Bergen Record's Joan Verdon quotesBrandlandUSA on the auction of its store brands and overall intellectual property portfolio, including Waldbaums and A&P private label brands. Cincinnati Business Journal interviewed BrandlandUSA in an August feature on Christian Moerlein beer and Rookwood Pottery brands. The Wall Street Journal online on April 18, 2012 discusses the idea of reviving dead brands and their usefulness for the small entrepreneur. See Old Brands Get a Second Shot. The November 2010 Smart Money features a story by Anne Kadet on orphan brands, and mentions BrandlandUSA. QSR, for quick service restaurants, used our advice on branding in the event of a bankruptcy in the October 2010 article Back from Bankruptcy.
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WEST CONSHOHOCKEN – The Ritz cloth brand was originally founded in 1892 by the John Ritzenthaler Company. This lower Manhattan (aren’t so many great brands founded there?), was started by John Ritzenthaler, a German immigrant, who gave the products the name Ritz Cloths.
In 1970, Howard Steidle bought the company, and through the years other products were added to the line, which includes kitchen textiles, table linens, bath textiles, laundry and cleaning products.
The brand is sold not only in craft and grocery stores, but in gourmet cooking stores. This holiday season, Publix even has the brad at the end of the aisle.
John Ritzenthaler, based in West Conshohocken, Penn., is still a private company.
MONTVALE, N.J. – A&P, one of the greatest brand names in the history of the United States, is up for auction, along with all the assets of the annoyingly mismanaged and bankrupt Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company.
Joan Verdon of The Bergen Recordreports on the upcoming sale, where I talk about the company.
Hilco Streambank, a division of the liquidation company that is working with A&P to dispose of its assets, announced on Friday that it is seeking bids for six store names – A&P, Pathmark, Waldbaums, Food Basics, SuperFresh, and Best Cellars – and for eight private label brand names.
Interest in the brands will be telling. The names of great retailers certainly have appeal for re-use, but they often only have niche value as web addresses or for use as store brands. Of course, the important sale to watch is who buys the A&P brand.
OMAHA – ConAgra has consolidated itself into a purveyor of dozens of some of the best-known brands in the United States, including Hunt’s, Swiss Miss, Peter Pan, Blue Bonnet, La Choy, Mueller’s, Jiffy Pop and Banquet. However, if you look at its stock price over the last 20 years, it was only this year that it hit the high it made in 1997.
It should be doing better with these great brands. Let’s list some more, namely Gulden’s, Kid Cuisine, Fiddle Faddle, Wesson, Parkay, Chef Boyardee, Manwich, Pam, Tennessee Pride, Orville Redenbachers, Marie Callender’s, Rotel, Slim Jim and even those Andy Capp potato sticks. A few products are even declasse, including those funky Penrose sausages and Slim Jims.
Again, they have GREAT brands, all with stellar consumer awareness. What they are lacking is a narrative for the company that ties them all together, with a company brand to stand behind the individual brands.
To get a sense of the consolidation that has happened since the 1970s, most of those individual brands were owned by different companies, and all aggregated together as the decades moved on.
The company just announced a move to Chicago, a decision that proves ConAgra has shed its agricultural roots fully. While an office in the Merchandise Mart is glam and sexy, and may keep the company closer to advertising agencies and such, there is no reason why Chicago is a better place for consumer product brand management. [Read more →]
NEW YORK– CBS is the nation’s most credible name in radio. This week, it debuted a new online experiment that marries the best of online and terrestrial radio. It’s CBS Sports Radio Roundup, a 12-hour weekday online stream that aggregates the best interviews from across the CBS radio spectrum, taking you “around the dial of sports” and “from breakfast time to game time” and “we go from coast to coast and everywhere in between.”
CBS has great radio assets, and its individual stations produce an incredible volume of audio content, much of it lost in space. The Roundup is interesting because it takes these assets and revalues them for a new market without diminishing the value of the live local radio station. It complements the CBS Sports radio network, which was launched in January of 2013.
I listened for a few hours of the opening day, and it sounded great, even for a first time out. Great to hear about a “snot and clobber” defense from CBS analyst Jason La Canfora. Many things these days need “snot and clobber.”
Branding-wise, it is useful for CBS, as it respects and promotes the CBS radio brand, as well as promoting the each individual station brand, some of which are tremendously valuable franchises. [Read more →]
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – It has been nearly a generation since Morton Frozen Foods products graced the shelves of grocery store freezers. The venerable brand was phased out in the late 1990s by its current owner ConAgra after a storied 60-plus year history. This was done reportedly as part of a corporate streamlining effort to increase efficiency and avoid redundancy of similar brand offerings within the ConAgra product line.
However, while the Morton brand is gone, fond memories of it remain. A simple internet search for Morton quickly reveals legions of consumers who are desperately trying to find its famed pot pies, honey buns, mini donuts, and other once related products. In fact, some claim that Morton Frozen Foods is one of the most searched for “dead brands” on the internet. Why not bring Morton back?
