If there is one name that is synonymous with babies, then it’s Gerber. The baby food company has been making its trademark strained baby food and filling baby’s tummies for generations. While the Gerber Company may be a world-renowned brand, things didn’t start out that way and there were a few surprising bumps along the way. Learn everything you can about this famous baby food company as we look at the Top 10 Untold Truths Of Gerber Products Company
10. The Creator’s Baby Was The Inspiration
In the early 1900s, Frank Daniel Gerber owned Fremont Canning Company, which specialized in can foods. Everything from beans, peas, and fruit, Gerber canned and sold it all. However, when his son, Daniel Frank Gerber, which is not at all confusing! Went to work for the company, he saw a different potential for the canned factory. After his baby daughter became sick, Gerber’s doctor advised him to feed his daughter strained fruits and vegetables. As straining and pureeing food was too time-consuming, Gerber’s wife suggested he use the canning factories equipment, which he did. Thus the idea for canned, strained baby food was born. After convincing his father it was a good idea, both Gerber’s created a test batch which was surprisingly well-liked. Sticking with strained fruits and vegetables, such as peas, carrots, spinach, and prunes, the baby food proved to be a huge hit with mothers who wanted an easy way to feed their babies. The baby food was so popular in fact that by the 1940s, they changed the company name to Gerber Products Company and focused solely on baby food. Ever since then, the Gerber Products Company has been one of the most popular choices when it comes to feeding babies.
9. Liver Soup Was An Early Flavor
While the Gerber Products Company stated out with simple strained fruits and vegetables for their baby food, they quickly started adding more flavors and ingredients to their popular range. While things like beef, chicken, and turkey made their way into the famous Gerber jars, there were a few miss-steps when trying new flavor combinations. One of the earlier flavors Gerber had was Liver Soup. The Liver Soup was exactly as it sounds but Gerber tried to push it as much as possible. They even advertised it as being a ‘flavor children will like.’ They also proudly boasted it’s nutritional value as it contained vitamin A, B, C and came packed full of iron. We are not quite sure why they thought babies would love the taste of liver. As well as having a liver flavor, other ingredients were seen as ‘good’ at the time. Adding sugar was deemed as good as it gave the food a sweeter taste, which companies thought would help sell more products, but it was also seen as good as it gave babbies a much-needed energy boost. We’re not quite sure who came up with that theory. Whoever it was obviously they had never seen a baby before!
8. Other Flavors And Ingredients.
The quest to find better and more appealing flavors in babby foods is a long and stressful task. After all, babies can’t exactly tell you what they like and don’t like about the food. While over the years Gerber has tried many different flavors, not all of them good, they do try to give babies a wide range of choices to widen their palet. One such choice was Ramen flavor. You know, the flavor that will stay with them all throughout college. Gerber is starting them young. While the thought of Ramen flavored baby food might appeal to some people, these kinds of flavors actually came about due to MSG. Up until the 1950s, baby food was filled with a multitude of preservatives and additives in order for the food to taste good. MSG was also used in baby food to give it a little extra tasty goodness for babies. Nowadays a lot of things are banned from baby food, MSG included, So companies have to come up with more exciting flavors in order for the babies, and their parents to keep buying their food. Ramen is actually a clever idea to fill the MSG-free world.
7. The Gerber Baby
If there is one thing that everyone knows about Gerber’s baby food, then it’s the fact that there is a baby on every product. The charcoal portrait of a baby has become one of the most recognizable brand logos in the world. But just who was the very first baby? Over the years plenty of myths and legends have sprung up about the true identity of the Gerber baby. For many years people speculated on who the baby was; Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart, and Jane Seymour were all candidates for the baby. Other contenders outside the movie business were Richard Nixon and Bob Doyle. All of which was wrong but people genuinely wanted to know who the first Gerber baby was. Speculation really got out of hand when Brooke Sheilds was some people’s choice. We’re not sure how as Shields was born decades after the first Gerber baby was printed on their food. Finally, the Gerber Product Company put everyone out of their misery and revealed the name of the baby. The baby’s name was Ann Turner Cook. In the late 1920s, commercial artist, Dorothy Smith, drew a charcoal sketch of her neighbors 5-month-old baby. When the Gerber Product Company announced a competition in order to find the face for their company, Smith submitted the sketch and Ann Turner Cook was the winner. As well as being the face of a famous baby food company, Cook grew up to be an English teacher and quite a prolific mystery writer. The reason that Gerber kept the identity of its mascot a secret for so long is that it wanted the baby to be an ‘every-baby.’ In other words, the company wanted to keep the baby’s gender a secret so that all parents would buy the food and they wouldn’t be drawn to either boys or girls to match their own babies.
6. Baby Food And Beyond
On our list of truths about the Gerber Product Company, baby food is obviously the number 1 thing we all know. After all, it’s what they are famous for and how the company became so big. However, over the years Gerber has released quite a few products that don’t include their famous food. As their baby food started to become really popular Gerber’s boss, Daniel Gerber, wanted to expand the business. Firstly he wanted to really corner the baby market so he added toys, games, and dolls to their brand. This then expanded into other baby products such as breastfeeding kits, pumps, bottles and teeth, and gum cleansers. Nowadays they have expanded this further by adding juices, vitamin drops, crackers, and other snacks. However, one of the big products that the Gerber company has, apart from its baby food, is life insurance. Starting it out in the late 1960s, Gerber’s life insurance was a big hit and a huge boost for the company. The insurance was aimed at young families and couples and today the Gerber Products Company is one of the largest purveyors of direct marketed life insurance in the US with over 2 million policies in force. That’s not bad for a company that started with canned beans!
