Friday, December 27, 2019

Rocky mayo

Lunchtime. We scrutinized the Hellmann’s jar: “KNOWN AS BEST FOODS® WEST OF THE ROCKIES.” Okay, but what about in the Rockies? Which mayonnaise can you buy in, say, Bozeman, Montana? Is there a dividing line that runs through the Rocky Mountains? And if so, where? The questions were Elaine’s. She started it.

I called the 800-number on the jar to find out, and did my best to assure the person answering the call that my query was a matter of earnest, albeit idle, curiosity. I was told that Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and Best Foods Mayonnaise are the same product. (Yes, I know.) I was told that east of the Rockies, &c. And west of the Rockies, &c. (Yes, I know.)

“But what about in the Rockies?” I implored. “Is there some sort of dividing line?”

“No,” the answer came. “There is no dividing line.”

But of course there is, sort of. I found the answer in a book that’s long been sitting in our house: David Feldman’s Imponderables: The Solution to the Mysteries of Everyday Life (New York: William Morrow, 1987). Here is the solution to the mystery under coinsideration:

If you live in or west of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, or New Mexico, chances are you buy Best Foods mayonnaise. If you live in or east of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas, you probably buy Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Both brands are dominant market leaders where they are sold, but except for the El Paso area of Texas, their distribution does not overlap at all.
And long story short: “when [West Coast] Best Foods took over the Hellmann’s brand in 1932,”
both brands were so firmly entrenched in their areas, and had such a dominant market share, that it was decided not to change either name.
I will be applying for a position with Unilever mayo-support in the new year.

comments: 7

J D Lowe said...

I think there is a song lyric something like, "Mayo your New Year dreams come true", but maybe I misheard :-)

Michael Leddy said...

And then there’s “Mayo, me say mayo.” Both egg-cellent songs!

Slywy said...

You realize you have to know the answer to more than one question, right? :)

Elaine said...

The best!

Michael Leddy said...

@Slywy: I trust they have training. But I expect to be too busy answering forwarded questions about the Rockies for anything else.

@Elaine: I’ve seen Duke’s, and now I’m tempted. Hellman’s is the only mayonnaise I’ve known (from childhood’s hour). If I can find the light variety, I’ll try it.

Chris said...

That's actually how they determined where the continental divide is. None of that fussy surveying stuff -- they just checked the local grocery stores and mapped it accordingly.

Michael Leddy said...

I’ve seen the old maps: “Here be Hellmann’s.”