A group of Morton Frozen Foods product enthusiasts are attempting to do just that. Comprised largely of former Morton employees, descendants of Morton employees, and fans of the brand, the group is embarking upon a multi-pronged campaign to put Morton back on the map. The first phase of this campaign involves an effort to re-introduce Morton and its fascinating story to the public through social media as well as through print and online media articles. In time, a website and perhaps even a book showcasing Morton’s history and legendary product offerings may also come into being.
Once enough interest has been generated, the group would plan to enter the second phase of its plan – to launch a lobbying campaign to convince ConAgra to resume production of select Morton products.
Such a move could be made on a trial basis, with ConAgra reintroducing Morton’s most popular products – perhaps the honeybuns and/or mini donuts – in selected areas to gauge consumer interest. Should the products prove popular enough, ConAgra could then resume production of Morton products on an even wider scale. Should ConAgra not be interested in relaunching Morton itself, its executives could perhaps be persuaded to license or even sell the rights to another company. The possibilities are endless.
Want to help? Here are three ways you can get involved:
Get in touch – contact us at email@example.com if you have questions, would like to offer assistance, share Morton-related photos and memorabilia, etc.
Working together, we can bring back Morton Frozen Foods!
About the Author: Dr. Sean Heuvel is a faculty member at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA, and holds degrees from the College of William and Mary and the University of Richmond. A historian by trade, Sean is proud of his close familial ties to Morton Frozen Foods. He is the great-grandson of Jean D. Patton (1898-1956), who helped establish the Morton Packing Company with his family friend Harold Morton in 1938. Patton went on to serve as the company’s vice president of production as well a member of Morton’s board of directors. Further, Sean is the grandson of Gene Liberati (1922-2011), who was also a longtime Morton executive. Sean lives with his wife and two children in Williamsburg, Virginia.
NEWPORT BEACH – Ellia Kassoff, the man behind number of successful brand revivals, is bringing back Hydrox Cookies. The cookies began production again this week.
Hydrox was often perceived as the “other” brand of stuffed cookie, Nabisco’s Oreo being more famous most of the 20th century. Hydrox was made by Sunshine Bakery, purchased by Kellogg’s, but the company discontinued the brand. In actuality, Hydrox was first.
Kassoff, of Leaf Brands LLC and Strategic Marks LLC, has successfully brought back a number of old candy brands, including Bonkers, Wacky Wafers, Astro Pops and Tart ‘n Tiny’s as part of his Leaf Brands company. Kassoff has also been attempting to bring back the old department store brands that Macy’s dropped years ago, including Robinsons and Filene’s.
You can follow the progress on Facebook, including some shots of the production line. The Hydrox effort got a large boost in August when Republican candidate Donald Trump said he was swearing off Oreos because of the move of production to Mexico, where sugar is cheaper.
MILWAUKEE – Pabst, that icon of Milwaukee, is returning to its former home. The company will open a microbrewery and testing center at the old Pabst brewering in Milwaukee.
Pictured here is a part of the Pabst revival in the city including the famous Pabst sign and the Brewhouse Suites hotel.
The move, which is the cause of great civic celebration, should be a wake up to other brands that have disconnected from their historic community roots. The reality is that while pricing is an important part of a product, to base every business decision on pure cost is a recipe for turning your brand into a commodity. Thus, the disaster PR move of having to buy Oreos made in Mexico, or frustration with the move of Johnnie Walker Scotch from Kilmarnock.
These brands need to take a hint from fashion brands. You keep your boutique in Paris and New York, where rents are high, and sell a couture line. Then the cheaper mass versions can be made elsewhere, and people don’t get worked up.
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – An entire generation of Americans recognize the venerable Morton Frozen Foods brand, remembering fondly its many products ranging from pot pies to honey buns. Despite humble origins in an abandoned Louisville church basement, Morton grew to become one of the nation’s premier manufacturers of frozen foods in the mid-20th century.
Although Morton achieved a spectacular level of success with its wide array of products, a succession of corporate buyouts prompted its movement toward obscurity until it disappeared completely from grocery store freezers in the 1990s. However, efforts are currently underway to breathe new life into this icon of American business history.
In 1938, a recent college graduate and entrepreneur named Harold M. Morton ventured into the competitive packaged food industry by establishing a small chicken processing and canning firm in Louisville, KY. First based in an abandoned church basement, the company became known regionally for its signature chicken and noodle dish that it sold in glass jars. While the Morton Packing Company slowly grew, Harold Morton left the helm due to some unforeseen circumstances and went on to engage in other endeavors. However, business boomed for the company during World War II since consumers did not have to surrender many ration points to buy Morton’s chicken and noodle concoction. Further, the company benefited from lucrative government contracts, packaging food – mostly soups – for the U.S. armed forces, and soon moved into a larger manufacturing plant in Louisville.
Post War Innovation & Edward Stettinius
Unfortunately, the bottom fell out for Morton following the war as their signature dish was no longer desirable among consumers. The company would have likely gone under had it not been for a chance luncheon between two corporate leaders in 1946. That year, former U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius dined with respected food industry consultant George Egger at Stettinius’ estate outside of Charlottesville, VA. As they chatted and ate chicken pot pie, Stettinius remarked to Egger, “You know, pot pie is the oldest of our traditional American dishes, but housewives don’t seem to find time to make it anymore. It’s too bad that some food company doesn’t turn out a tasty chicken pie.”
