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07/15/2022

100 Iconic Brands That Changed Grocery

In celebration of our centennial, Progressive Grocer quantifies some of the best and boldest brands of the past 100 years, from A to Z
Jenny McTaggart
Contributing Editor
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Truly powerful brands often become household names, standing on their own when spoken, without further description needed. Nowhere is this truer than in the grocery industry. It’s the reason that you ask for a Kleenex when you sneeze, or look for a Ziploc bag to store something in — or, down South, request a Coke although you’re mainly just craving a sweetened carbonated beverage.

Where would the grocery industry be without such amazing, resilient brands? These are the names that so often inspire consumers to visit their local supermarkets and make them feel at home when they get there. Iconic grocery brands have also served as the source for decades of powerful TV ads, in-store promotions and circulars, fun jingles playing over store speakers, and, by today’s measure, trendsetting content in TikTok and YouTube videos.

For Progressive Grocer’s premier list of 100 Brands That Changed Grocery, the editors strove to include the best-known brands over the past 100 years, along with newer names that have made significant impacts on the industry. Two names — Starbucks and White Castle — represent notable crossovers from the restaurant industry. You’ll also see a few brands that are really used by grocers themselves but have become familiar to shoppers — such as NCR — as well as one brand that has been so impactful on the industry that we felt we had to include it: Amazon.

As we perused past issues of the magazine to compose this list, it was fascinating to see how brands have changed their messaging and feel over time. Back in a 1922 issue of PG, for example, Borden was billing itself as “the nation’s milk” and “the grocer’s milk,” while Morton Salt saw its branded commodity as not only a “necessity,” but also as a “sure profit item” at 5 cents per package. In 1932, toward the end of Prohibition, Anheuser-Busch was launching a new campaign for Budweiser Barley Malt Syrup, a baking ingredient for bread and cookies that also conveniently lent itself to home brewing. The company planned to include streetcar advertising, newspaper ads in “English and foreign language[s],” and “neon spectacular bulletins at strategic points east and west” in its broad-reaching national campaign. In the 1970s, Campbell Soup was debuting its “Light Ones” line to appeal to more diet-conscious consumers as the Kool-Aid Man was crashing through walls to reward kids with plenty of sugar.

In more recent years, newer brands such as Annie’s Homegrown, Kashi and Kind bars have come onto the scene and shaken up the center store, while Chobani has transformed the yogurt section. Meanwhile, perishable departments have seen an increase in branded products, yet at the same time, private label items have often excelled at giving major CPG players some healthy competition.

Now we invite you to sit back, relax with a cup of your favorite brand of coffee, and take a trip down memory lane — or, in this case, the supermarket aisles of yesteryear.

1. Amazon

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2. Annie’s Homegrown (owned by General Mills)

 

3. Barilla

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4. Bayer

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5. Ben & Jerry’s (owned by Unilever)

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6. Ben’s Original (formerly Uncle Ben’s; owned by Mars Food)
 

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7. Betty Crocker (owned by General Mills)

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8. Birds Eye (owned by Conagra BRANDS)
 

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9. Boar’s Head

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10. Borden


11. Bounty (owned by Procter & Gamble)

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12. Breyers (owned by Unilever)

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13. Budweiser (owned by Anheuser-Busch)

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14. Bumble Bee Foods

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15. Camay 

 

16. Campbell Soup 

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The beginnings of this iconic soup brand can be traced back to Joseph Campbell, a wholesale fruit and vegetable vendor, and Abraham Anderson, a commercial canner and packer, both of whom lived in the middle of the 19th century. Their company introduced its first jar of ready-to-eat soup, Beefsteak Tomato, in 1895. A few years later, a nephew of the company’s president invented the process of condensing soup, which led to smaller packaging in cans. It wasn’t until 1898 that Campbell debuted its well-known red-and-white label, which was inspired by the Cornell University football team’s new red-and-white uniforms. The brand went on to feature the adorable “Campbell kids” in its ads in the early 1900s, created the catchy “M’m! M’m! Good!” jingle in the 1930s and inspired eclectic artist Andy Warhol to use soup cans in his paintings in the 1960s. Campbell’s major acquisitions and new product introductions over time have included V8, Pepperidge Farm, SpaghettiOs, Swanson, Prego, Pace Foods and Snyder’s-Lance.

