Indie That Isn't: You'll Be Shocked by Who's Behind These 7 Brands

Betty CrockerIn 1945, she was voted the second most famous American woman after Eleanor Roosevelt. Her name: Betty Crocker. But she didn't really exist at all.

Betty Crocker was not a real-life happy homemaker, but a fabricated character, brought to you by consumer product giant General Mills (GIS). General Mills chose the name Betty because it sounded friendly -- worthy of being a "BFF" in the kitchen.

They were right. Betty was a hit.

Clearly, there's more (or maybe less) to many brands than meets the eye. After all, if you're a big, faceless conglomerate, there's nothing like a friendly face or image to call out to consumers as they're strolling through store aisles.

Betty Crocker

Even in this era of skepticism, Google-ability, and general mistrust of big corporations, you may be surprised to learn that many of the seemingly homespun, small-time brands found on store shelves were either invented or gobbled up by big, well-known corporations.

Indie cred, indeed. Here are some brands that give off a sense of smallness, independence, familiarity -- as much of a sense of individuality as corporate logos can muster.

See our gallery on Who's Behind These 7 Brands here.

Buyer, Be Aware

The fact that many brands boast counter-cultural appeal but are actually parts of huge conglomerates isn't necessarily awful. For example, Kashi says it's still run independently in La Jolla, Calif., according to its original business philosophy. In fact, it says its mission expanded in 2000 "with a little help from a friend." (Kellogg's one heck of a big friend, that's for sure.)

Likewise, Tom's of Maine still claims to be holding true to its original all-natural mission, despite Colgate-Palmolive's involvement. On the Tom's website, it claims, "Our simple, direct approach hasn't changed one bit: we listen to what our customers want (and don't want) in their products, we learn how it can be done, and we respond with effective natural (and sustainable) solutions."

Still, from the consumer viewpoint, it's always good to know a little bit more about what you're purchasing -- and putting in or on your body -- and from whom. Your dollars equal support, after all. Betty Crocker never had a choice as to which products she'd purchase (she was obviously a General Mills gal all the way!), but American shoppers do.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in PepsiCo.

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After forty years I would think you could properly spell "entreprenuer". However, your remarks are on the money. This is America, Land of the Free....if I wish to sell my recipe/product to a major conglomerate it is my right and choice.

March 30 2012 at 1:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been in the food business for forty years and seen many small family businesses grow their brands and eventually sell to a large public corporation. That's their dream and their right. The public can continue to read the labels, taste the product and see if meets their criteria. Some large companies have messed with the formulas, some have not. This is free market and there is always another enterpreneur that will come up with the next best thing and they also may sell their brand.
God bless America warts and all.

March 29 2012 at 9:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 29 2012 at 9:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Betty is a babe!

March 29 2012 at 5:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have known the skinny about Betty for several years. I have got to say that the Betty Crocker Cookbooks are the best for beginning cooks. I have had two, 1972 and 1986 editions, and have served many a good meal with recipes I have found there. Great basics and great recipes.
Who was Aunt Jemima?

March 29 2012 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Obama's to blame! Oh wait, what thread is this? :)

March 29 2012 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ghpianoman's comment

Back to your cabin pianoman..pleaseeeeeeeee keep that cabin door closed, the stench is just overwhelming

March 29 2012 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If I were the owner of a company that's been a rival to the company that has Betty Crocker as a fabricated character for many years, I would contact my legal department and ask my lawyers to look into filing a possible lawsuit against General Mills. My lawyers would check to see if General Mills did anything illegal when it made up Betty Crocker. If yes then my lawyers would look into what my company could possibly gain from such a lawsuit and decide if the lawsuit is worth filing.

March 29 2012 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Paul's comment

I can't see where there would be any basis for a lawsuit, just because a rival company had a "fabricated character" as a company symbol. Was there ever a claim by the company that Betty Crocker was a real person? What is it that General Mills did that could have possibly been illegal? Please fill us in. Seems sort of like suing because Tony the Tiger isn't a real tiger.

March 29 2012 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

who would of thought that betty crocker was a hottie in fact she looks like one of the hotties on tv today one of the army wives or gossip girls i'm not sure which but i'm sure shes hot

March 29 2012 at 3:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What will I do with my Betty Crocker cook book? I was always thankful for Betty doing all the work she put into it.

March 29 2012 at 3:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

see what the American people will buy when told enough times.

March 29 2012 at 3:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply