Crisco and Confidence: Marketing Ignorance about Processed Food

Helen Zoe Veit, associate professor of history, Americans don’t think much about eating cotton. Yet they eat it all the time, and they have for more than 100 years. Early on, cottonseed oil marketers loudly advertised the fact that their products came from the same cotton fields as the shirts on everyone’s backs. But by the 1910s a new cottonseed product called Crisco pioneered a marketing approach that encouraged consumers not to think about the ingredients in their processed food, and instead to put faith in trusted brands and government oversight. Crisco’s success is ultimately a story of American consumers’ growing comfort with ignorance about what they were eating.