Real Person Or Marketing Dept. Creation — Can You Tell The Difference?

brandnamecollageTake a look in your kitchen cabinets or the shelves of any supermarket and you’ll find seemingly countless products branded with names that sound like they’re based on the name of an actual human being — and many are. But a number of those boxes, cans, and bottles carry names cooked up by the folks in the marketing department. Do you think you’re savvy enough to tell them apart?

If so, go ahead and take the following quiz. Cheaters or people who just don’t feel like taking the quiz can scroll down to read the answers.



1. Betty Crocker: While the “Crocker” part of the name was taken from an executive at the Washburn-Crosby Company in 1921, the “Betty” portion of this famous brand name was created out of thin air to appeal to female consumers for a Gold Medal Flour mail-in contest run in the Saturday Evening Post.

2. Chef Boyardee: While the spelling is slightly different, this famous line of canned pastas is indeed named after their creator, Ettore Boiardi, who didn’t change the spelling of his last name when he arrived in America from Italy as a teenager, but who used the more phonetic “Boy-Ar-Dee” to sell his products to U.S. shoppers.

3. Sara Lee: Sara Lee Lubin didn’t create the long-running line of cheesecakes and other treats, but her dad Charles Lubin did, and he named the company after her.

4. Juan Valdez: Even though portraits of Juan and his mule Conchita have been gracing coffee products since the 1950s, the face of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia is just a fiction created to denote that a coffee product uses only Colombian beans.

5. Totino’s: While it might sound like the last name a lazy author would slap on a fictional pizza joint, this famous brand of munchies-curing pizza rolls is indeed named after company founder Rose Totino.

6. Aunt Jemima: While the Aunt Jemima name is fictional — and some claim it was taken from a character in a late 19th century minstrel show — the creators of the pancake mix and subsequent products used real women to play Jemima for decades. Just last year, descendants of some of those women sued Quaker Oats — now a part of PepsiCo — for allegedly failing to live up to promises made to these faces of the product.

7. Duncan Hines: Not only was Mr. Hines a real person, he was in his 70s by the time he started selling his first baked goods, starting the company that has since carried his name. Before he ever got into selling food, he was rating it, compiling his reviews of restaurants he patronized during his years as a traveling salesman into a book, Adventures in Good Eating.

8. Francesco Rinaldi: Those of you who weren’t around — or don’t remember — the 1980s may think that Francesco Rinaldi is a real guy who once created his own pasta sauces in a steamy kitchen somewhere. The Francesco Rinaldi brand came out of nowhere in the mid-’80s after it was purchased by the Canistrano family, creators of the famous Ragu brand of sauces:

Before 1982, the history of the brand is a bit sketchy, but the company that has owned it for more than 30 years says the name is just a fiction.

9. Auntie Anne’s: It’s hard to believe that this massive pretzel chain with some 1,500 locations started by Anne Beiler and her husband Jonas in 1988 with just a market stand in Chester County, PA. Anne sold the company 10 years ago, but her name remains.

10. Jennie-O: Ground turkey products may not be something most people would immediately think to associate with their children, but in 1953 Minnesotan Earl Olson decided to rename his turkey processing company after his daughter Jennie.

11. Denny’s: Everyone’s third-favorite place to get something to eat at 3 a.m. actually started out as Danny’s Donuts in 1953. Confusingly, the two creators of that shop were named Harold and Richard so even then it was apparently not named after any real person. Six years later, the growing chain changed its name from Danny’s Coffee Shop to Denny’s to avoid confusion with another L.A. eatery, Coffee Dan’s.

12. Wendy’s: This one should be a gimme for even casual fast-food historians, as company founder Dave Thomas made it quite clear that he’d named the burger chain after the family nickname for his daughter Wendy (her given name is Melinda). The company’s namesake even popped up in recent ads for Wendy’s.

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