Jell-O is a popular brand of gelatin based desserts, under the Kraft Foods, Inc. The brand also manufactures fruit gels, no bake cream pies and puddings in addition to the main jelly. It became so popular that the term jello became a household name in both the United States and Canada.
The powdered gelatin which is the basic ingredient for all Jell-O products was first patented by Peter Cooper – who invented the first American steam locomotive engine – in 1845. Jell-O changed many hands before finally catching on with the consumers. In 1897, the patent was bought by Pearle B. Wait who along with his wife May added lemon, orange, strawberry and raspberry flavours to the powdered gelatin, to make it as it is today and also christened it Jell-O. However, unable to sell it successfully, the business was sold to their neighbor Orator Francis Woodward in 1899, for all of $450.
Woodward dabbled with the new product, using various ways of marketing, and even advertising in the Ladies’ Home Journal, but was unsuccessful initially. Highly dejected Woodward decided to sell off the business to his plant superintendent for as less as $35. However, before the sale was completed, the sales of the product picked up, and it soon became a popular product with children and women both. Woodward’s company Genesee Pure Food Company, adopted a new method of marketing the product. It sent well dressed salesman in horse carts and auto cars decorated with company billboards, featuring the four year old Jell-O girl, and distributed 15 million Jell-O recipe booklets. In 1906, the sales had reached $ 1 million and within four years this figure doubled.
New flavours such as chocolate, cherry and peach were introduced and the brand was also launched in neighbouring Canada. In 1923, the Genesee Pure Food Company was renamed Jell-O company which merged with Postum Cereal Company, Inc. in 1925. The Postum Cereal Company, Inc. went on to acquire another frozen food company and by 1927 the General Foods Corporation was formed.
By 1936, many new flavours were launched with an instant pudding mix to be made with milk. These flavours were vanilla, chocolate, coconut, tapioca, butterscotch, flan, egg custard and rice.
Jell-O products can be broadly classified into 3 groups :
- Jelly Powders & Instant Puddings
- Jelly Powders – These are easily soluble in water and contain only 5 to 7 calories per serving. The flavours are strawberry, raspberry, lime, orange, x-treme watermelon, tropical twist strawberry banana, cherry, berry blue, peach, wild cherry, lemon, tropical twist orange pineapple, tropical twist fruit fiesta, wild raspberry, cranberry, grape and tropical twist strawberry kiwi.
- No Sugar Added Jelly Powders – These are for the weight watchers and have no added sugar. Also, they contain approximately 90% less calories than the regular jelly powders. The flavours available are strawberry, raspberry, orange, lime, cherry, fiesta fruit and luscious lemon.
- Instant Pudding – These are ready to make puddings with simple addition of milk and the flavours are chocolate, vanilla, lemon, pistachio, butterscotch, oreo cookies and chocolate fudge.
- Fat Free Instant Pudding – These are same as instant puddings but with lesser calories and the available flavours are chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, chocolate fudge and white chocolate.
- Cooked Puddings, Pie Fillings and No Bake Desserts – As the name suggests these are quick ready-to-assemble puddings and desserts. The flavours available are chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, banana cream, lemon pie filling, no-bake cheesecake dessert and no bake oreo dessert.
- Refrigerated Products
- No Sugar Added Refrigerated Puddings – These are readymade refrigerated products which contain 45% lesser calories than its regular counterpart and come in original rice, chocolate, dulce de leche, crème brulee rice, vanilla and butterscotch flavours.
- Mousse Temptations – These are ready made mousse with a light and fluffy texture and each cup contains only 60 calories. The available flavours are dark chocolate, chocolate indulgence and crème caramel.
- Refrigerated Puddings – These are readymade puddings and can be eaten anytime. They are available in only two flavours, oreo and strawberry cheesecake.
- Refrigerated Gel Cups – These are ready to eat jelly available in orange and strawberry variety packs.
- No Sugar Added Regrigerated Gel Cups – These are ready to eat jellies with no added sugar and have only 5 calories per cup. These are available in raspberry, cherry pomegranate, lemon – lime and orange variety pack and strawberry.
- Shelf Stable Products
- Ready To Eat Snacks – These are made with skimmed milk. They need not be refrigerated as a greater shelf life. The flavours are chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, chocolate fudge, chips ahoy, rocky road, banana, delicious duos chocolate or vanilla, delicious duos chocolate fudge or rocky road, kool aid ice blue raspberry and kool aid grape.
- Fat Free Ready To Eat Snacks – These are the fat free version of the above product available in chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch and devil’s food.
Initially the slogan for the Jell-O brand was “There’s Always Room for Jell-O”.
Presently the slogan in practice is “America’s Most Famous Dessert”.
- The first four Jell-O flavours to be introduced were lemon, orange, strawberry and raspberry. The lime flavour was introduced as late as 1930.
- The highest consumption of lime flavoured gelatin in the United States, is by the people of Salt Lake City.
- It has been experimented and proved by technicians, that a bowl of wiggly Jell-O has brain waves just the same as those found in an adult brain of men or women. These tests were done twice and finally in 1993 proved with an EEG machine.
- During an airshow in Woodward,Jell-Owas a part of the contest. The contest required the pilot to land the plane, run and eat a bowl of Jell-Oand then run back and take off the plane. This proves the popularity of Jello
- There is an entire gallery dedicated to the brand called ‘ The JELL-O Gallery ‘, in New York.
- Celebrities associated with the product are Bill Cosby, Kate Smith, Jack Benny, Lucile Ball, Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle and Vivian Vance of the famous television series 'The Lucy Show'.
- Ivette Bassa was awarded the second everN Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry, in 1992, for inventing blue jelly.