Jello – Everyone Once Loved

Oh, the familiar Jell-O brand of gelatin. Everyone remembers Jell-O. But the idea of gelatin food items goes back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Gelatin was made from collagen, created by melting and filtering of pigs’ ears and feet. Back then it was not an easy process, needed special equipment to heat, store and cool the gelatin. The finished gelatin was a jiggly dish served to the wealthy and to European royalty.

An easier method was invented by Pearle Wait of Le Roy, New York in the 1800s. He was trying to produce a cough syrup but found using the gelatin and condensed fruit syrups produced a sweet, very appealing form of the plain gelatin. He was not successful on his own marketing this new tasty food so he sold the patent of ‘Portable Gelatine’ in the late 1800s for $450. It was purchased by the Genesee Pure Food Co. Within three years the company had such success with this new branded and distributed Jell-O product, it had already made over $250,000 in sales.

The company developed excellent ADS for the public to be informed along with cookbooks showing a variety of ways to serve Jell-O. The Genesee Pure Food Company even changed its name to Jell-O Company. Years later the Jell-O Co., became part of General Food Corp.

With the 1930s Great Depression, the General Food Corp. created even more ideas of how to prepare and serve Jell-O and show customers how to stretch their food budget with this inexpensive item. Then with World War 2 of the early 1940s and rationing and women working, the company their ads and recipes also played up the “quick and easy” angle, which many women were looking for after spending all day working in the factories. Their ads showed there could be 66 ration-wise recipes / war-time meals.

From the late 1940s and into the 1950s, many home dinners had Jell-O with shrimp, Tuna with lime Jell-O and Jell-O with a variety of fruits or vegetables and whipped topping. But people’s tastes changed by the 1960s and into 1970s and the company hired actor and comedian, Bill Cosby, to endorse Jell-O and appear in ADS, which he did for 30 years. Later the company introduced the ready-made Jell-O in pre-packaged cups, perfect for a snack.

In 1985 General Foods Co., was purchased by Philip Morris Co and Kraft Inc. They tried to make the Jell-O fat-free but it just didn’t taste the same with the various chemicals. In the 21st century, Jell-O is still on the store shelves but it is not like what your ancestors had for the first 60 years of the 20th century.

Photo: Jell-O AD and recipes of the 1930s.

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< Return To Blog I didn't know they changed the recipe in the 60s. I love Jell-O as long as nothing is in it!
Sara N Martin 9/05/21

Yes, who knew. The packages are still on the shelves, but you wonder for how much longer.
alice 9/05/21

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