Snack foods have been marketed in Canada for almost a century. Ad campaigns have included “Buy Canadian! Support the war effort! Support local sports!” But what about Old Dutch potato chips? How have they advertised their products? And what did they have to do with the TV show Kids Bids?
Written, narrated and produced by Kent Davies and Janis Thiessen, with excerpts from Benoit Morham,“Are Your Snack Foods Breeding Nationalists?” (unpublished podcast episode, 2018) and Matthew Csuk, “Snack Shot,” (unpublished podcast episode, 2018).
Episode Image: Kimberley Moore
Theme Music: Robert Kenning
Bebe Maqsood, interviewed by Sarah Reilly and Elizabeth-Anne Johnson, January 27, 2013 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording. Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
Bill Bashucky, interviewed by Elizabeth Anne Johnson, December 10, 2013 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording. Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
David Oye, interview by Sarah Story, December 11, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording. Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
Doug Krockak, interview by Sarah Story, November 24, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital audio recording. Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
Podington Bear – 60’s Quiz Show
RCA Victor Band. "The Maple Leaf Forever." 1927, AMICUS 3138677.
Daniel Pope, “The Advertising Industry and World War I,” The Public Historian 2, 3 (1980): 4-25.
Enric Castelló and Sabina Mihelj. “Selling and Consuming the Nation: Understanding Consumer Nationalism.” Journal of Consumer Culture 18, 4 (2018): 558–76.
Janis Thiessen, Snacks: A Canadian Food History (Winnipeg, MB: University of Manitoba Press, 2017).
Steven J. Jackson and David L. Andrews, eds. Sport, Culture, and Advertising: Identities, Commodities, and the Politics of Representation. (London and NY: Routledge, 2005).
The Winnipeg Evening Tribune, May 29, 1942, pg. 3. (Accessed November 15, 2018.
The Winnipeg Evening Tribune, October 5, 1955, pg. 19. (Accessed November 15, 2018.)
The Winnipeg Evening Tribune, October 17, 1941, pg. 10. (Accessed November 15, 2018.)
KENT DAVIES: You’re listening to Preserves: A Manitoba Food History Podcast. Exploring the rich, flavourful history of Manitoba food and the people who make it, sell it and eat it. From the packing table to the dinner table. From restaurant specials to grandma’s secret recipes. We consider the cultural, social, and commercial aspects of Manitoba food and what it means to us. I’m your host Kent Davies. As always I’m joined with my co-host, University of Winnipeg business and food historian Professor Janis Thiessen.
JANIS THIESSEN: Hi, Kent. What’s in the pantry for us today?
KENT DAVIES: On this episode, we’ll be showcasing student-based research and chatting about the unique marketing history of one of Manitoba’s most loved snack food companies: Old Dutch.
KENT DAVIES: So I guess I wanted to do this episode because it’s a pretty much an entry point into the remarkable story of Old Dutch Foods, but also we can showcase some of work being done in the classroom by students as they research Manitoba food history. Some folks that may be listening to this podcast may not realize how multi-faceted this project really is. It takes us across the province, interviewing in our Manitoba Food History Truck, but it also has us here in the classroom teaching historical research and digital scholarship to students here at the University of Winnipeg.
JANIS THIESSEN: Yes, instead of doing the traditional essay, students are producing projects that have the potential to be published for a public audience. So students are producing podcast episodes or ArcGIS Story Maps and they’re doing that by doing their own archival research and their own reading of the secondary sources, but also incorporating interviews. Occasionally they will conduct them themselves, but for the most part we’re having them use archived interviews.
KENT DAVIES: Out of that, we’re doing newer forms of digital scholarship where we’re training students on how to do podcasting and Story Maps.
JANIS THIESSEN: And this is where we are so fortunate to have the Oral History Centre on this campus [University of Winnipeg]. Because not only do you and Kimberley Moore – the two staff members – have all these skills in oral history, you have these skills in digital history. It means that, you know, instead of at the end of the course half my students never coming to pick up their final essay and read my scintillating comments on it, instead they produce something they can take with them and, you know, have as part of their portfolio – whether that’s for showing other professors or through their grad school applications or show to employers that these are practical skills that they have. And then they also have this opportunity for our project, of publishing it through the Manitoba Food History Project website.
