How Manwich Helped The Sloppy Joe Skyrocket Into Popularity

It's tangy, it's saucy, and man, oh, man is it sloppy. In the world of sandwiches, the sloppy joe joins the likes of grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly as a beloved, nostalgic comfort food. It's been popular with kids and adults for generations. A sloppy joe at its most traditional consists of loose ground beef smothered in a tangy tomato-based sauce and "sloppily" sandwiched between two buns — a very basic but incredibly recognizable staple of the American diner scene. Despite the sandwich's simplicity, however, we can't talk about the sloppy joe without bringing up the Manwich.

The Manwich, for those unaware, isn't a spin on the classic sloppy joe that's marketed towards the manliest of men, but is actually just a brand of sauce that is commonly used to make sloppy joes. While usually associated with being the sauce to top ground beef, Manwich can't be credited with inventing the sloppy joe as we know it today. Indeed, the sloppy joe has a few origin stories, such as one story crediting its invention to a Sioux City chef named Joe (hence the name) in the 1930s (via Blue Apron) or has roots in a Cuban bar and restaurant during the early 1900s (via Wide Open Eats). It's not so much that Manwich "invented" the sloppy joe as it helped to popularize it.

But how exactly did the average can of Manwich help to turn this sandwich of ground beef and tangy sauce into a household name?

Manwich billed itself as an easy meal

How exactly is it that a can of sauce could turn the sloppy joe sandwich into a household name? Perhaps it was because Manwich billed itself as a quick and easy solution to dinner at a time when convenience and shortcuts in the home kitchen were becoming in high demand.

According to Foodimentary, Manwich came around in the late 1960s — 1969 to be exact — and marketed itself as a quick "one-pan meal." All housewives of the time would have to do was fry up some ground beef in a skillet, pour a can of Manwich tomato sauce in, and serve it on bread, using only one pan. So confident was Manwich in its claims that a single can of it would provide a filling hearty dinner for a family that it boldly declared "A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal." No longer was the sloppy joe just a favorite of bar-goers and roadside BBQ joints, but it could now be made an incredibly cheap and easy dinner for families.

Of course, there were other sloppy joe sauces on the market besides Manwich. As Quaint Cooking tells us, Libby's Barbecue Sauce and Beef Sloppy Joe were around before Manwich, going back just four years before Hunt's sold their first can of Manwich. Sloppy joes were also popular among teenagers even before the 1960s, with the sandwiches being staples of school cafeterias and diners long before Manwich came onto the scene.