5. Adults Ate It Too
While we have mentioned already on our list of untold truths about the Gerber Products Company, they tried many different flavors of baby food over the years. Some worked and some didn’t. However, one of the surprising things that Gerber and other baby food companies found, was that adults were eating their products too. What may have started out as mom’s eating their baby’s food while feeding them; whether accidentally or to encourage the child to eat, by the mid-twentieth century some parents were actually using baby food to cook with. While you may think that this is just a silly story we found, it actually turns out to be true. Not only is it true but baby food companies, including Gerber, actually printed recipes that included their baby food and printed them in the newspaper. One such recipe was for the ‘apricot refresher.’ That recipe told you to take 1 egg white, 2 tablespoons of orange juice, 1 can of apricot baby food mix it all together and serve it over ice cream. Even stranger than that, this practice is still going on today as baby food companies are supplying recipes and food ideas that include using baby food. Obviously, these aren’t printed in newspapers anymore. They are in fact posted on facebook and twitter so we can all have a look and make that someone special a very interesting meal.
4. Food For Singles
As we have mentioned, a craze in which parents started to eat and even cook with baby food, really started to take off. So much so that Gerber Products Company actually came up with the idea of marketing their baby food to adults. Not wanting to leave anyone out, Gerber went after the singles market. As parents were already getting their fill of baby food, Gerber didn’t want the single, or lonely, people being left out so they came up with their ‘Singles’ range of foods. The idea was that the individual jars, which were actually filled with their strained baby food, would suit the unmarried, young people who either didn’t have time to cook or couldn’t afford to. So, the ‘Singles’ range was released and….. Well, it failed instantly as you can imagine. While parents were enjoying the Gerber baby food, it turns out that single people didn’t want to eat mushy baby food. Not only was that not appealing but it was also a reminder that they were eating alone and not with a family, which would no doubt have babies, which they don’t have. The whole thing was a disaster for the Gerber Products Company and ‘Singles’ were dropped immediately.
3. Approved By Babies
Trying to break into the baby food market, or in fact, any baby market which has the baby at the center must be a difficult thing. While parents can do what they think is right for their baby, the babies themselves can’t actually tell you what they like, what the want or what they don’t want. So, how exactly does a company like the Gerber Products Company know if their products and flavors taste good? Have a baby tasting panel of course. That’s exactly what Gerber does. With over 2,000 babies on their panel, Gerber tests every food and flavor combination with the babies. While the babies can’t speak their likes or dislikes, they can certainly show the company in other ways if they like a food or not. Only once a certain number of babies have agreed with the product does Gerber roll it out and sell it to the public. As well as having the ultimate baby test, Gerber actually takes great care when making their products. Not only do they source fruits and vegetables from local farmers and suppliers but they actually flash cook their food. That means that the food is cooked in steam for a short period of time before it is packaged into the jars. The flash cook method ensures that the food, particularly fruits and vegetables, hold their texture, flavor, and color. Gerber is the only company in the US to do this. They have come a long way since they started, but Gerber is becoming leaders when it comes to their food, ingredients and customer satisfaction. Maybe we should all be eating it!
As time moves on we are all becoming a little more socially aware of the world around us and most people want to do their bit in order to help their fellow humans. While a lot of companies do the same thing or at least try to, the Gerber Products Company actually does a lot for charity and has been doing so for decades. Back in the 1950s, Gerber wanted to start giving back to the world so he started the Gerber Bay Foods Fund. This fund aimed to donate money as well as raise money and help out organizations such as the Red Cross and Boys and Girls Clubs. Which it did, a lot. In the 1990s the fund actually changed its name to The Gerber foundation, while the name changed the mission of the foundation didn’t. Since it was first founded the foundation has given away over $100 Million in donations, scholarships, and grants to many charities and organizations.
1. The New Face Of Gerber
On our list of untold truths about baby food making giants Gerber, we mentioned the legendary face of the company, Ann Turner Cook. For nearly 90 years, Cook’s baby face was printed on every Gerber product and her charcoal portrait became the most famous baby in the world. Although for decades we didn’t actually know her name. While they kept Cook a secret from the world, today Gerber Products Company is a lot more open about finding a new mascot and actually hold yearly baby photo contests to find the next face of the company. While we are not sure if Cook got any prize, apart from having her face everywhere! Since 2010 the prize for winning is a massive $50,000! That is as well as becoming the face of this world-renowned company. Incidentally, in 2012 the 8-month-old baby that won actually met, Ann Turner Cook. It’s a Gerber culture overload! While we all know the face of the company, it might be worth noting that Daniel Gerber himself tried to make a splash on TV. Appearing on Groucho Marx’s ‘You Bet Your Life,’ Gerber tried to connect with the young audience of the day. Unfortunately, it didn’t really help much as he came across as a bit dull and he used his time as a blatant plug for business development in Michigan. Not very exciting viewing. The only thing that did the audience going was Marx’s comment on needing to eat Gerber baby food as he was getting older and chewing was becoming an issue. You are better off sticking to your day job Mr. Gerber.