What's in a Name?

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

These names have probably all ended up in your shopping cart at some point, but how well do you know their origins? Let's take a look at the names behind some of our favorite groceries.

Kellogg's

Kellogg's brand cereal
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Seventh-day Adventist brothers Will Keith and John Harvey Kellogg stumbled across a tasty process for flaking corn while working at Michigan's Battle Creek Sanitarium. The brothers were looking for a vegetarian diet that would work with the Seventh-day Adventist principles, and when they realized the cereal could be a healthy breakfast food, they took their development commercial in 1897.

In addition to being a major philanthropist, W.K. Kellogg also became a big deal in the Arabian horse industry. The ranch he opened in Pomona, CA gave rise to a number of famous horses, including the one Rudolf Valentino rode in the film Son of the Sheik.

Post Cereals

Fruity Pebbles
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The rivalry between Post and Kellogg's on the cereal aisle is intense, but it's got nothing on their personal differences. Post Foods were the brainchild of Charles William Post, who had the idea for a line of cereal products...while eating the Kellogg brothers' creations at the Battle Creek Sanitarium! (As the story goes, W.K. Kellogg was famously secretive about the corn flaking process, but his brother John would let anyone hanging around the sanitarium watch.) Post founded Postum Cereal Co. in 1895, and in 1897 he introduced Grape Nuts.

Post was a bit of a character once he became wealthy. In 1907 he snapped up 200,000 acres of Texas ranchland to create a utopian community he called the Double U. The Double U had a gin and a textile mill, but it didn't allow drinking or brothels. Within seven years the town was ready to incorporate, at which point it changed its name to Post. Post, TX now has around 3,700 residents and is the county seat of Garza County.

Pepperidge Farm

Goldfish Crackers
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In 1937 Margaret Rudkin had a problem. The youngest of her three sons had asthma and severe allergies, and whenever he ate commercially processed foods, he got sick. A doctor convinced Rudkin to feed the boy a diet that consisted mostly of fruits and vegetables, but she eventually decided to bake the tot some stone ground whole wheat bread. The first attempt at the bread wasn't great – she later joked, "My first loaf should have been sent to the Smithsonian Institution as a sample of Stone Age bread, for it was hard as a rock and about one inch high" – but Rudkin kept trying until she nailed the recipe.

Rudkin then convinced a local grocer to carry her bread at the then-exorbitant price of 25 cents a loaf, more than twice what normal bread cost. After some haggling, he finally agreed, and her baking found quite a following. Rudkin named her baking company Pepperidge Farm after the Fairfield, CT estate where she and her family lived. The farm itself was named after a giant old pepperidge tree that grew on the property.

Campbell's Soup

Campbell's tomato soup
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Andy Warhol's favorite canned good got its start when Joseph A. Campbell and Abraham Anderson founded the Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Company in 1869. The men sold condiments, soups, jellies, canned tomatoes, and other pantry staples. Things didn't really take off until MIT-educated chemist Dr. John T. Dorrance convinced Campbell's general manager – who also happened to be Dorrance's uncle – to hire him. Dorrance wanted to play with the chemical constitution of Campbell's products so badly that he took a meager $7.50 a week in salary and agreed to pay for his lab equipment out of his pocket.

Campbell's tiny investment in Dorrance paid off. In 1897, Dorrance hit on a way to revolutionize the soup industry by condensing half of the water out of the canned product. Less water meant that it was much lighter to ship the soup, a huge boost to the company's bottom line. The red-and-white color scheme came about the following year after executive Herberton Williams attended a Cornell-Penn State football game. Williams was so struck by the Cornell player's red-and-white jerseys that he suggested the company's soup cans use the same combination.

Tombstone Pizza

Tombstone Pizza
Zepfanman.com, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The creepy name has a funny story. Back in the early 1960s, brothers Joseph "Pep" and Ronald Simek ran a bar on the outskirts of Medford, WI. Since their tavern was across the street from a cemetery, they named the place the Tombstone Tap. Pep Simek supplemented the bar's dime-a-glass beer offerings with homemade pizzas, and his creations grew so popular that other local bars asked if Pep would whip up a batch of pizzas for them, too. Pep and Ron joined together with their wives to start making pizzas for other restaurants and bars, and they named their wares Tombstone in honor of their own tavern.

Quaker Oats

Quaker Oats
iStock

Here's a shocker: Quaker Oats wasn't founded by a Quaker! In 1877 mill owner Henry D. Seymour read an encyclopedia article on the Quakers and decided that the traits described in the article – integrity, honesty, and purity – were all good qualities for his fledgling company's oats to have. He trademarked the name for his Ravenna, OH mill's business, and in 1901 Quaker Mill Company merged with three other oat mills to form the Quaker Oats Company.

Claussen Pickles

The famously crunchy pickles actually arose from a bad situation. In 1870, farmer Hans Claus was stuck with a crop of cucumbers he couldn't seem to sell. Rather than let them go to waste, he pickled the unwanted stock and sold the cucumbers. Soon, his business took off, and he never had to waste another cucumber.

Hans Claus made his pickles the traditional way where the cucumbers went into brine and then underwent heat processing. Claussen's famous cold treatment for its pickles actually didn't come around until the 1960s when Claus' great-grandson Ed Claussen perfected a way to make refrigerated pickles that retained their crunch.

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At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

The Clever Reason Oranges Are Sold in Red Mesh Bags

Gingagi/iStock via Getty Images
Gingagi/iStock via Getty Images

If a detail in a food's packaging doesn't seem to serve a practical purpose, it's likely a marketing tactic. One example is the classic mesh bag of oranges seen in supermarket produce sections. When oranges aren't sold loose on the shelf, they almost always come in these red, mesh bags. The packaging may seem plain, but according to Reader's Digest, it's specially designed to make shoppers want to buy the product.

The color orange "pops" when paired with the color red more so than it does with yellow, green, or blue. That means when you see a bunch of oranges behind a red net pattern, your brain assumes they're more "orange" (and therefore fresher and higher quality) than it would if you saw them on their own. That's the same reason red is chosen when making bags for fruits like grapefruits or tangerines, which are also orange in color.

For lemon packaging, green is more commonly chosen to make the yellow rind stand out. If lemons were sold in the same red bags as other citrus, the red and yellow hues together would actually make the fruits appear orange. Lemons can also come in yellow mesh bags, and the bags for limes are usually green to match their color.

Next time you visit the supermarket, see if you can spot the many ways the store is set up to influence your buying decisions. The items at eye-level will likely be more expensive than those on the shelves above and below them, and the products near the register will likely be cheaper and more appealing as impulse buys. Check out more sneaky tricks used by grocery stores here.

[h/t Reader's Digest]