Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ConAgra Food Brands

I was amazed to learn years ago that many of the biggest brands of laundry detergent (as well as some smaller ones), from "Ariel" to "Bold" to "Cheer" to "Gain" to "Ivory Snow" to "Tide," are actually all owned by a single global conglomerate, Procter & Gamble, despite seeming to compete directly every day on store shelves. A "mere marketing gimmick"? Perhaps. Or maybe its success tells us something more about ourselves.

It turns out that a similar situation applies to many of the myriad brands of processed foods stocked on those same grocery store shelves. One such conglomerate is ConAgra Foods of Omaha, Nebraska. Would it surprise you to learn that ConAgra makes everything from "Egg Beaters" to "Slim Jims"? It didn't really surprise me, I suppose, to learn that they make the "Banquet" fried chicken line as well as "La Choy" chinese food, and even "Chef Boyardee" products. But "Hebrew National"? I did not expect that. (Nor "David" sunflower seeds, for that matter.)
Like P&G's multiple laundry detergent brands, ConAgra also makes a number of directly competitive products, including both "Jiffy Pop" and "Orville Redenbacher's" popcorn, as well as both "Blue Bonnet" and "Fleischmann's" margarines. They also make three different "Cracker Jack" knock-offs that my grandmother used to give me as a child when I came to visit: "Crunch 'n Munch," "Fiddle Faddle" and "Popycock"? How many "Cracker Jack" knock-offs can one company make? (Apparently, three.)
I found the ConAgra "vision statement" posted on their corporate website perhaps unintentionally Orwellian, "One company. One goal. Making the foods you love." That being said, I do applaud their commitment to a diverse workplace (a commitment that apparently extends to "supplier diversity" as well). Though they may have some "make up" work to do to compensate for some of the 1960s and 1970s "La Choy" television commercials ("La Choy makes chinese food 'swing' American"), like the one embedded below for their "honorable" egg rolls:

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