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13 Juicy Facts You Might Not Know About Oscar Mayer

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It’s the all-American meat company that put a hot dog on wheels and managed to make bologna cute and lovable. Indeed, savvy marketing has been key to Oscar Mayer’s success through the years. And it began more than a century ago, when a German immigrant began stamping a floral brand on his signature sausage links and bacon slabs.

1. THERE REALLY WAS AN OSCAR MAYER.

Born in Germany in 1859, Oscar J. Mayer came to the U.S. at age 14 and learned the meat-making trade in Chicago. In his twenties, he and his brother Gottfried leased out a failing meat plant and within a matter of months had made it profitable. The plant’s owner refused to renew their lease, hoping to continue the Mayers’ success story himself. Unfazed, Oscar and Gottfried borrowed $10,000, opened another shop, and proceeded to make a fortune selling old-world sausages, bacon, and lard. From there, they went on to build an empire.

2. THE BRAND WAS ORIGINALLY KNOWN AS EDELWEISS.

In the early 1900s, meat makers typically didn’t brand their products. But the Mayers wanted customers to know that their meats were a cut above the competition, and to ask for them by name. So the brothers incorporated the brand Edelweiss—named, as any Sound of Music fan knows, for the high-altitude flower found in the Alps. The title lasted for 13 years before it became “Oscar Mayer Approved Meat Products.”

3. THEY EMBRACED FOOD SAFETY BEFORE THAT WAS A THING.

Shortly after the publication of Upton Sinclair’s 1906 meat industry exposé The Jungle, the U.S. government implemented the Federal Meat Inspection Act. Many meat companies fought the legislation and even denied inspectors access to their facilities. But Oscar Mayer became an early supporter of the bill, claiming it had nothing to hide.

4. THAT YELLOW BAND GOES WAY BACK.

An ad from 1947. clotho98 via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Oscar Mayer was ahead of the curve when it came to branding and marketing. To further distinguish its name in a crowded field of meat makers, the company began wrapping its hot dogs in yellow paper bands back in 1929. It’s a practice that endures today, and it’s become part of Oscar Mayer’s logo.

5. THE FIRST SPOKESMAN WAS A TINY CHEF NAMED “LITTLE OSCAR.”

He was the world’s smallest chef, according to the company, and he spent his days touring the country stumping for Oscar Mayer meats. Numerous pint-sized actors played the part, but the first was Meinhardt Raabe, a Wisconsin native who, after several years of playing Little Oscar, headed to Hollywood where he landed the one and only film role of his career: as the munchkin coroner in The Wizard of Oz who declares the Wicked Witch of the East "really most sincerely dead."

6. THE WIENERMOBILE DEBUTED IN 1936.

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Oscar’s nephew Carl came up with the Wienermobile as a vehicle for Little Oscar. The original version was just 13 feet long and looked like it was ready to roll into battle. Today, there are six Wienermobiles crisscrossing the country, and each measures 27 feet long and comes equipped with a GPS, cushy red-and-yellow seats, and an audio system that blasts the Wiener Jingle in 21 different musical styles.

7. ITS DRIVERS ARE KNOWN AS “HOTDOGGERS.”

Thousands apply; only a few are chosen. So what does it take? The company requires that applicants be college grads with a degree in marketing, public relations, or journalism. They also need to be outgoing, endlessly enthusiastic, and judging from one winning application, good with puns. “Let’s be frank,” Daniel Duff wrote in his successful Hotdogger application. “I would relish the opportunity.”

8. THE “WIENER JINGLE” IS ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL AD JINGLES IN HISTORY.

"I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener…" Those now-famous words first made their way across the airwaves in 1963, and would continue to be featured in company ads for the next 50 years. The jingle came out of a contest the company put on. The writer, Richard Trentlage, modeled it after something his son had said about a daredevil friend who owned a dirt bike: “I wish I could be a dirt bike hot dog.” Trentlage, who only heard about the contest the night before the deadline, quickly wrote it down and had his two children sing the song while he strummed the banjo-uke. It was their voices (and Trentlage’s playing) that appeared in the original ad.

