zenith of the Great Depression. Chris Quinn, senior vice president of sales at Frito-Lay, told ABC News in 2018 that it was how Lay made his living, adding: "He believed in giving the most affordable prices and the highest quality products at an arm's reach of every consumer." More modern flavors, including some released only in other countries, cover some real taste-bud tinglers, including Flamin' Hot Dill Pickle, Fiery Habanero, Magic Masala (India), and Basil Chicken and Crab Curry (Thailand). 


Related: Twinkies, Moon Pies, and Other Guilty Pleasures You Can Make at Home

Fritos
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Fritos

The creator of this popular brand got into the business of corn chips not long after Herman Lay delved into the world of potato chips. In fact, for many years before teaming up, Lay and Charles Elmer Doolin were competitors. 

Fritos: 1932
Wikimedia Commons

Fritos: 1932

At 28, Doolin created his version of corn chips to add to his family's San Antonio confectionary in order to have a more savory, salty snack on the menu. He bought the patent and recipe from a Mexican man selling them at either a gas station or cafe (accounts vary). The popularity of Lay's chips and Fritos — Spanish for "little fried things" — took off in 1961 when Lay and Doolin joined forces to create the Frito-Lay company. 


Related: The 20 Least Unhealthy Junk Foods

Hershey's Bar
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Hershey

Milton S. Hershey created his iconic chocolate brand before the turn of the 20th century, but before he went into chocolate, he was a caramel man, founding the Lancaster Caramel Company in Pennsylvania in the 1880s. 

Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA. A section of the finishing rooms
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Hershey: 1894

It was after Hershey visited the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago and saw German-made chocolate processing machinery that he decided to switch from caramel to chocolate. According to Britannica, by 1900 he had sold his caramel company and, around 1903, business was so good he began construction on a new factory. Today, Hershey's has around $8 billion in sales worldwide, and there is even a family theme park, Hersheypark, run by the brand in — where else? — Hershey, Pennsylvania. 


Related:17 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Hershey's Kisses

Campbell's soup
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Campbell's

Though this company — one of the oldest on our list — is known for other foods (Pace salsa, V8 juice, and Kettle potato chips among them) it's the soup that most people associate with Campbell's. Want a hint? The company was founded in a year that Ulysses S. Grant was sworn in as president and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association.

Campbell's: 1869
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Campbell's: 1869

The Campbell Soup Company started out as Anderson & Campbell, a collaboration between wholesale fruit and vegetable vendor Joseph Campbell and commercial canner and packer Abraham Anderson. Its first-ever product was a Beefsteak Tomato Soup, and it introduced its icon Chicken Noodle Soup in 1934. 


Related: 25 Recipes That Transform Canned Soup Into a Meal

M&Ms
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M&Ms

Major hint alert: M&Ms creator Forrest Mars, Sr. created the candy just before the start of World War II and, after the war started, the candies were made exclusively for soldiers' rations for a time. 

M&Ms: 1941
Wikimedia Commons

M&Ms: 1941

It was in March of this year that Mars was given a patent for M&Ms, and he then sold them exclusively to the U.S. military due to their heat-resistant, easy-to-transport nature. The first M&M colors were brown, orange, red, yellow, green, and violet. They didn't get the signature stamp until 1950, and M&Ms were the first candy to go to space in 1981. 


Related: 18 Lunch-Box Staples That Are Surprisingly Bad for Your Kids

Ben & Jerry's
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Ben & Jerry's

One of the newer brands on this list, this popular ice cream brand was founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who grew up together on Long Island after meeting in junior high school. 

Ben & Jerry's
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Ben & Jerry's: 1978

With a $5 correspondence course in ice cream-making from Penn State and $12,000 in startup money, Cohen and Greenfield started their famous ice cream company in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. According to the company's "fun facts" page, their first flavor was a very uninspired vanilla, but other early pints included Oreo Mint, Chocolate Fudge, Wild Blueberry, Mocha Walnut, Maple Walnut, Honey Coffee, and Honey Orange. Today they sell about $860 million worth of ice cream each year. 


Related: 20 Things You Didn't Know About Ben & Jerry's

Jif's Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
Amazon

Jif

There are two other peanut butter brands that are older than Jif — Skippy was first sold in 1932 and Peter Pan in 1920 — but Jif is the most popular brand among U.S. households. 

