Jell-O was once the American national dessert. Here’s how it fell from grace.
It was once a staple of our nation’s culinary vocabulary. In the late 1940s, Jell-O was introduced to the U.S., appearing in grocery store advertisements and on menus as a dish to be enjoyed with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. As a result of this and other wartime advertising campaigns, its national reputation as a delicious treat grew rapidly. By the end of World War II, Jell-O ice cream was the number one summertime item on the market, and for the next 40 or so years, it remained a summery staple at every corner store.
Then, in the early 1970s, a new marketing campaign brought Jell-O back into our pantries and into our consciousness as something truly patriotic.
President Richard Nixon famously declared, “I like my eggs sunny-side up” during his 1960 campaign and subsequently, the United States became known as the “Sunny South.” (Yes, of course, we are all from a place called Georgia, but I like my eggs sunny-side up.)
The first Jell-O brand in the U.S. was introduced in the early 1970s by Jell-O, Inc., a subsidiary of General Foods, the now-corporate parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts. In 1975, General Foods changed its name to the Jell-O Corporation, which is also known as JCS. The following year, the company purchased Wrigley’s. Jell-O is now sold worldwide through its global network of stores and by mailorder.
Jell-O is now more than a mere snack. It is a highly profitable business. This may seem surprising since the company’s slogan “Give Your Child Jell-O, So She Can Play” should have come as no surprise. This is because the company has long promoted the idea that it is “more than a snack.” In fact, as its website explains:
“Jell-O is a treat for children, but it’s more than a snack. The Jell-O® line of frozen dessert products, including gelatin desserts and ice cream, are also nutritious. The products are nutritious because they are low in sugar, fat, and calories. In addition, the line includes products that meet the