The human palate mainly craves two types of flavors: sweet and salty. Throughout history, we’ve gone to great lengths to create foods that have these flavors in order to make life a bit more palatable. However, many food creators have come by these discoveries unexpectedly, or while they were trying to sell something else entirely. Mainstream foods and companies like Fanta, marshmallows, Wrigley’s gum, Duncan Hines, Taco Bell, and Chipotle have all been created due to what the public craved rather than to what the creator intended on manufacturing. When the public in wartime Germany wanted soda but Coca-Cola was unavailable, their demands were answered with Fanta. When the public told the creator Glen Bell that they didn’t particularly enjoy his American fare, he responded by making the infamous Taco Bell taco, and the list goes on.
The lovely, sweet and citrusy Fanta that we know today has a complex history that starts during wartime in Nazi Germany. Since Coca-Cola syrup could not reach the country due to trade embargoes, the company’s operator at the Germany plant, Max Keith, had to find ingredients that were readily available. Unfortunately, the only ingredients available in Germany at this time were various fruits (mostly apples), by-products from other food and drink plants such as whey powder, and to top that nasty concoction off beet sugar was added for sweetness once saccharin became unavailable in Germany in 1941. That just sounds like good tasting soda, huh? Desperate times require desperate measures. Anyway, the drink was described as, ” A light-colored beverage that resembled ginger ale.” They must’ve used the term “resemble” more loosely back then because given the ingredients they used to make fantasie, I highly doubt it “resembled” ginger ale at all. The public during this time didn’t drink the first few versions of Fanta straight, but instead used it as a flavor substitute for various dishes. Actually, this is where the inspiration for a cake recipe – Fantakuchen – came from that is used presently in Germany. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of the orange soda. Once the war ended so did the Fanta plant in the country until Coca-Cola gained ownership of it once again and relaunched Fanta in 1955, and the drink became what we know and enjoy today.
William Wrigley Jr. never intended on selling gum. As a matter of fact, he was selling his father’s “Wrigley’s Scouring Soap”, and added a free can of baking powder as an incentive to buy. Later on, he switched to selling baking powder, then adding gum as an incentive to buy; thank God the cycle ended there otherwise this gum probably wouldn’t exist! Obviously, the two packs of gum he was supplying with each can of baking powder proved to be more popular, so he switched businesses for a final time. The first Wrigley’s gum was “Juicy Fruit”, and “Wrigley’s Spearmint” was launched a few months later in 1893. Wrigley marketed his product in 1915 by sending a few packs to every American household listed in the phonebook, and that is how this delicious gum became a hit.
Did you know that marshmallows were once used as a remedy for a sore throat? Ancient Egyptians used the Althaea officinalis, a plant that contains healing properties from its roots, leaves, and flowers. The marshmallow plant, as it was later called, was used commonly to remedy sore throats, irritated mucous membranes, and throat/gastric ulcers. They also used the plant’s young leaves and flowers to create fresh, palatable dishes that are still enjoyed in the Middle East today. However, one of the dishes the Egyptians created was a honey-sweetened confection mixed with the sap of the plant and various nuts; a crude version of the marshmallow we roast over our campfires and put in between chocolate and graham crackers. The first version that is closest to the confection we enjoy came from the French, as they were inspired by the sweet Egyptian version. The French version is called pâte de guimauve that calls for a traditional egg white merengue, a splash of rose water, and the sap of the marshmallow plant. The making of this confection was quite labor-intensive so bakers searched for new ways to manufacture the candy. The version they created called for egg whites or gelatin, and corn starch. This led to mass-production of the confection since these ingredients were so readily available. Finally, the version we eat was created in America in 1954, and it has the ingredients of the French’s easier version; with water, corn syrup, sugar, and other ingredients added.
Duncan Hines’ Cake Mix
What you may not know about Mr. Hines is that he was one of America’s first food writers! According to Slate’s book reviewer L.V. Anderson, if Duncan Hines were alive today he would have been one of the most famous food bloggers. In 1936, Hines published “Adventures in Good Eating”, where he critiqued fast-food joints and hotels he’d pass on the road while fulfilling his career as a traveling salesman. The public loved his reviews, and from then on he would update it without wanted advertising or payment. His high standards were admired so much that restaurants wanted him to try their food so their eateries could become Hines-certified. Before the Yelp or Zagat sticker on a restaurant’s door, there was a “Recommended by Duncan Hines” one instead. These stickers appeared on hotel entrance doors as well. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Mr. Hines became interested in cake mix and other food items; after several versions of his guidebook had been sold throughout the U.S. of course. In 1953, Duncan Hines sold the right to use his name on various products to ad executive Roy Parks, and Hines-Park Foods was created. The company soon sold their cake mix license to Nebraska Consolidated Mills, who then sold it to a consumer goods company Procter and Gamble. This company popularized the “Duncan Hines Cake Mix”, and added many more flavored mixes immortalizing Hines’ name. Remember, before the cake mix there was the man – Duncan Hines.
This food company’s old motto, “Think Outside the Bun”, is way more clever than you think. This is because Taco Bell started as a hot dog stand by the name of “Bell’s Drive-In” in the town of San Bernardino, CA in the year 1946. The owner Glen Bell decided to open “Taco Bell” in Downey, CA in 1962 because he saw a Mexican restaurant nearby having major success with it’s hard shell tacos. Bell closed the drive-in and changed it into a taco stand, putting all of his energy into learning to engineer the perfect taco. Once he got it down, Bell opened eight more locations as his version of the hard shell taco gained popularity. Mr. Bell literally thought outside of the bun, and now the rest is history!
Steve Ells, the founder of these monster burritos, originally opened Chipotle just so he could fund a greater business venture. He wanted to open a fine-dining restaurant after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, but his dream needed funding in order to get started. So he opened Chipotle in 1993 after working at the Stars restaurant in San Francisco for a while as a sous-chef. His inspiration to make the Chipotle burrito came from the ones he’d see at popular taquerias in San Francisco’s Mission District. So he opened up shop and his fast-dining restaurant quickly gained a cult following, selling a thousand burritos a day although his initial goal was to sell one hundred and seven a day. Over the next five years, Chipotle became so successful that McDonald’s offered to fund it’s statewide expansion. Over the next decade, the fast-dining restaurant became so popular that Steve Ells opened several other casual dining chains instead of the high-end restaurant he intended on opening.