17. Charmin (owned by Procter & Gamble)

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18. Cheerios (owned by General Mills)
 

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19. Chiquita

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20. Chobani

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21. Clorox 

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22. Coca-Cola

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It’s almost impossible to overstate the impact that Coca-Cola has had on the U.S. beverage market over the past century. Today, the global brand is represented in virtually every beverage segment through its various products — think Dasani, Fairlife, Fanta, Gold Peak, Minute Maid, Schweppes, Simply and Sprite, to name just a sampling. Its unforgettable ad campaigns have included “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” animated polar bears, and even Santa Claus himself holding a bottle of the liquid refreshment. While a few products’ lives were more short-lived — New Coke and Tab come to mind — the company has continued to impress through its creativity and longevity in an ever-changing consumer landscape.

23. Colgate-Palmolive

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A small soap and candle business started by William Colgate in the early 19th century has today grown into a global company that includes Colgate toothpaste and other personal care brands such as Irish Spring, Softsoap, Speed Stick and Tom’s of Maine, as well as Ajax, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Murphy Oil Soap and, of course, Palmolive Dish Soap. In the 1930s, the company featured two radio programs, “The Palmolive Hour” and “Palmolive Beauty Box,” and throughout the 20th century, its TV ads and product innovation helped turn its brands into household names.

24. Cool Whip (owned by Kraft Heinz)

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25. Coors

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26. Cup Noodles (owned by Nissin Foods)

 

27. Dannon

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28. Del Monte

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29. Dole

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30. Domino 

 

31. Dove (owned by Unilever) 

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32. Driscoll’s 

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100 Iconic Brands That Changed Grocery

33. Folgers (owned by J.M. Smucker)

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34. French’s (owned by McCormick & Co.) 

 

35. Frito-Lay (owned by Pepsico) 

 

36. Gerber (owned by Nestlé)

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37. Gorton’s 

 

38. Goya Foods

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39. Green Giant (owned by B&G Foods)

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40. Heinz (owned by Kraft)

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41. Hellmann’s/Best Foods (owned by Unilever)

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42. Hershey’s

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43. Horizon Organic (owned by Danone) 

 

44. Hormel Foods

Known for developing the world’s first canned ham, Hormel Foods has been around for more than 130 years. Perhaps one of its greatest inventions is Spam, but the company is also responsible for legacy brands such as Dinty Moore beef stew and its trademark Hormel chili. Today, its impressive portfolio of food products includes Applegate, Jennie-O, Planters and Skippy, among others.

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45. Hostess

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46. Huggies (owned by Kimberly-Clark) 

 

47. Hussmann 

 

48. Jell-O (owned by Kraft)

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49. Jif (owned by J.M. Smucker)

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50. Kashi 

 

51. Keebler

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52. Kellogg’s
 

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In 1894, W.K. Kellogg changed breakfast forever by creating Corn Flakes. Then, in the 1950s, the phrase “They’re grrrreat!” became etched in Americans’ minds with the rollout of iconic Frosted Flakes and its biggest fan, Tony the Tiger. Today, Kellogg owns a wide range of brands covering more cereals and other breakfast items such as Pop-Tarts and Eggo frozen waffles, plant-based proteins (MorningStar Farms), savory snacks (Pringles, Cheez-It and more), snack bars and bites, and protein bars and shakes.

53. Kind (owned by Mars) 

 

54. Kleenex (owned by Kimberly-Clark)
 

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55. Knorr (owned by Unilever) 

 

56. Kool-Aid (owned by Kraft)

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57. Kotex (owned by Kimberly-Clark) 

 

58. Kraft

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Although today its name is connected to Heinz after the two companies merged in 2015, the Kraft brand traces its roots back to the early 1900s, when James L. Kraft started a wholesale door-to-door cheese business in Chicago. By 1915, the company had invented pasteurized processed cheese that didn’t need refrigeration, and in 1937, it introduced its ubiquitous boxed macaroni and cheese. In 1947, Kraft experimented with branding via the emerging power of television by producing “Kraft Television Theatre.” Since those days, Kraft has gone through various mergers that have included Dart Industries (makers of the Duracell brand of batteries and the Tupperware brand of plastic containers) and the Philip Morris Cos. Today, its major brands include Cadbury, Maxwell House coffee, Nabisco, Oreo, Oscar Mayer and Philadelphia cream cheese.

