the product naming blog

June 6, 2012

End of an Era: Sara Lee Brand Naming Changes to Hillshire Brands

After renaming their international coffee and tea division D.E. Master Blenders 1753, Sara Lee has now renamed its North American business Hillshire Brands Co., which will trade on the NYSE as HSH.

The name comes from the Hillshire Farm brand that was acquired in 1971, which Sara Lee says represents the company's "ambitions for growing our portfolio of iconic brands in the future."

Meanwhile, the name Sara Lee will be maintained for the food service division as Sara Lee Foodservice.

As one would expect, the company will have a new visual identity for its "meat-centric brand and snack solutions."

Obviously the Sara Lee name meant "bakery" to many people, but the Hillshire Brands portfolio includes meat brands, such as Jummy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm and State Fair as well as two "artisan" brands: Aidells and Gallo.

Hillshire Farm was established in Wisconsin in 1934 by Friedrich (Fritz) Bernegger in New London, just northwest of Appleton. The name still stands for "quality, integrity and superior taste" according to Sara Lee.

This is not the first time Sara Lee has embraced a name change. The Sara Lee name dates back to 1939, but the name itself was changed in 1954 to Consolidated Foods, only to switch back in 1985 to Sara Lee.

I think this marks the beginning of the end for the Sara Lee name as we know it, ushering in a far more streamlined approach to a greatly transformed company. Yet, I am glad the Sara Lee name will remain in some capacity even if I am not expecting to see it on retail shelves anymore.

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May 31, 2012

FDA Finds Corn Sugar Name Not Too Sweet

High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup.pngAh, some names die ignoble deaths.

Take, for example, the fact that the FDA has just nixed the name "Corn Sugar" for High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) would like to see the Corn Sugar name as High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has such a bad rap.

I have been following this story since September 15, 2010 when I noted that HFCS is one of the biggest sources of calories in the American diet.

The rewards for a name change are obvious. Think about how much better Canola Oil sounds than Low Eurcic Acid Rapeseed Oil.

In 2011 I noted that the corn industry was slowly introducing the term into their ads and had created web sites like and At that point the FDA warned that "It would be affirmatively misleading to change the name of the ingredient after all this time, especially in light of the controversy surrounding it... If we allow it, we will rightly be mocked both on the substance of the outcome and the process through which it was achieved."

The FDA has now nixed the name altogether, partly on the grounds that the product is a syrup and not a sugar.

The Sugar Association is loving this, with one lawyer in their camp saying bluntly "What's going on here is basically a con game to suggest otherwise... What do con men do? They normally try to change their name. The FDA has thankfully stopped that."

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May 4, 2012

Kraft Drops the Fig From Fig Newtons Product Naming

NewNewtons.jpgAs many of you know, Kraft is splitting into two companies. The Nabisco brand will be a part of Mondelez International, a global snack business.

At the same time, the Fig Newtons product name will become just Newtons.

From the product's inception 1891 until 1914 the brand was called Newtons, named after the town of Newton, Massachusetts

This is another example of a product going back to the future while continuing to offer strawberry and raspberry and who knows, possibly trendy varieties like goji berries to antioxidant-filled pomegranates.

This is a wise attempt to make the Fig Newtons product more relevant to today's consumer.

The new Newtons ads are aimed at boomers with the munchies and not just kids - and offer us "Newtonisms" such as "Never beat around the bush -- you'll just squash the berries."

This reminds me of the Johnsonville Sausage campaign where they have Grillville, Summerville, Vacationville, etc.

Will consumers give a 'fig?' Long-term, probably not. Short-term, expect some Twitter grousing, followed by acceptance.

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April 27, 2012

Agent Orange Corn Grows With Some Unfortunate Product Naming

Corn.jpgSometimes it's easy to see real product naming problems.

Take, for example, the uproar around the genetically modified corn with the product name "Enlist," but known as "Agent Orange Corn" by its critics.

The genetically engineered corn is immune to a poison in 2,4-D that would be used for weed control.

The poison is perceived by activists as a key ingredient in Agent Orange, the poison that was dumped on hundreds of thousands of people during the Vietnam War and some say could pose a serious threat to human health and the environment.

Surely the new Enlist product name only encourages this connection?

This may be a chicken and egg scenario - the Enlist name existed before the Agent Orange Corn nickname was thought up. But there it is.

Dow AgroSciences wants to introduce the Enlist seeds to the market and if they do, we can be sure that 2,4-D will be extensively used to protect the corn.

But since 2,4-D has been known to harm human beings, causing everything from cancer to reproductive disorders, over 140 advocacy groups are participating in a letter-writing campaign to influence the government to reject Dow's regulatory application for the herbicide resistant crop.

But the corn doesn't seem to be the problem. It's the "drift" of the poison.

All I can say is that I really don't want to eat this corn on the cob on the 4th of July.

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March 22, 2012

Kraft Uses Homemade Naming for Global Snacks Company: Mondelēz

OreoSnacking.pngKraft is splitting into two separate companies, one which will be for its North American grocery operations that will keep the Kraft Foods name, the other for its global snacking business which is being named Mondelēz International Inc (pronounced mohn-dah-LEEZ).

Said CEO Irene Rosenfeld at a recent press junket:

For the new global snacks company, we wanted to find a new name that could serve as an umbrella for our iconic brands, reinforce the truly global nature of this business and build on our higher purpose - to 'make today delicious.' Mondelēz perfectly captures the idea of a 'delicious world' and will serve as a solid foundation for the strong relationships we want to create with our consumers, customers, employees and shareholders.

In a Chicago Tribune article that covered both the Mondelēz company name, and the new Abbott spin-off company name of AbbVie, I shared some general observations on the challenges of creating new company names in the 20th Century.

Kraft executives explain that the Mondelēz name is a portmanteau that communicates the idea of a "delicious world" through the Latin word for "world" (Monde) and "delēz," which is a "fanciful expression of "delicious."

But some people are wondering if this isn't kind of confusing, with one observer saying it's "both difficult to say and to decipher the meaning."

The new name came from the suggestions of over a thousand Kraft employees around the world, and was created from two separate submissions - one from a North American employee and the other from a European employee.

For the Chicago Tribune article, I indicated that, "If it's in the dictionary, someone's thought of it. If it's close to a word in the dictionary, someone's thought of it. And if it has Greco-Roman roots, someone's thought about it. It doesn't leave you a lot to work with."

Anyway, consumers are interestingly resilient: They figured out Häagen-Dazs.

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