KENT DAVIES: This episode, we’re going to hear a lot about Old Dutch Foods, something you’re very familiar with, having literally written the book on them, somewhat, with Snacks: A Canadian Food History.1 First off, I just want to ask you: What drew you to your research of Old Dutch?
JANIS THIESSEN: I eat a lot of potato chips [laughter]. And I have, for twenty-some years now, been studying independently-owned businesses, both from the standpoint of management and owners, and from the standpoint of the workers and consumers. When I was casting about for my next business to study, my brother – who knows my eating habits – suggested Old Dutch. [Laughs] From there it just expanded to not just Old Dutch but as many as we could, independently-owned snack producers across Canada. So that’s what ended up becoming the Snacks book.
KENT DAVIES: So there are many facets worth exploring regarding Old Dutch, but one thing we wanted to explore in the project over all, was how the marketing of certain foods has changed over time. And Old Dutch sticks out as a company that has used some interesting and clever marketing approaches over the years. To set this whole episode up, we’re going to hear an excerpt from a podcast by University of Winnipeg student Benoit Morham on how nationalism and Canadian national identity played a role in selling brands through different generations and different contexts. It’s a fairly unique situation in Old Dutch’s case, and you’ll hear why in bit. So let’s give it a listen.
BENOIT MORHAM: Nowadays, it’s difficult to avoid the “Buy Canada” movement, especially on social media. A quick search online will give you Facebook pages posting news on Canadian companies and promoting locally-made, Canadian products. Most recently, these pages have the air of being under attack. With UMSCA [United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement] – the new trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States – many feel that Canadian producers, particularly the milk industry, got the short end of the stick. Economic defence is one of many reasons for symbolic consumer nationalism, which, explained in the article “Selling and Consuming the Nation,” is the practice of buying national products for cultural motives and could be practiced for any number of reasons.2 In this podcast, I delve into the history of Old Dutch Foods to see whether the same type of nationalism seen in the “Buy Canada” movement played a role in their success, and if Canadian pride still plays a role to this day. But first, let us go back to a time when nationalism in advertising was at its most obvious, during the two world wars. Nothing beats spurring patriotism than when your nation’s resolve is being tested. Here in front of me I have multiple advertisements from the Winnipeg Tribune, a newspaper that ran in Winnipeg from 1889 to 1980. As pointed out in the article “The Advertising Industry and World War 1”, many found it distasteful to take advantage of war to sell goods and services, but others countered that they preferred their colourful and uplifting advertisements to news of sadness and mourning.3 By observing and detailing these bluntly nationalistic tactics used by past companies, we can compare them to what present Canadian companies do to sell their product to determine just how nationalistic they are. Examples include "Canada Approved" bread, sold by the Canada Bread Company.4 Or Ingersoll cheese, a "favourite cheese of the Golden West."5 My personal favourite, “The British Lion roars defiance! Preston Anti-Freeze for motorists curtailed to equip our fighting forces!”6 What’s important to notice about these advertisements is just how blatant they are. “Buy this because it comes from Canada” and is trusted by our soldiers, approved by the nation itself, or is simply made from Canadian products and ingredients. It’s easy to compare this type of motivation for symbolic consumer nationalism with that of the current Buy Canada movement, which wants to defend the nation’s economy. But how do these forms of symbolic consumer nationalism stack up to famously Canadian companies like Old Dutch?
ELIZABETH-ANNE JOHNSON: Do you think people in Winnipeg cared about the fact that Old Dutch was made in Winnipeg? Like, you mentioned before it’s cool that…
BEBE MAQSOOD: I don’t think people really know that. You know. I don’t think people really care where it comes from. I don’t think they even look at a bag made where. They’ll look at the ingredients, they’ll look at the fat and cholesterol value, but they will not look at where it’s made. I don’t think so, people look at that. I don’t know. I don’t think they care, but you know they should care. You know, like, to see that it’s a Winnipeg… Like it started here, a little place in Winnipeg, and grew, and is bringing food, all this stuff, in Winnipeg. Because our product is not… This product does not sell in Ontario.7
BENOIT MORHAM: That was Bebe Maqsood. Bebe works on the floor at the Old Dutch Foods plant in Winnipeg. The Canadian Snack Foods Project, led by Janis Thiessen, had Elizabeth-Anne Johnson and Sarah Reilly interview past and present Old Dutch Foods employees of the Winnipeg food plant. The questions pertained of the employees’ past, their work at Old Dutch, and their views on the company and the snack food industry. It is within these interviews that we will find the answer to our question. One of the main questions the interviewees tackled was simple: what snacks in this industry are distinctly Canadian? The clear answer was flavours.
ELIZABETH-ANNE JOHNSON: Are the snacks you consume distinctly Canadian do you think? Does that matter to you? Are they distinctly Canadian, the snacks you get? Does that matter to you?
BILL BASHUCKY: It doesn’t really matter but in terms of distinctly Canadian… It terms of potato chip flavours, yeah, there are distinctly Canadian flavours that come through with the chips and, I guess more related to British influence in particular, like salt and vinegar. Some people in the U.S. have no idea what salt and vinegar is all about. I guess these days there’s so many different influences from other foods around the world that wind up as flavours in snack foods.8
BENOIT MORHAM: That was Bill Bashucky, plant manager. The flavours salt and vinegar, and ketchup, are a source of pride for Canada and their presence here is often compared to our southern neighbour, the United States, since neither flavours are offered there. Flavours are not the only thing that separates a Canadian chip from a U.S. chip. Canadian quality can be another source of pride.
BILL BASHUCKY: Well, certainly flavours. Flavours would be the main thing. Personally, I think the quality of the finished chip in Canada tends to be superior to what you see typically in the U.S., for a similar sized company. I’ve gone on websites and looked at, for example, kettle chips from a number of different places in the U.S., and quite honestly I would be ashamed to put a product like that out – all discoloured, and rot, and bruised spots.9
BENOIT MORHAM: Large companies, like Nestle or Frito Lays, produce from, and ship to, nearly anywhere. This is not the case for smaller companies like Old Dutch, who usually have a narrower clientele.
BILL BASHUCKY: It is a moving target. In a lot of cases, it depends: Who has potatoes, who doesn’t? Who has machine time and who doesn’t? So we could theoretically be shipping anywhere. Traditional market is of course Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, northwestern Ontario. But we also now, through our Humpty Dumpty connection, will ship further into Ontario, and even into Montreal. And we have sister plant in Calgary, and we even get into their backyard depending on [circumstances]. We wound up shipping to Edmonton, and into Vancouver – which again traditionally is their territory. But it could have been a potato situation or availability. So we have to be ready anytime to be shipping anywhere.10
BENOIT MORHAM: The fact that Old Dutch Foods shipped, and still ships, mostly to local consumers has had an effect on their method of advertising. Unlike the advertisements during the wars, or the promotions on the “Buy Canada" online pages, Old Dutch has a different approach altogether.
BILL BASHUCKY: Advertising is really next to non-existent in terms of media stuff. Old Dutch is still very, very tightly tied to community events on the grassroots level, like amateur hockey teams and things of that nature. And, of course, professional teams like the Blue Bombers, things of that nature. But there’s a lot of community stuff that goes on.[...] In terms of routine media print advertising, Frito-Lay, they have very deep pockets because they’re part of Pepsi-Co. So they spend a wad on advertising. Old Dutch is a small player per se, just doesn’t have the wherewithal to spend that kind of money on media and print advertising. Word of mouth and quality of products is our advertising.11
BENOIT MORHAM: It is without a doubt that products from Old Dutch Foods are symbolically Canadian. They have mastered the ketchup flavour, and by shipping locally and supporting local organizations, they have anchored themselves into Canadian snack culture. This is in stark contrast to the symbolic consumer nationalism seen in advertisements during World War One and Two and the Buy Canada promotions, who use supporting the Canadian army and economy as selling points for their product. There is one thing that Old Dutch advertisements from the war, and the “Buy Canada" movement have in common and that’s having pride in being Canadian.
KENT DAVIES: Here’s the big twist: Old Dutch is an American company.
JANIS THIESSEN: Old Dutch is a company that was founded by a fellow named Carl Marx, of all things, in Minneapolis [Minnesota], making chips out of his home, which was not unusual at the time. They were really fragile products and so until packaging really improved Old Dutch, and many other potato chip marketers, only served a very local community – extremely local. But what happened was that there were folks from food distributors in Winnipeg who were driving down to Minneapolis picking up boxes of Old Dutch potato chips and then bringing them back to Winnipeg. And so this became so popular here in Winnipeg that those distributors asked Old Dutch to set up a plant here in the city. They said “We can’t keep up with the demand. Why don’t you set up a Canadian plant to serve this market that we have cultivated for you?” in essence. So that’s how they came to Winnipeg in the 1950s, and have grown throughout western Canada and then, far more recently, into eastern Canada.
KENT DAVIES: How have we been led to believe that Old Dutch is as Canadian as… I don’t know. Maybe not maple syrup, but you know what I’m saying?
JANIS THIESSEN: Well you have… The potatoes are supplied by Canadian farmers. The canola oil that the potatoes are fried in, supplied by Canadian farmers. The workers are Canadian. And so, in many ways, folks think of this as their product. It’s made here. For them. So it’s American in the sense that the family that currently owns the company, the Aanensons, might be American, but even they, they would spend many of their summers here in Winnipeg and surrounding area. So all these sorts of connections I think, cultivated the notion that this is really our company, a Canadian company.
KENT DAVIES: And I guess having flavours, you know, that you can only find in Canada might have something to do with it.
JANIS THIESSEN: Oh yeah. So salt and vinegar – all these vinegary based flavours, barbecue – those tend to be way more popular in Canada than in the United States. So because they have also been producing flavours for these specific Canadian needs or tastes, it also makes it seem as though it’s a more local product than in some ways it might be.
KENT DAVIES: How rare is it to find this kind of bi-national company that can exist in today’s market? Like it’s…
JANIS THIESSEN: Oh, I don’t have statistics for you, but usually when we think of that we think of multinationals, some entity that is in multiple countries, doesn’t particularly have any kind of national identity – loyalty is to the dollar than to any flag. But there are some companies along the lines, like Old Dutch, who will establish two versions of themselves, a Canadian version and an American version. Often it’s for tax reasons or regulations. But in Old Dutch’s case the expansion has almost always been as a result of invitation rather than a decision on the owning family’s part that it wants to expand. So they came to Winnipeg because these distributors invited them. They expanded into eastern Canada because with the collapse of a couple chip manufactures out east, those companies that were owned by those families at that time contacted the Aanensons and asked to be bought out by them. So it’s been, in their case, an expansion in some ways by invitation rather than by intent.
KENT DAVIES: We heard from Benoit Morham on how national identity plays a role in how and what we consume. And although Old Dutch differs from the symbolic consumer nationalism seen in advertisements during the World Wars, they nevertheless have cemented themselves into the Canadian identity through their signature branding and community marketing campaigns, becoming a regular fixture at certain Canadian get-togethers such as bonspiels and rodeos, socials, fishing, and even horse races.
Our next podcast by University of Winnipeg student Matthew Csuk reflects this marketing strategy. He talks about how Old Dutch further integrated themselves into the Canadian communities by being a fixture at what some may say is the most Canadian of pastimes: hockey.
MATTHEW CSUK: When I think of sports advertising, I always like to think of Super Bowl commercials, just the big spectacle of it. It makes me wonder, how did we get to this? Where did advertising and sports come together? There’s a few key questions I want to help figure this out. How did corporations come to support and advertise in sporting events? And what themes do we see in sports advertising and how are they connected with sports? I read a great article the other day written by Steven Jackson and David Andrews.12 They talk about what drives a consumer, how does a company relate to them? They point out that when we look at sports, it’s one of the most well-known performative cultures, and history and tradition are the cornerstones of sport. And because of that, identities begin to form a consumer base. Sports bring communities, friends, families together to share a common goal, and it’s easy to see how a company can benefit from it. Some of the ways we can see advertising with sports would be the corporate logo on the ice, or the logo on a football kit. I think it helps corporate investment in sports because it argues that the generated value of being associated with a sports franchise will help bring brand awareness to the fan base. Being sponsored with that team, people may want to buy into that particular product because of that sponsorship. Going back to that history and tradition, people can really relate.