Peanut Butter S'mores
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Jif: 1956

Though Procter & Gamble purchased Big Top peanut butter from William T. Young of Kentucky in 1955, it reformulated it soon after to compete with Skippy and Peter Pan by, in part, adding sugar and molasses to the original recipe. It debuted separate crunchy and creamy style peanut butters in 1958 and, since 1981, it has been the leading peanut butter brand in the U.S. It was purchased by The J.M. Smucker Company (which, incidentally, has been making jams, jellies, and other products since 1897) from P&G in 2001. 


Related: 18 Things You Didn't Know About Peanut Butter and Jelly

Kraft Mac & Cheese
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leftover mac and cheese about to be reheated
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Kraft Macaroni and Cheese: 1937

Kraft Dinner debuted in the U.S. and Canada during the Great Depression and went on to enjoy massive popularity during World War II. Though it is undeniably popular here in the U.S., Canadians love it even more: It is our northern neighbor's national dish and, according to Taste Atlas, "the most popular grocery item in the country." 


Related: 21 Fun Facts You Didn't Know About Mac and Cheese

Hot Dog
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Oscar Meyer

This American meat and cold cut production company is known for products such as hot dogs, bologna, and, more recently, Lunchables. Two German immigrant brothers opened their first location in Chicago, but in what year? A hint: The Oscar Meyer company is the same age as the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile
Oscar Mayer Wienermobile by Roadsidepictures (CC BY-NC)
Life Savers candy
Life Savers candy by flickr./com/photos/amanda_munoz (CC BY)

Life Savers

These iconic American candies debuted early on in the 20th century and were marketed as a "summer candy" because they could hold up to heat better than chocolate. The original flavor was called Pep-O-Mint. 

Life Savers: 1912
Wikimedia Commons

Life Savers: 1912

Invented by Ohioan Clarence Crane, he quickly sold the trademark to Edward John Noble, who then founded the Life Savers and Candy Company in 1913. A 1917 advertisement for Life Savers listed four flavors, peppermint, licorice, clove, and wintergreen, and fruit flavors were introduced in 1921. The first five-flavor fruit roll debuted in 1935, and gummy Life Savers were rolled out in 1992. 


Related: 20 Utterly Disgusting Things That Are Surprisingly Useful

Kellogg's Corn Flakes
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Kellogg's Corn Flakes

This iconic breakfast cereal was originally (and accidentally) created as part of the vegetarian diet for the elite clientele of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a world-renowned health resort in the Michigan city of the same name. The sanitarium's clients reportedly included such well-known figures as Mary Todd Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, and Henry Ford.

Kellogg's Corn Flakes: 1894
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Kellogg's Corn Flakes: 1894

The Kellogg brothers helped run the sanitarium — John Harvey as superintendent and W.K. as a bookkeeper. The former often engaged the latter in helping to augment the vegetarian diets of their clientele (and yes, John Harvey did believe that bland food helped curb more, erm, carnal desires, though Corn Flakes were never explicitly marketed as such). Late in the 19th century, the brothers accidentally created corn flakes after a cooking mishap, then had a falling out over distribution of the product. W.K. eventually convinced his brother to give up rights to the project and the rest, as they say, is history.


Related: 30 Things You Didn't Know About Your Favorite Childhood Cereals

Pillsbury
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Pillsbury

This brand, known predominantly for its baked goods, goes back pretty far. A hint: It was founded in the same year the Transcontinental Railroad was completed. 

Woman At Pillsbury Bake Off
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Pillsbury: 1869

The brand's founders, Charles Alfred Pillsbury and his uncle John S. Pillsbury, actually helped fund railroad development in Minnesota so that their processed grain products could be transported to other markets. The company is well-known for its marketing efforts, which include the invention of the "pop" can packaging in 1931, the first (and ongoing) Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in 1949, and the Pillsbury Doughboy in 1965. 


Related: We Tried 8 Store-Bought Cinnamon Rolls and These Were the Best

Betty Crocker brand
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Betty Crocker

This all-American baking guru is an icon and a legend of the baking and cooking industry, sometimes referred to as the "first lady of food," and was once named one of the most recognized women in the country. Also true? Betty Crocker is not a real person. 

