December 22, 2011

Does Anybody Remember This?

This XKCD  strip jogged a memory.

Back in the 80's there was (at least in Virginia) a fad for some years where there were generic foods on store shelves. By generic I don't mean store brands..I mean GENERIC..

How generic?
This generic.

One of my teachers was really enthusiastic about these as they did away with brand names and consumerism. I was too young to realize that this probably meant she was a commie. She gave me the impression that these were government products, but I don't think that was the case. At the time, we were not well off and my folks did buy them. I remember the green beans being decent. A quick search though brings up very little info other than the above pic (which was without context) and a painful reminiscence about generic beer.

So...what was the deal with these? Was it a government program? Was it a short lived company trying to save on advertising costs? What?
Does anyone know?

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 10:53 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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1 My grandparents used to receive food assistance from the government, when I was much younger. Not "food stamps", actual -food-. I remember they used to get cheese in big boxes labeled like this (though it had FDA stamps and suchlike on it too.)

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Fri Dec 23 14:47:55 2011 (GJQTS)

2 A big grocery chain up here in Canada has a very similar line of "No Name" products; the only difference is that the labels are yellow, not white as in your example.  AFAIK, these generics aren't "government cheese", they're just the in-house, bargain-basement brand for that particular grocery chain. 

FWIW, the labels are no less depressing in yellow than they are in white.  It seems almost dangerous; someone who's struggling with both poverty and depression (which often go hand-in-hand) might stock his kitchen with these products, and the very act of looking in the fridge would shove his suffering in his face (like a big yellow "FAIL" flag).  It could drive a man to suicide.

Posted by: Peter the Not-so-Great at Fri Dec 23 14:48:11 2011 (KiYAY)

3 It's clearly time for you to watch "Repo Man" (1984) again, or for the first time. Generic food was a running background gag in that film. As it was shot in '83, I'm not sure if generic food was on the shelves yet. They were ahead of the curve on mocking several things (like scientology, and conspiracy theory) which were not yet routinely mocked in the mainstream. Please note, I am not speaking of "Repo Men" with Jude Law, or "Repo! The Genetic Opera" with Anthony Head, but "Repo Man" starring Emilio Estevez.

Also, in case you haven't checked it yet, from the Storehouse of Totally Accurate Knowledge:

Posted by: Tim Driscoll at Fri Dec 23 17:06:48 2011 (FpijV)

4 Huh...I emember thinking that the the gag in Repo Man was about product placement, but yeah, who says it couldn't be both.  I do need to watch that again.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Fri Dec 23 22:24:34 2011 (EJaOX)

5 I remember my parents buying "white box" generic products back in the 70s. They were just like the picture: products with names like "CORN FLAKES", "DOG FOOD" or "LAUNDRY DETERGENT" in plain white containers with black san-serif lettering. It's not that my parents were desperate; I think it made them feel virtuous.

In those days when recession was combined with runaway inflation many people did feel desperate. The white box products were probably a market segmentation strategy (sell the same product to different customers at different prices, extracting from each buyer the maximum he is willing to pay.)

As a marketing strategy this is uniquely devoid of any trademark protection, which is probably why it died out, replaced by today's proliferation of store brands.

Posted by: Jonathan Tappan at Sun Dec 25 14:04:42 2011 (uNy3G)

6 There was even one issue of a generic "Comic Book" with the same look.

Posted by: Mauser at Sun Jan 15 03:09:32 2012 (cZPoz)

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