Look at the commercials we see today when you watch a hockey game, there are tons of advertisements that really connect to a consumer. And we can see it with a commercial on TV, or even a logo on the ice. The consumer is going to be exposed to that kind of brand and advertising. The company benefits by having its name and brand associated with a popular franchise, and the team is benefited because of the funding it takes in from its sponsor. One example we can look at is snack foods, things like chips or soda. How often do we sit down in front of the TV and watch a great hockey game with a big bag of chips and a drink? You can see in advertising today who snack food advertisers are targeting in their ads, and a lot of it is invested in the sport market. I want to take a look at an interview by Sarah Story. She interviewed Old Dutch’s David Oye in 2013. David Oye really does a great job of explaining the marketing behind Old Dutch Foods, and discussed the marketing techniques of Old Dutch Foods in relation to their sponsor the Canadian Hockey League, as well as the local community.
DAVID OYE: If you look at the local rinks… a lot of local rinks around town, the arenas, they have the Old Dutch sign. So we have that budget to donate back to things like that.
SARAH STORY: It seems to be connected with sport?
DAVID OYE: It is connected with sport.[...] I think that, you know, you get a lot of exposure that way for one thing. You get exposure that way. And you know, it’s kind of like kids and sports and chips and pop, it kind of all goes together, in my opinion. I’m not the marketing guy but that’s kind of what I think. [...] With the Canadian Hockey League, that’s another thing, can’t afford to go to the NHL anymore, right? Even the CFL is getting really expensive. So go to the next level down and it’s…
SARAH STORY: Which are quite local actually.
DAVID OYE: Which are local. Which are local. Yeah.13
MATTHEW CSUK: See, this clip is interesting me because it shows where Old Dutch is targeting its advertising. They know they can't get into the big leagues like the NHL, so they are going after a smaller league, like the CHL as well as the local rinks and communities across western Canada. We can look at it like this: kids are growing up in these small towns and communities eating Old Dutch Chips at the rink. Or even look at it from the sponsorship perspective: the Canadian Hockey League, yeah, they are branching down because of expenses and market competition, but it's arguably a good thing, Hockey is a timeless Canadian tradition; kids grow up playing hockey and watching the young prospects in smaller towns. They can associate and relate those memories later on in life when they are making a decision on the game time snack food. “Hey I remember this! I remember Old Dutch, I used to eat it at the rink when I was a kid growing up!” It’s the history and timeless connection between the sport and the brand that can appeal to consumers. Let's play another clip here from the Oye interview where he discusses the way Old Dutch advertises with the CHL.
DAVID OYE: We’ve teamed up with what they call the CHL, that’s the Canadian Hockey League. That’s the junior hockey, like the western hockey league guys, the Brandon Wheat Kings and… Those guys, right? So we’re a big sponsor with them now. So we do a lot of advertising. If you happen to watch a CHL game, you’ll always see our logo on the ice and things like that.14
MATTHEW CSUK: Having that logo on the ice or selling the potato chips at the rink, it's capitalizing on brand awareness and targeting a certain market by connecting it with that timeless tradition. I think this interview does a great job of explaining the pros of advertising with a sports franchise. Driven media value and long term success of the team will be a driver for sales and promotion. When we look at the CHL, advertising with them, having the logo on the ice, being the official sponsor will further brand awareness. But also connecting Old Dutch to the local rinks really help further brand awareness on a small-town level.____________________________
KENT DAVIES: That podcast rang very true for me because some of my earliest memories of eating ketchup chips were at the canteen at the local hockey rink, where I used to frequent as a kid. It’s a very effective and, in some ways, smarter method of advertising.
JANIS THIESSEN: I think that helps them feel as though they are a local business.
KENT DAVIES: Yeah!
JANIS THIESSEN: Because they are there at those local events as opposed to some larger, higher profile event that has a national or international presence.
KENT DAVIES: That is not to say Old Dutch didn’t have a presence on television though.
JANIS THIESSEN: Oh yeah.
KENT DAVIES: They were in the community. Probably their most significant TV campaign in Canada would also be something fairly unique. They had their own show, it was called Kids Bids.
