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There’s a story behind vegetable oil taking over the American pantry, and it has nothing to do with health or flavor. In the early 1900s, Procter & Gamble found a way to market excess cottonseed oil, and it forever changed the way we shop, cook, and think about food.
In a fascinating excerpt from The Happiness Diet, author Tyler Graham tells the story of how P&G played with their industrial waste product until it transformed into something white and creamy. It was an almost perfect rendition of lard but America (a nation of real lard lovers!) was skeptical. After all, this stuff came from a lab.
Convincing homemakers to swap butter and lard for a new fat created in a factory would be quite a task, so the new form of food needed a new marketing strategy. Never before had Procter & Gamble — or any company for that matter — put so much marketing support or advertising dollars behind a product.
They called it Crisco and bombarded people with free samples of the hydrogenated vegetable fat, enticing pedestrians with pop-up doughnut shops and giving away free branded cookbooks. Crisco quickly became a part of American food traditions while fats like lard and butter, without an aggressive marketing campaign to help them along, were snubbed.
Via The Atlantic