In the early 1900’s, Procter & Gamble got Americans to replace animal fat with vegetable oil.
Convincing homemakers to swap butter and lard for a new fat created in a factory would be quite a task, so the new form of food needed a new marketing strategy. Never before had Procter & Gamble — or any company for that matter — put so much marketing support or advertising dollars behind a product. They hired the J. Walter Thompson Agency, America’s first fullservice advertising agency staffed by real artists and professional writers. Samples of Crisco were mailed to grocers, restaurants, nutritionists, and home economists. Eight alternative marketing strategies were tested in different cities and their impacts calculated and compared. Doughnuts were fried in Crisco and handed out in the streets. Women who purchased the new industrial fat got a free cookbook of Crisco recipes. It opened with the line, “The culinary world is revising its entire cookbook on account of the advent of Crisco, a new and altogether different cooking fat.” Recipes for asparagus soup, baked salmon with Colbert sauce, stuffed beets, curried cauliflower, and tomato sandwiches all called for three to four tablespoons of Crisco.
Health claims on food packaging were then unregulated, and the copywriters claimed that cottonseed oil was healthier than animal fats for digestion. Advertisements in the Ladies’ Home Journal encouraged homemakers to try the new fat and “realize why its discovery will affect every family in America.” The unprecedented product rollout resulted in the sales of 2.6 million pounds of Crisco in 1912 and 60 million pounds just four years later.