Wesson Oil Packaging Gets Fresh Look That Evokes Saul Bass Design

Wesson Oil, the Southern cooking oil made famous for its Wesson-ality, has a fresh look. The look mentions the Memphis roots of Wesson Oil, and evoke a 1960s package design made famous by the late graphic designer Saul Bass.

Wesson was a favorite in the South that went national. The brand originally was cottonseed oil, named after David Wesson (1861–1934), a food chemist who in 1899 developed a process for turning cottonseed oil into food-grade shortening.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office trademark has an 1899 date of first use for Wesson Oil. It predates Procter & Gamble’s Crisco, which debuted in 1911. Crisco is now one of many brands owned by J.M. Smucker, which has inherited many of the food heritage products of P&G, including Jif and Folgers.

The brand was originally part of the evocatively named Southern Cotton Oil Company, later the Wesson Oil and Snowdrift Sales Co., headquartered in New Orleans. They merged in 1960 with Hunt’s, makers of catsup, to become Hunt-Wesson Foods, later part of the conglomerate Beatrice and then Conagra.

In 2018, Conagra sold the brand to Richardson International of Canada, an agribusiness giant.

Brand Positioning

Vintage Wesson Oil label while it was owned by the Wesson Oil and Snowdrift Sales Co., New Orleans.

The brand exploded in the 1970s, when it was retooled by Saul Bass, the noted graphic designer. The design used the colors blue and green, in a patented bottle. The 1970s were an explosive time for vegetable oil; in 1972 Corning glass introduced the Un-Candle, a glass candle of water and wick floating in vegetable oil, which powered the candle.

The Wesson brand has continued to morph in its marketing; in the 1980s it emphasized that it was a brand of different kinds of oils, part of a low cholesterol diet.

During the Beatrice era, the Saul Bass design almost completely disappeared; the Beatrice name was attached to the top, instead.

Slogans included:

  • Cooks as Light as it Looks
  • With Every Bite, You Know You’re Eating Right

The best known ads for Wesson Oil featured the late Florence Henderson, who began pitching Wesson Oil while she was the nation’s favorite mother on The Brady Bunch. She appeared on ads for Wesson Oil for 22 years. In an interview on the advertising, she said that she had survived five advertising agencies.

Previous design for Wesson Oil, in a photo from the U.S.P.T.O filings. The new design has a cleaner feel and evokes an earlier, classic design by Saul Bass.

Below, Florence Henderson talking about her stint with Wesson Oil.

The ads featured the famous jingle that the “chicken has a certain Wesson-ality.”

Below, a 1970 commercial, with the Saul Bass bottle design.

And a 1980s ad for Wesson Oil, as the brand tried to update its image as a part of revamped American diets.

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