9. THE O-S-C-A-R AD DIDN’T FOLLOW THE SCRIPT.

Ten years after its wildly successful “Wiener Jingle,” Oscar Mayer came up with another kid-centered concept, this time to sell bologna. The idea was to film several children separately as they ran around and played outdoors while singing the jingle. Because they were so young, the kids didn’t even have to memorize the whole song. After an exhausting day of filming, the director approached Oscar Mayer’s VP of marketing, Jerry Ringlien, and asked what he should do with the 20 minutes of light remaining. As Ringlien recently recounted:

We said, do whatever you want to do—we’re packing up to get out of here … So he went to the kids and said, ‘is there anyone who can sing the whole commercial from beginning to end without making a mistake?’ And this one little kid raised his hand and said ‘Yes, I can.’ His name was Andy Lambros. So the director put him out on a pier, because that way he could take advantage of the light that was still left and said ‘okay, go ahead.’ And he did. He sang the whole song.

That final, last-minute take would become one of the most popular commercials of all time.

10. LUNCHABLES REVIVED THE COMPANY.

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Oscar Mayer struggled through the '80s as people began to grow tired of processed meat. The company had expanded into fresh turkey by buying Louis Rich in 1979, but it was the introduction of Lunchables in 1988 that helped Oscar Mayer regain its former glory. The product was ingenious, really: It was the same bologna Oscar Mayer had been selling for years, packaged along with crackers and cheese, and sold as a way for kids to create their own meal. In its first year, Lunchables brought in $317 million, and currently bring in an estimated $1 billion annually.

11. ITS PRODUCT FLOPS INCLUDE A QUARTER-POUND HOT DOG.

Every big company has its duds. Called “The Big One,” Oscar Mayer’s quarter-pound hot dog debuted in 1978 and quickly exited the market. Years later, hoping to cash in on the success of Lunchables, the company again overestimated people’s appetites with “Maxxed Out” Lunchables, which included 40 percent more food. 

12. THERE’S NOW A WIENER ROVER AND A WIENIE-BAGO.

Further proving Oscar Mayer’s love of vehicles and puns, there’s now an off-road capable Wiener Rover and a decked-out Wienie-Bago making promotional stops across the country. One’s only three-and-a-half feet long while the other is, well, a camper, but both come stuffed with hot dogs.

13. THEY’VE RIDDEN THE CORPORATE ROLLERCOASTER OVER THE PAST 30 YEARS.

Oscar Mayer remained a family-run business until 1981, when it sold to General Foods Corporation. Phillip Morris acquired General Foods soon after, then in 1989 placed Oscar Mayer under its newly acquired Kraft Foods brand. In 2012, the Altria Group (the new name for Phillip Morris) split Kraft in two, placing Oscar Mayer under its Mondelez International banner. Then just last year, Kraft merged with the grocery giant Heinz. To consolidate its holdings, Kraft Heinz announced it would move Oscar Mayer’s headquarters from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, and shut down several U.S. manufacturing plants. Welcome to the world of big food.

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Two of the Last Blockbuster Stores Are Closing
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The fact that Blockbuster still has three stores in the U.S. may come as a surprise, but the video rental chain's days are numbered. The brand's two branches in Alaska will be closing up shop next week, leaving only one last holdout in Bend, Oregon, according to Engadget.

"If you'd asked me 14 years ago, there's no way I'd thought we'd be the last one," Sandi Harding, General Manager of the Oregon store, tells Engadget. "It just seems a little crazy.”

Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 but continued to license its logo to franchisees. In 2013, there were 13 remaining Blockbuster stores, and by 2016 there were nine. Many of these branches were located in Alaska, where internet is costly and many areas lack a broadband connection, making streaming difficult.

This alone wasn't enough to keep Blockbuster's Fairbanks and DeBarr Road locations in business, though. The stores will close July 16, but they'll reopen the following day for an inventory sale that will last until the end of August.

John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, became an unlikely champion of the DeBarr Road outlet last April when he bought the jockstrap worn by Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man for $7000 and donated it to the store in hopes of generating interest and foot traffic. It worked for a little while, but the effect was temporary and business dropped off once again. Indeed, the age of Netflix marks the end of an era.