JANIS THIESSEN: Yes, Canadians on the prairies of a certain generation will know exactly what this was, because it was an important part of their childhoods. But this was an auction game show for children where, instead of children bidding on prizes using money, they bid on prizes using empty Old Dutch potato chip packaging. And it was a show that was not produced for national distribution, it was actually many shows. So each major prairie city in Canada would have its own version of Kids Bids: there was one in Saskatoon that was a different one from the one in Winnipeg.
KENT DAVIES: So it would be like a bunch of TV local affiliates?
JANIS THIESSEN: Exactly. Yes. So, each of them would have their own host, they’d each have their own Old Dutch girl – as they called the woman in the Dutch maid costume – who demonstrated the products you could bid on. And then it would have local children who would show up at the studio with their packaging in order to have an opportunity to be on this show. One thing they all had in common though, was that the grand prize – the most expensive prize – was a bicycle.
So the intent of this show, from Old Dutch’s point of view, would be probably that this would be something that would encourage people to buy more chips, to get more packaging, to have a greater chance of success when you appeared on the show. But we interviewed a number of people who had been contestants back in the 1960s when this show aired, and the overwhelming majority of them talked about how they did not increase their chip consumption for the sake of the show.
What they did instead was recruited their parents, their parents’ co-workers, their neighbours, their fellow church members, to collect packaging on their behalf. And then most of them also would troll back lanes, underneath bleachers at community centres, rummage through garbage bins, collecting empty packaging. It was really an inadvertent recycling program. And then once you had enough, in your mind, to be able to appear on the show, you just showed up at the studio and waited for your opportunity to go on the program and try and secure the prize of your choice – or in some cases, all the prizes.
KENT DAVIES: So how did some of the contestants regard their time on Kids Bids?
JANIS THIESSEN: Most of them loved it. For many of them it was extremely important because it gave them access to consumer goods that their families could not afford. So some of them who won a bicycle spoke of how significant that was for them because it was an item of middle class respectability that they could not afford in their family, and this was the only way they were going to get a bike, was if they won it on a show like this.
KENT DAVIES: It must be a point of pride, too, if they won?
JANIS THIESSEN: Very much so.
KENT DAVIES: Everybody wants to win something. But, other than just going on and it being a game of chance, they actually worked to try and get this done.
JANIS THIESSEN: There was strategizing for sure. There was people who spoke about how they would try and bid on particular items thinking that they were less popular than the bike.15 Therefore, given the number of points that they had for the packaging that they had brought with them, that maybe they would have a shot at something. And you had others, of course, who had managed to secure such a network of trash collectors on their behalf that they could clean up all the prizes.
DOUG KROCHAK: My sister kept jabbing me with her elbow in the ribs to bid, and I kept telling her we didn’t have any more points.16
KENT DAVIES: That’s Doug Krochak, born and raised in North End Winnipeg. Krochak remembers when he and his younger sister were on the first show where somebody had mega points and won all the prizes, much to the chagrin of the rest of the participants.
DOUG KROCHAK: We had maybe a thousand [points]. We thought we had lots. We had an old tin, because Old Dutch chips used to come in a tin and we had it jammed full of packaging, or wrappers. And my mom collected from her work, and my dad collected, and we ate some extra chips over the course of the time. And we thought we had –– based on what we saw on the shows –– we had enough that we thought we could get something. But what I remember from the show was there was one guy, he basically won everything. So he would go… You know, we’d be bidding one hundred, two hundred. He’d go a thousand, five thousand and then the bidding would be over.17
KENT DAVIES: Was that considered… I don’t want to say cheating.
JANIS THIESSEN: Well, there were no rules against it. And there were no rules against winning all the prizes or even coming back repeatedly and doing that. We did speak to a [Kids Bids] host who talked about how he was sometimes disappointed by that and wished that there were rules. One contestant talked about how he was one of those kids who cleaned up the prizes on more than one occasion. But that he would go back to his neighbourhood and distribute the goods to other kids in his neighbourhood who didn’t have the same opportunity to be on the show, or the same opportunity that others with more money had to just buy those products outright.