59. Land O’Lakes

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60. Lipton (owned by Ekaterra Tea)

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61. Little Debbie (owned by McKee Foods) 

 

62. Mars Wrigley

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In the late 1800s, a young boy named Frank C. Mars learned to hand-dip chocolate from his mother while he was stuck at home with polio. Around the same time, William Wrigley Jr. came to Chicago as a young salesman and began offering merchants free chewing gum with each can of baking powder that he sold. These humble beginnings led to what is today the world’s leading manufacturer of chocolate, chewing gum, mints and fruity confections. The company’s iconic brands include M&Ms, Snickers, Orbit, Extra and Skittles, each with its own unforgettable ad campaigns and slogans that have permeated American culture through the years.

63. McCormick

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64. Morton Salt

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65. Mr. Clean (owned by Procter & Gamble)

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66. Nabisco (owned by Mondelez International)

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67. NCR 

 

68. Newman’s Own

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69. Nestlé

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Founded in Switzerland more than 140 years ago, Nestlé originally produced a milk-based infant food, which inspired its “nest” logo. Today, it’s considered the largest food and beverage company in the world, with more than 2,000 brands spanning such categories as baby food, water, cereals, coffee, chilled and frozen food, dairy, and ice cream. In fact, several of its brands are included in this list. One category that the Nestlé name is often affiliated with is milk chocolate: It was in 1904 that the company started selling chocolate for the first time, having taken over export sales for Peter & Kohler. Another name linked to Nestlé is Purina, an American subsidiary of the company that markets pet food, treats and cat litter (and is included a little later in our list).

70. Nutella (owned by Ferrero)

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71. Old El Paso (owned by General Mills) 

 

72. Oreo (owned by Mondelez International) 

 

73. Orville Redenbacher’s (owned by Conagra brands) 

 

74. Oscar Mayer (owned by Kraft Heinz)

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75. Pampers (owned by Procter & Gamble) 

 

76. Pepsi

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77. Perdue Farms 

 

78. Pillsbury (owned by General Mills)

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79. Purina

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80. Quaker Oats (owned by PepsiCo)

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Quaker Oats was registered as the first trademark for a breakfast cereal, way back in 1877. The brand was a pioneer in magazine advertising and became instantly recognizable through its mascot, a man dressed in Quaker garb. Much later, in 1966, Quaker Instant Oatmeal was introduced, giving Americans a more convenient way to fix a healthy breakfast. Today, the brand is owned by PepsiCo and includes oat-based snack foods, as well as the popular Life cereal.

81. Ragú 

 

82. Red Bull

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83. Reynolds Wrap 

 

84. Sara Lee

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85. Seventh Generation (owned by Unilever)

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86. Scott (owned by Kimberly-Clark)

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87. Smithfield

 

88. Smucker’s

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89. Snapple

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A brand of colorfully packaged beverages owned by Keurig Dr Pepper, Snapple was founded in 1972, under the name Unadulterated Food Products, by Leonard Marsh, Hyman Golden and Arnold Greenberg. The three New Yorkers conceived the product as a part-time venture to supply fruit juices to health food stores. An early apple juice product with carbonation led to the name Snapple, combining “snappy” and “apple.” Snapple went on to make its first bottled tea in 1987. In the 2000s, the company became the target of several lawsuits claiming that the inclusion of high-fructose corn syrup didn’t meet the company’s claim of “natural” ingredients. Once the lawsuits were dismissed, Snapple went on to switch to sugar in most of its beverages. 

90. Starbucks

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91. StarKist

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92. Sun-Maid

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93. Tab 

 

94. Tabasco

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95. Tampax  (owned by Procter & Gamble)  

 

96. Tropicana (owned by PepsiCo)

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97. Tyson

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98. White Castle

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99. Wonder Bread  (owned by Flowers Foods)

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100. Ziploc (owned by SC Johnson)

 

 

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