[h/t Engadget]

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11 Facts About 7-Eleven on 7/11
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Happy 7-Eleven day! Don't forget to pick up a free Slurpee—and while you're enjoying the iconic slushie, read up on little-known tidbits about the popular company.

1. 7-ELEVEN STARTED IN 1927.

That was when Joe Thompson, an employee of the Southland Ice Company in Dallas, Texas, began selling eggs, milk, and bread from a makeshift storefront in one of the company’s icehouses. These bare necessities were kept cold thanks to the ice Southland produced, and local residents liked the convenience of avoiding the crowds and aisles of a regular grocery store if they only had to pick up a few items.

Thompson eventually bought out the ice company and started opening convenient little stores all over Texas. Shortly after, a company executive brought a souvenir totem pole back from a trip to Alaska, and set it in front of one of the busiest locations. Soon, the spot had earned the nickname the “Tote’m Store,” not only because of the totem pole, but because customers toted away their purchases. The company officially adopted the name and decorated their locations with an Inuit-inspired theme to match. The name changed to 7-Eleven in 1946 to reflect their new store hours—7:00am to 11:00pm—in order to capitalize on the post-World War II economic boom.

2. 7-ELEVEN'S NEW SCHEDULE WAS UNHEARD OF AT A TIME WHEN GROCERY STORES CLOSED MUCH EARLIER IN THE EVENING.

No one thought there would be demand for a store that was open 24/7—until one night in Austin in 1962. The local 7-Eleven had seen such a rush of students following a University of Texas football game that they were forced to stay open until dawn the next day. Sensing a trend, the store continued to stay open all night on the weekends, and soon more and more locations adopted the new schedule as well.

3. 7-ELEVEN IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S LARGEST FRANCHISE COMPANIES. WITH MORE THAN 55,000 LOCATIONS.


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They beat out McDonald’s in 2007 and have since outgrown them by about 20,000 stores. Japan is the largest market with more than 20,000 stores under the name “Seven & I Holdings,” the parent company of 7-Eleven since 2005 [PDF]. America ranks among the top with 7896 locations, along with by Thailand and South Korea with more than 11000 and 7000 stores, respectively. And the company keeps growing, with a brand new store opening somewhere in the world every two hours of every day.

4. 7-ELEVEN RAN THE FIRST TELEVISION ADVERTISEMENT FOR A CONVENIENCE STORE IN 1949.

The ad touted their curbside grocery delivery service, and an animated rooster and owl reminded customers that the store was open early and closed late.

5. THE SLURPEE WAS INVENTED AT A DAIRY QUEEN.

In the late-1950s, Omar Knedlik of Kansas City owned a rundown Dairy Queen. When his soda fountain went on the fritz, he improvised by putting some bottles in the freezer to stay cool. However, when he popped the top, they were a little frozen and slushy. Folks loved them and started requesting "those pops that were in a little bit longer." Realizing he had a surprise hit on his hands, Knedlik built a specialized machine using the air conditioning unit from a car, and cranked out slushy soda by freezing a mixture of flavored syrup, water, and carbon dioxide to make it fizz. He called it an ICEE, but when the drink concept was licensed to 7-Eleven in 1965, the company’s marketing department renamed it the Slurpee after the sound made while sipping it through a straw.

6. EVERY YEAR SINCE 2002, 7-ELEVEN HAS GIVEN AWAY FREE SMALL SLURPEES TO CELEBRATE THE COMPANY'S BIRTHDAY ON JULY 11(7/11).

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On this one day, 7-Eleven gives away about 500,000 gallons of Slurpees ... in North America anyway. In Australia, where the ice cold drink is also very popular, Slurpees are given away on November 7 (written Down Under as 7/11) to the tune of about 270,000 gallons.

