Brands on the Splits, Divorce in the Grocery Aisle


Borden Cow, On the SplitsWhat happens when brand families are dispersed?

Would 3M keep Scotch tape, but sell off Scotchguard? Would Johnson & Johnson keep Johnson’s baby oil, but rid itself of Johnson’s No More Tears? Would United Technologies keep Carrier home heating & air, but spin off Carrier commercial division? Not likely, for these companies are good stewards of their brands.

But for others, this is not the case. The result is confusing, messy, and borderline misleading. Here are some of the many examples, just among food brands:

  1. Love Aunt Jemima? This brand MEANS pancakes, right? Well grab the pancake mix or syrup, made for generations by Quaker Oats . . . but want Aunt Jemima frozen waffles instead? Well those were sold off years ago to what is now Pinnacle Foods. Who knew?
  2. How about Pillsbury and their lovable Doughboy—what an epitome of “lovin’ from the oven” as far as the baked aisle goes, huh? Well, grab some Pillsbury dough in the refrigerated section and let’s make cookies. Oh, but how about Pillsbury cake mix, frosting, and flour? Well, it is not part of General Mills like the dough . . . it is now part of Smucker. That’s right, the once venerable company and brand is now split apart like a helpless crescent roll into two other food makers. Perhaps the most heart-rending example of all, the split was mandated by anti-trust laws when General Mills, who already had Betty Crocker and its own Gold Medal flour, bought Pillsbury. It wanted the dough, though. At least the doughboy is shared (licensed to Smucker).
  3. Hungry Jack. Same sad story as above. The refrigerated biscuit dough and frozen pancakes are General Mills, but the pancake mix, syrup, or potato side dish mixes are Smucker. Ugh!
  4. Swanson’s. This brand synonymous with TV dinners (along with its Hungryman sub-brand) is no longer part of its long-time owner, Campbell Soup. It was sold to Pinnacle Foods (which seems to take an awful lot of orphans in, bless them.) Campbell did keep the broth & canned chicken, though. Why not the iconic frozen food part of the brand?
  5. Fleischmann’s. The yeast is now part of ACH Food Companies . . . but the margarine is a ConAgra brand. Formerly together as part of Standard Brands, then Nabisco, then torn apart. Confusion insued.
  6. How about some good old Borden cheese?  OK, but it’s not made by Borden, which doesn’t exist as a company anymore. Borden cheddar and other hard cheese is now marketed by Dairy Farmers of America Inc. (I hate the term “marketed by”, don’t you?) Borden milk or anything else dairy, by National Dairy Holdings. Why not “Borden Dairy,” which sounds a whole lot better than ANY kind of “Holdings”.
  7. Breyer’s ice cream and yogurt—aren’t they made by Kraft? Well, hold on—not any more. Inexplicably, Kraft got rid of Breyer’s ice cream years ago, but kept the yogurt. (Nestle now has the ice cream.) Then, Kraft grew bored with the yogurt, and recently left it to fend for itself as part of an investment firm’s holdings (there goes that word again, and never a good sign when no other food company buyer can be found). If another company doesn’t come along and snap it up soon, you can expect the once hugely successful Breyer’s brand yogurt to languish and finally die. Good food brands deserve good homes with companies that know how to sell food.
  8. Del Monte. Grab a delicious Del Monte pineapple, grown by Del Monte Tropical Fruit Co. . . . but the canned pineapple and other canned goods are from Del Monte Foods Co.—a separate company that was once wasn’t. Confused yet?
  9. Land O’Lakes. The iconic company, actually a co-op, markets the well-loved butter, margarine, and cheese. But it sold the rights to Land O’Lakes half & half, sour cream and dips to Dean Foods. Dairy brands are the most vulnerable to these messy split-ups. Dairy marketers:  please keep your stable together and keep what is yours, yours!
  10. Libby’s. When it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s on the label, label, label, brace yourself for at least 3 different companies. Nestle sold Libby’s canned vegetables to Seneca Foods years ago, but kept canned pumpkin (??), and Juicy Juice (which alas, no longer has Libby’s on the label). Libby’s canned meats (corned beef, Vienna sausages and such) were also jettisoned by Nestle years ago, to what eventually became today’s ConAgra.

Other examples of brand splits: who makes Nalley’s pickled foods but not canned foods, Bryan smoked sausage but not canned meats, Trappey’s canned vegetables but not condiments, Pet evaporated milk but not fresh milk and ice cream, Golden Dipt grocery products but not institutional products, Wyler’s bouillon but not drink mix, and French’s Chili-O and other seasoning packets but not mustard, onion topping, or potato sticks?

Editor’s Note: We wish to welcome contributor Digital Sandlapper to the BrandlandUSA fold. Digital Sandlapper is a pseudonym of a South Carolina branding expert who has a database of 10,000 brands and their owners.


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