Vintage Ad #2,275: Potato Biscuits from Covered Wagon Days
Vintage Ad #2,275: Potato Biscuits from Covered Wagon Days by Jamie (CC BY-NC)

Betty Crocker: 1921

Betty Crocker was an invention of the Washburn-Crosby Company, a precursor to General Mills and itself a later iteration of the 1856-founded Minneapolis Milling Company. Betty was considered an agreeable, all-American name, and Crocker was the last name of William Crocker, a company director. She was a composite — both literally in the portraits of her that were created starting in 1936 through 1996, and figuratively of the women working for Washburn-Crosby. It was after her creation that all-male ad execs answered customer baking questions — after consulting the company's female employees — starting signing their replies with "Betty Crocker." Notes a PBS story, "the department manager, Samuel Gale ... never felt completely comfortable signing his name to this advice, as he suspected that women would rather hear from other women who knew their way around a kitchen."


Related: 25 Betty Crocker-Era Recipes That We Secretly Love

Cereal (Cheerios)
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Cheerios

Although not as senior a member of the American breakfast cereal family as Corn Flakes, this nonetheless-iconic brand was introduced mid-20th century as CheeriOats.  

Vintage Ad #881: Cheerios are Powerful Good!
Vintage Ad #881: Cheerios are Powerful Good! by Jamie (CC BY)

Cheerios: 1941

Debuting on May 1, 1941, it would be another four years before the name was shortened to Cheerios. The original product was the only flavor until 1976 when Cinnamon Nut Cheerios were introduced. Since then, another 20+ flavors have joined the cereal's repertoire, including Honey Nut, Apple Cinnamon, and Pumpkin Spice. Flavors that were rolled out and discontinued? Dulce de Leche and Banana Nut Cheerios. 


Related: 25 Childhood Cereals We Wish They'd Bring Back

Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack
Costco

Quaker Oats

Though this brand's founding isn't the oldest on this list of companies, the mill companies that merged to form it go all the way back to 1850. Here's a hint: It debuted the same year that President William McKinley was assassinated, making Theodore Roosevelt the new president of the United States. 

View of female workers packing boxes of oats for the Quaker Oats brand company, Chicago, 1890s.
Transcendental Graphics / Contributor / Archive Photos / Getty Images CC

Quaker Oats: 1901

The Quaker Oats Company came about due to the merger of four mill companies, including the Quaker Mill Company in Ravenna, Ohio, and the Akron, Ohio-based German Mills American Oatmeal Company. The brand's iconic trademark of a man dressed in Quaker garb that you still find on its packaging to this day, in fact, was registered as the first trademark for a breakfast cereal in 1877 by the Quaker Mill Company. According to brand history, "both former owners, Henry Seymour and William Heston, claimed to have selected the Quaker name as a symbol of good quality and honest value."


Related: 20 Oatmeal Recipes That Will Make You Miss Going to Brunch a Little Less

Ketchup (Heinz)
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Heinz Tomato Ketchup

This brand was founded in Pittsburgh in the last quarter of the 19th century. Before it created its renowned ketchup, the company behind it first marketed horseradish.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup: 1876
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Heinz Tomato Ketchup: 1876

While the Heinz brand goes back to 1869, it wasn't until seven years later that one of its most iconic products was introduced as "catsup." Heinz is the best-selling ketchup in the world, in part due to its consistency, which is in itself due to the fact that Heinz employs a "Ketchup Master." Another fun fact? Heinz didn't include a vine-ripened tomato on its packaging until 2009; before that, the label featured a gherkin pickle. 


Related: 26 Delicious Recipes That Use Up Those Aging Condiments in the Fridge

Bisquick
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Bisquick

Not sure how or when Bisquick got its start? It might help to know that stars Shirley Temple and Clark Gable helped promote it after it debuted as a biscuit mix. 

Vintage Ad #726: And You Thought Bisquick Only Made Pancakes...
Vintage Ad #726: And You Thought Bisquick Only Made Pancakes... by Jamie (CC BY)

Bisquick: 1931

The story of this baking mix actually started the year before the brand rolled it out to customers, according to the blog Taste of General Mills. Company salesperson Carl Smith was on a late train to San Francisco and the dining car was closed, so Smith asked the chef if he could make him something that was quick and hassle-free. After he was served a plate full of "piping hot biscuits," he asked the chef how the biscuits had been made so quickly, notes the blog. "The chef revealed his secret — a pre-mixed blend of lard, baking powder, flour, and salt that he stored in an ice chest." Smith took the idea to a GM food scientist and a year later, Bisquick was born. Today, in addition to biscuits, people use Bisquick products to make cookies, waffles, pancakes, and more. 