A visionary business leader who was well connected within the food services industry, Egger immediately filed this idea away in the back of his head. A short time later, he was brought in as a consultant to help revive the troubled Morton firm and immediately shared the idea with the company’s leadership. Morton staff quickly developed a commercially viable chicken pot pie and the company’s fortunes immediately changed.
Morton sales began to soar as the American public became fascinated with this new frozen chicken pot pie. Egger, who was appointed Morton’s president in 1950, was also successful in financing a major media campaign that introduced “Colonel Morton” to consumers across the nation. In the meantime, Morton began to diversify into other meat pot pies as well as fruit pot pies, operating four production plants across the country and becoming an industry leader in the frozen foods field.
Morton reached the pinnacle of its success in the mid-1950s, when famed financier John Hay “Jock” Whitney was talked into investing millions of dollars into the company. These resources proved instrumental in making Morton a truly national brand. However, although the American public was increasingly fond of Morton’s “Old Kentucky Recipe,” the company struggled to find the resources to compete with larger corporations that were entering the frozen pot pie market. Consequently, Egger sold Morton in 1956 to the Continental Baking Company and launched a new era for the Louisville firm.
Dessert and Bakery Products
Renamed Morton Frozen Foods and relocated to New York in the late 1950s, the company (later a division of ITT Continental) began to add frozen dinners and other desserts to its lineup of products. Morton’s “golden age” continued into the 1960s, as American consumers were still quite fond of its products. However, increasing competition and the rise of fast food began to spell trouble for the brand in the 1970s. In response, Morton began to transition toward frozen dessert and bakery products, ranging from cream pies to donuts to honey buns. They were well received by consumers but failed to achieve the same impact that Morton once enjoyed with its pot pies. “Colonel Morton” also ceased to exist on Morton packaging as the company shifted to other less distinctive logos.
Further, Morton was sold during this period to a succession of corporations, ranging from Del Monte to its most recent owner, ConAgra, in 1986. This succession of buyouts gradually transformed Morton from a distinct company with its own unique identity into a more artificial brand. A 1990s corporate restructuring prompted ConAgra to remove Morton from its list of active products, and the brand ceased around 2000.
Editor’s Note: A group of individuals with ties to Morton has recently emerged with a plan to put the brand back on the map. Their efforts will be discussed in Part 2 of this article, which will follow.
About the Author: Dr. Sean Heuvel is a faculty member at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA, and holds degrees from the College of William and Mary and the University of Richmond. A historian by trade, Sean is proud of his close familial ties to Morton Frozen Foods. He is the great-grandson of Jean D. Patton (1898-1956), who helped establish the Morton Packing Company with his family friend Harold Morton in 1938. Patton went on to serve as the company’s vice president of production as well a member of Morton’s board of directors. Further, Sean is the grandson of Gene Liberati (1922-2011), who was also a longtime Morton executive. Sean lives with his wife and two children in Williamsburg.
This was one of Morton’s earliest ads, appearing in a 1941 Louisville, KY Rotary Club newsletter. It featured L. Owsley Haskins, who served as the company’s president from 1941 to 1950.
Famed financier John Hay Whitney (1904-1982) also played a key role in facilitating Morton’s phenomenal growth. In the mid-1950s, he invested millions of dollars in the company, providing Morton the resources to advertise extensively and become a truly national brand.
George Egger (1905-1991) served as Morton’s president from 1950 to 1958. A visionary business leader with extensive experience in the food industry, Egger was instrumental in transforming Morton from a small, Louisville packaging firm into a nationally recognized, multimillion dollar company.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, Jr. (1900-1949) first suggested the idea in 1946 that frozen chicken pot pies should be developed and sold commercially. This suggestion later made Morton Frozen Foods a legend in the industry.
A Morton Donut Shop ad from the 1970s.
A Morton chocolate cream pie ad from the late-1960s
A trio of Morton meat pot pies from the 1960s.
A Morton frozen dinner from the 1960s.
A mid-1950s chicken pot pie ad from Morton’s golden age of advertising.
Roy and woodgrain at Key Bridge, Arlington, sometime in the groovin Nixon era.
It was the Chipotle of the 1970s. A fast food brand started by Marriott, Roy Rogers almost went by the wayside, but then the wayside of the New Jersey Turnpike kept the brand visible, and it lived.
The idea was simple. Serve better ingredients than the normal fast food restaurant, allow people to put their own stuff on the hamburger at a “fixins bar” with lettuce, tomato and mayo and serve a few other things than burgers, including chicken and roast beef. Give the brand the wholesome image of Roy Rogers himself, who was trustworthy, American and safe. Pictured here, I took a Vintage Cam app photo of Roy visiting the Key Bridge Marriott, back in the 1970s. And yes, he is standing next to a Ford LTD Country Squire, with wood grain. [Read more →]