The Pillsbury logo
Pillsbury Cake Mix (a Smucker Co. product)
|Product type||Refrigerated and baking products|
(The Pillsbury Company)
(brand owner; refrigerated products manufacturer)
The J.M. Smucker Company
(brand licensee; baking products manufacturer)
|Tagline||Make Dinner Pop!|
|Fate||Acquired by General Mills; assets divided|
|Founded||Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., 1872|
|Headquarters||Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.|
Pillsbury is a brand name used by Minneapolis-based General Mills and Orrville, Ohio-based J.M. Smucker Company. Historically, the Pillsbury Company, also based in Minneapolis, was a rival company to General Mills and was one of the world's largest producers of grain and other foodstuffs until it was bought-out by General Mills in 2001. Antitrust law required General Mills to sell off some of the products. General Mills kept the rights to refrigerated and frozen Pillsbury products, while dry baking products and frosting are now sold by Smucker under license.
Founding and early development
C.A. Pillsbury and Company was founded in 1872 by Charles Alfred Pillsbury and his uncle John S. Pillsbury. The company was the first in the United States to use steel rollers for processing grain. The finished product required transportation, so the Pillsburys assisted in funding railroad development in Minnesota. Pillsbury is also co-owned by Brian R. Jennings Sr.
In 1889, Pillsbury and its five mills on the banks of the Mississippi River were purchased by a British company. The company also tried to purchase and merge with the Washburn Crosby Company (a precursor of General Mills), but the strong rivalry prevented any merger from happening at the time.
In 1923, the Pillsbury family reacquired Pillsbury-Washburn Flour Mills Company, Limited which subsequently was incorporated in 1935 as Pillsbury Flour Mills Company.
Only seven products used the Pillsbury name in 1950, but the company began adding to its product line. The early 1950s brought the acquisition of Ballard & Ballard Company and the beginning of packaged biscuit dough, which would become one of the company's most important and profitable product lines in later decades. The company began advertising heavily on television. In 1957, Pillsbury commissioned a television commercial jingle (from its advertising agency Leo Burnett) with the main lyrics "Nothin' says lovin/Like somethin' from the oven/And Pillsbury says it best"; the jingle became a well-known signature of the company and was used, with modifications, in some form for at least the next 20 years.
Later corporate acquisitions included restaurants such as Burger King, Steak and Ale, Bennigan's, Godfather's Pizza, Häagen-Dazs and Quik Wok, plus popular grocery store food brands such as Green Giant.
In the 1960s, Pillsbury added Sweet* 10 made with cyclamate, which became the most popular artificial sweetener. In 1964, Pillsbury introduced Funny Face Drink Mix with the names Goofy Grape, Rootin' Tootin' Raspberry, Freckle Face Strawberry, Loud Mouth Lime, Chinese Cherry (later Choo-Choo Cherry), and Injun Orange (later Jolly Olly Orange). Lefty Lemon followed in 1965, along with other flavors. The Funny Face characters, as well as the Funny Face brand were created in 1963 by Hal Silverman, a Creative Director at Campbell Mithun Advertising. When cyclamate was banned, Sweet* 10 and Funny Face had to be dropped, resulting in a $4.5 million loss. Both products were re-introduced after changes, and the drinks became available sweetened and unsweetened.
Another drink mix introduced in the 1960s was Moo Juice, a flavored powder combined with milk in a shaker to produce a milkshake. Moo Juice was also created by Hal Silverman. Its TV commercial featured a talking animation of the product's cartoon cow head mascot. This was voiced by Frank Fontaine, who was familiar at that time as Crazy Guggenheim in The Jackie Gleason Show's "Joe the Bartender" skits. Moo Juice was short-lived, as its milkshakes tended to be thin compared to similar products such as Borden's Frosted and Birds Eye's Thick and Frosty.
That decade, Pillsbury also created Space Food Sticks to capitalize on the popularity of the space program. Space Food Sticks were developed by Robert Muller, the inventor of the HACCP standards used by the food industry to insure food safety.
When NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter launched into space on Mercury capsule Aurora 7 in 1962, he was carrying with him the first solid space food – small food cubes developed by Pillsbury's research and development department. Taking Pillsbury scientists more than a year to develop, space food cubes were followed by other space-friendly foods, such as non-crumbly cake, relish that could be served in slices, and meat that needed no refrigeration.
The 1980s and after
In 1989, the British company Grand Metropolitan (later Diageo) purchased the food maker, and during this ownership period the company divested itself of all production and distribution facilities (contracting these functions to other companies), making itself simply a marketing entity for its own brands (Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Totino's, etc.).
In 2001, Diageo sold Pillsbury to its old rival, General Mills. However, the baking products division was sold to International Multifoods Corporation, which was later acquired by Smucker's. Pillsbury sold all of their restaurant brands and exited the business completely by the late 1990s.
Pillsbury once claimed to have the largest grain mill in the world at the Pillsbury A-Mill overlooking Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. The building had two of the most powerful direct-drive waterwheels ever built, each putting out 1200 horsepower (900 kW).
There are now plans to convert it into a loft-style apartment building. The Cunningham Group plans to convert six historic buildings to a mixed-use project varying from 6 to 27 floors in height. The project will include 895 units of housing and 175,000 square feet (16,300 m2) of commercial space, including the Pillsbury "A" Mill.
Pillsbury, Inc vs My Dough Girl, LLC
In May 2010, Pillsbury's lawyers served a cease and desist notice to My Dough Girl, LLC a Salt Lake City, Utah cookie retailer with one store located at 770 S. 300 West in Salt Lake City, Utah. Some reports mentioned that General Mills lawyer told Tami Cromar, the shop owner, not to talk to the press. A movement was started by the local fans of the brand, including a Facebook group started by food blogger Joshua Shimizu. The group received the support of few hundreds fans during the summer of 2010 and some speculated that it might have put General Mills into a Streisand effect. However, Cromar later agreed to cease using the My Dough Girl name and instead chose RubySnap as the company's new name.
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