Everyone gets a little nostalgic for the foods of their younger years--it's just how people are. Memory is intimately connected to scents and tastes, some of the best seemingly formed over meals shared with friends and families. That's when the tendency to romanticize comes in, from mom's cooking to dad's talent around the grill, and grandma's recipe for a special dessert from the old country.
Now it seems that the food industry has grown nostalgic for the products of its younger years, with many companies reviving old-timey brands, many within days of each other.
First, there are brands that disappeared completely that are now being revived
The brand produced by Kellogg is the grandfather of the sandwich cookie, and odds are that your grandfather once ate them. But times change, and the cookie brand was pulled off the shelves in 2002, only resurfacing briefly in 2008 for Hydrox's 100 year anniversary. Oreo dominates that market now, and it's unlikely that anyone younger than, say, 40, remembers them at all. Yet the brand is returning.
2. Wild Oats
The retail pioneer in organic food, Wild Oats Marketplace was introduced in 1987 but disappeared just as the organic era began to build momentum. Now its name is being peddled as an organic brand at Walmart.
Then there's the nearly-dead brands that are suddenly getting marketing attention
The milk chocolate and crisped rice candy was always a distant second to Nestle's Crunch. For about 20 years, Krackel was downsized -- a miniature-sized treat that was available only in big Hershey's sampler bags. Now the brand is coming back in its original size.
2. Maxwell House
The instant coffee from Kraft Foods Group that replaced the percolator in many 1960s homes morphed into a bit of a joke when the Starbucks-led coffee revival hit. Now Maxwell House is reinventing itself as an alternative to the coffee fetish that Starbucks created. Marketing millennial customers, the over 100 year-old Maxwell House hopes to win over Generation Y while they are still young, creating lifelong coffee connoisseurs devoted to the brand.
The iced tea brand from Nestle essentially created the bottled iced tea category back in the 1970s. But it lost market share to the far more glamorous Arizona teas and its knock-offs. Now Nestea is pushing back ... by reviving the same ad campaign that worked more than 30 years ago.
Not to mention some strangely coincidental revivals
1. Tuna mascots
January 2014 saw the return of Charlie the Tuna, as well as a new marketing campaign for the Chicken of the Sea mermaid.
2. Food packaging
The frozen food industry, superstar of the 1960s supermarket, announced a marketing initiative to promote itself as just-as-good-as-fresh-but-easier in May. This comes just days after the canned food industry, superstar of the 1950s supermarket, announced a marketing initiative to promote itself as just-as-good-as-fresh-but-easier.
The revivals may be part of the Baby Boomer's well-known obsession with their own youth. If a food craze happened when a 60-year old executive was in his 20s, that executive is likely to find it worth remembering, celebrating and trying to bring back. Buying the brand is sure to bring back those same nostalgic feelings for consumers.
They also may be part of Gen Y's well-known weakness for "authentic" brands. Once the millenials started drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, it was inevitable that Madison Avenue would try selling everything old as somehow more real than stuff from today.
For more on lost food brands, check out this list of six brands from the boomer's childhood that have returned ...and one we're still waiting for.