Related: Freezer-Friendly Meals That Will Always Taste Fresh

Orville Redenbacher
NoDerog/istockphoto

Orville Redenbacher

This eponymously named popcorn brand's well-known spokesperson actually grew up on a corn farm after his birth in 1907 and dedicated most of his free time as an adult to perfecting the ideal popping corn before debuting his brand in what year? 

Orville Redenbacher
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images CC

Orville Redenbacher: 1970

It might not have started until around the dawn of disco, but Redenbacher — and yes, that really was him in the commercials that stated, "You'll like it better or my name isn't Orville Redenbacher" — began focusing on creating the perfect poppable corn kernels long before that. According to brand history, Redenbacher started "raising popcorn for the supermarket trade" in 1944 and, by 1965, he and his business partner Charles Bowman had perfected their popcorn hybrid. Notes Delish: "They began marketing the product under the name "RedBow" but they were told to take a more personal approach and use the name Orville Redenbacher instead. In 1970, Orville Redenbacher hit the scene and took over pantries everywhere."


Related: 50 Ways to Get Creative With Your Popcorn

Product shot of two cans of Swanson Chicken Broth
NoDerog/istockphoto

Swanson

This Nebraska-founded company (now headquartered in New Jersey), which is famous for its broths, began just before the dawn of a new century. It might not be the most well-known brand on this list, but it is responsible for an iconic American culinary invention: the frozen TV dinner. 


Swanson Turkey, Gravy, Dressing Entrée, 1970's
Swanson Turkey, Gravy, Dressing Entrée, 1970's by Roadsidepictures (CC BY-NC)

Swanson: 1899

Carl A. Swanson was a Swedish immigrant who went into business with a commission company that focused on foodstuffs. Swanson would eventually buy his partner out and rename the company to C.A. Swanson and Sons. It wasn't until after the elder Swanson's death that his company, now led by his sons, invented the original Swanson's Turkey TV Dinner in 1952. 


Related: 14 Frozen TV Dinners We Miss From Childhood

Folgers Coffee
littleny/istockphoto
Folger's Coffee Coupon, 1967
Folger's Coffee Coupon, 1967 by Roadsidepictures (CC BY-NC)

Folgers Coffee: 1872

This was the year that James Folger bought out his partners at The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills, where he worked after traveling to San Francisco at just 14 years old in 1850. He renamed the company J.A. Folger & Co. Folgers introduced instant coffee in the 1950s, and the coffee brand's infamous jingle was created in 1984. 


Related: From Mocha to Java: The Secret History of How Coffee Took Over the World

Wonder Bread
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Wonder Bread

You've no doubt eaten a slice or two of Wonder Bread in your time, but did you know that the brand's name was inspired by a hot-air balloon race? There's one hint. Another? Wonder Bread debuted before the "invention" of sliced commercial bread in 1928. And yet another: It's celebrating a very significant anniversary this year.


Vintage Ad: The Wonder Bread Freshness Pledge
Vintage Ad: The Wonder Bread Freshness Pledge by Jamie (CC BY-NC)

Wonder Bread: 1921

Yes, the iconic bread brand is turning 100 this year. Indianapolis-based Taggart Baking Company began producing Wonder Bread just after the dawn of the Roaring '20s, and it was named by vice president for merchandising development Elmer Cline, who had just seen a balloon race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which filled him with "wonder" (and which inspired the brand's multi-circle logo). The company started pre-slicing the bread in the 1930s, but it almost went extinct in 2012 after its then parent company, Hostess, went bankrupt. (The brand came back a few years later.)


Related: 15 Simple, Tasty Sandwiches That Cost $1 or Less to Make

Kool-Aid
NoDerog/istockphoto

Kool-Aid

If you drank a lot of this sugary drink during hot and humid summers growing up as a kid, just know that its invention likely pre-dates those experiences by quite a few decades. 


Kool-Aid: 1927
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Kool-Aid: 1927

Hastings, Nebraska resident and entrepreneur Edwin Perkins liked to experiment, eventually "manufacturing over one hundred items, including creams, medicines, salves, and food flavoring," according to the History Nebraska website. Eventually, he figured out a way to remove all the liquid from a concentrate product called Fruit Smack, which resulted in a powder that Perkins packed in envelopes he designed and printed himself, naming it Kool-Ade (the "Ade" would later become "Aid"). The original flavors were lemon-lime, cherry, strawberry, orange, grape, and raspberry. Today there are dozens more flavors, as well as products like Jammers, Bursts, Sparklers, and more.


Related: 30 Strange But Surprisingly Tasty Local Foods to Try