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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Opening Up A Can Of Worms



Because we have become so inured to marketing gimmicks, most Americans think that Chef Boyardee is a brand invented to sell tinned spaghetti products to children. It is not. It is, however just the first of a whole slew of falsehoods the brand is built upon. Here are some of them.

Fact:

Chef Boyardee did, in fact exist — only his name wasn’t spelled like that. He was Ettore Boiardi, and yes, he was a real chef; he was the head chef at New York’s Plaza Hotel before becoming a personal favorite of President Woodrow Wilson.

Fact:

That’s Boiardi’s likeness on the cans. He died in 1985.

Fact:

Chef Boiardi really did invent his product. After opening a restaurant in 1924, he often sold his sauce to customers, a business he expanded by expanding this sideline by opening a factory. He grew his own tomatoes in the basement.

Fact:

Chef Boiardi, perhaps seasoned by his experience as an immigrant (he arrived at Ellis Island at 16), understood that Americans would find it easier to pronounce his name if it was spelled phonetically. Hence the early version, the hyphenated “Boy-ar-dee.”

Fact:

Chef Boyardee brand spaghetti and meatballs was not originally marketed to children — it was shipped to troops serving in WW2.

Fact:

Chef Boiardi sold his brand in 1944 for $6 million. At the time of his death in 1985, it was generating $500 million annually.

Fact:

Actual pasta with meatballs in tomato sauce is quite nutritious and cheap.

Fact:

Chef Boyardee brand spaghetti and meatballs is still kinda cheap, but is no longer nutritious. Although today’s cans advertise “Good Stuff Inside” including ½ cup of vegetables per serving, six vitamins and minerals, and protein, reading the label will tell a different story. First, all the figures are for two servings per can. We all know that people eat a whole can. (Even the company acknowledges that kids don’t actually eat a single serving, saying they’ll “come back for seconds.”) Given this, there are 520 calories, nearly half of those from fat. There are a whopping 1500 mgs of sodium, 62% of the daily recommended dose. There are 60 grams of carbs, or a whole fifth of a daily allowance. There are (by my count — the label is confusing) over 30 different ingredients.

Fact:

Chef Boyardee does NOT “fool your kids,” as their marketing has long claimed. Kids recognize that spaghetti from a can is not the same thing as a home-cooked meal. The idea that “problem eaters” can be persuaded to eat healthy foods if they are disguised as something else sets a poor precedent. Such foods are usually loaded up with sugar and salt, which is like crack for the palate, establishing addictions not only to the blood sugar rush but also to a wildly artificial expectation of taste.

Fact:

This sundae dish is not filled with an ice cream sundae. Anyone expecting desert will be sorely disappointed. (It does contain seven grams of sugar, however.)

LIFE Magazine, December 17, 1971

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