7. ALMOST ALL SLURPEE FLAVORS ARE CONSIDERED KOSHER PAREVE (FOOD THAT IS NEITHER MEAT NOR DAIRY).

There are a few, such as Diet Pepsi and the Jolly Rancher mixes, that are considered kosher dairy (due to the chemical tagatose in the artificial sweetener), while others, like the popular Piña Colada drink, are not certified at all. Some 7-Eleven stores get the machines themselves certified kosher as a selling point for their Jewish customers.

8. FOR 14 YEARS RUNNING, THE RULING SLURPEE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD HAS BEEN MANITOBA, CANADA.

The province has an average of over 188,000 Slurpees sold in five regional stores every month. According to 7-Eleven, Calgary—and America’s #1 Slurpee market, Detroit—are closing in on the champs, though. Maybe next year, guys.

As for the biggest-selling single Slurpee location in the world, that title goes to the 7-Eleven in Kennewick, Washington, which locals have dubbed “The Slurpee Factory.” But 7-Eleven crowns more than just a Slurpee king. According to 7-Eleven, Maryland is the leader in hot dog sales, Long Islanders drink the most coffee, and Utah residents can’t go anywhere without a Big Gulp in their cupholders.

9. SINCE THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, 7-ELEVEN HAS RUN A PROMOTION CALLED "7-ELECTION."

Customers vote by purchasing special red or blue coffee cups printed with each candidate's name. The cups are scanned at check-out and automatically entered in this unscientific, but surprisingly accurate poll—in 2000 and 2004, the number of coffee cup votes and the number of actual popular votes for both candidates was only off by 1 or 2 percentage points. While 2008's 7-Elections results were still correct, they gave the election to Obama by a landslide—60 percent to 40 percent—when the margin was really only about 7 percent. The trend continued in 2012, as caffeine addicts went blue to the tune of 59 percent for Obama to 41 percent for Romney, while the actual vote wound up being 51 percent to 47 percent.

10. TO PROMOTE THE RELEASE OF THE SIMPSONS MOVIEIN 2007, 12 SELECT 7-ELEVENS IN NORTH AMERICA WERE CONVERTED INTO KWIK-E-MARTS.

That's the convenience store in Springfield owned by Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. At a cost of about $10 million, the 7-Eleven stores had their exterior signs replaced to reflect the fictitious store name and many of the products inside were modeled after those seen on the show. For example, customers could buy Krusty-O’s cereal, a limited edition Radioactive Man comic book, six packs of Buzz Cola, and even Squishees, the Simpsons version of the Slurpee. Sadly, Homer’s favorite swill, Duff Beer, was not available as the film being promoted was rated PG-13. Instead, they had a Duff Energy Drink with a label very similar to the animated brew. While not all locations were transformed into Kwik-E-Marts, special Simpsons merchandise was available at all 7-Eleven locations, including Homer’s own Woo-Hoo Blue Vanilla Slurpees with collectible straws.

11. 7-ELEVENS ARE DIFFERENT ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

In America, we see 7-Eleven as little more than a convenient place to grab a quick cup of coffee before work or a Big Gulp while we’re out running errands. But in other parts of the world, the shops are a lot more important to the local population. In Indonesia, for example, 7-Elevens are more like a hip, upscale coffeehouse where 65 percent of customers are under the age of 30. The stores offer free Wi-Fi, plenty of tables and chairs inside and out on the sidewalk, and often feature live musical performances. Young people gather there late into the night to socialize, work online, and eat local favorites like fried rice, tiny sandwiches filled with cheese or chocolate called pillow bread, and chicken katsu, a Japanese-style fried cutlet.

In Taiwan, 7-Elevens are more common than Starbucks in Seattle. In the capital city of Taipei, there are more than 4000 locations in a city of 23 million, with many city blocks capable of sustaining more than one location. Aside from purchasing local food and Slurpees, customers can pay credit card and utility bills, book travel arrangements, and buy small electronics like iPods. It’s also not unusual for people to have packages delivered to their closest 7-Eleven instead of their home, because it’s more convenient to pick it up late at night instead of trying to coordinate with a deliveryman. The government has even given into the popularity of the shops by allowing people to pay traffic tickets and property taxes there, and using them as a hub for special programs like health screenings.

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