Oscar Mayer has worked its way into American pop culture in more ways than you might realize. With its indelible jingles to its Weinermobiles to its innovations in the world of bacon and cold cuts, this company has become nothing short of a household name. How exactly did a Chicago sausage shop turn into a cultural powerhouse? Read on to find out.
Yes, there was a real Oscar Mayer; In 1873, at the age of 14, he emigrated to the United States from Germany and became an apprentice at various German butcher shops in Detroit and Chicago before opening his own Chicago shop around the turn of the last century with the help of his brothers Gottfried and Max. Their sausages, which included bockwurst, liverwurst, and weisswurst made using Gottfried’s recipes, were so popular that crowds lined up to purchase them on a daily basis and their delivery business stretched to all corners of Chicago.
In 1904, the Mayer brothers found themselves faced with a problem: their product was so popular that other companies were trying to pass off their inferior product as Oscar Mayer's. To combat this, the company did something revolutionary: They became one of the first meat packers to stamp a brand onto their products. They were also one of the first to voluntarily have their products federally approved after the Food Safety Inspection Service was created in 1906.
By laying the groundwork for success in the early years of the twentieth century, through embracing new ideas and maintaining high quality, Oscar Mayer was (consciously or not) setting the stage to become one of America’s leading brand names in packaged meat products. Through some savvy marketing moves and technological innovations, the company worked its way into American culture, and is still a juggernaut, existing today under the Kraft Foods umbrella and found in nearly every supermarket in the country. Read on to learn 10 things you might not have known about Oscar Mayer.
They Embraced Marketing and Advertising from the Beginning
Oscar Mayer knew the power of name recognition, and that definitely was part of the inspiration to begin branding all their meat products. They also took to sponsoring local events from their earliest days, including the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
They Invented Packaged and Sliced Bacon
Before Oscar Mayer came along, bacon was sold in slabs and had to be sliced by the in-store butcher. But in 1924, the company began selling shingled sliced bacon placed in a cardboard frame and wrapped in cellophane. This innovation elevated Oscar Mayer from a small player in the bacon business to a major presence, and the majority of packaged bacon is still sold in this format today.