KENT DAVIES: Even though they didn’t win anything, Krochak fondly remembers his time on Kids Bids.
DOUG KROCHAK: Yes, but I would say – other than not winning anything – it still was a pretty good experience. I kind of enjoyed being part of it, and as a kid it was just a neat thing to do.18
KENT DAVIES: So this really had a significant effect in all sorts of ways they probably didn’t expect?
JANIS THIESSEN: Yes.
KENT DAVIES: For sure something like this couldn’t air today?
JANIS THIESSEN: No, there’s rules to advertising to children now that would make it impossible. But it was interesting to see that the reasons for the creation of these rules against advertising to children in such a direct manner, didn’t really apply in this situation. It wasn’t that the outcome was lots more children buying – or enticing their parents to buy – more chips. It was more a matter of having all these really interesting spin-off effects that you could not have been predicted: The recycling aspect of it, the redistribution of goods in a neighbourhood, the ability to acquire middle-class consumer goods that your family otherwise would never be able to afford to provide to you.
KENT DAVIES: So when did the show eventually end?
JANIS THIESSEN: It was only on for a few years, and it’s really hard to nail down dates. In part because this was a show that tended…
KENT DAVIES: Because it was on in different cities?
JANIS THIESSEN: Different cities, and it tended to air live at a time when, even if a recording was made for airing later, they would just re-record shows subsequently over that recording. So there’s no video of these shows. There’s a couple of photographs that we managed to find in Saskatchewan, in the public library there [Saskatoon] of all places.19 But otherwise, there’s really nothing other than people’s memories. I still have people who contact me asking for either access to recordings of siblings of theirs who have since passed away, or asking to be interviewed about their own experiences. But even years after the completion of these interviews, people are still really interested.
KENT DAVIES: I guess that kind of reflects people’s fondness towards snack foods, not as just like, “This is my favourite snack food.” There’s still that ingrained nostalgic quality, I guess, or these memories of your childhood that is synonymous with these snacks?
JANIS THIESSEN: Food is very emotional for folks, and it certainly connects very strongly to people’s memories. Smell and taste have linkages there that are physiological, apparently. When people talk about their favourite snack, it’s not always just about taste. Some of it is about remembering a happier time. Some of it is connecting with strong memories of community events, or family, or celebrations. Snacks are a very cheap form of fun. You know, for two bucks, how can you have an experience that is that strong or that enjoyable?
KENT DAVIES: So, how – in a modern context – does Old Dutch market themselves today?
JANIS THIESSEN: Old Dutch doesn’t do a lot of marketing, in part because that tends to be a very expensive thing to do, in part because their biggest competitor, Lays, does a lot of that and is able to spend far more on advertising than they actually gain in product sales as a result of that advertising. So Old Dutch is far more strategic. So they do run the occasional TV ad, but it’s not that it’s something they’ve been doing year over year and it’s always a new ad. They did some ads back in the 60s and 70s and didn’t advertise on TV for a long stretch, and then revived it again in the early 2000s. The more contemporary ads tend to have some sort of local athlete promoting the chip.
KENT DAVIES: So they still kind of kept with this kind of local, community angle and amateur sports?
JANIS THIESSEN: Yes.
KENT DAVIES: Here’s Doug Krochak again:
DOUG KROCHAK: You know, they were just part of the community. So when they did Kids Bids, it just kind of made sense because they were part of the community. Even today, Old Dutch, they’re involved… I don’t know if you know little kids football, the youngest age group of football, they call them “Little Crunchers.” And Old Dutch provides all the jerseys and they do a lot. They’re involved with high school football and they sponsor all kinds of things, and generally, they’re just generally good corporate citizens.20
JANIS THIESSEN: The future of Old Dutch is going to be interesting. It’s going to face some of the same challenges that many of these family-owned businesses face, which is what about the next generation? Do you have children or grandchildren who are willing to –– much less able to –– take over management of the company? Or do you sell to an outside investor and then risk it being no longer being an independent local business? Or do you sell to your own employees, which has its risks as well in terms of their ability to maintain this company into the future? For as long as it’s been around, here in Canada, it’s been a very consistent approach to management and to its public face. I mean, their logo has not changed. Their logo is very artistic, very detailed, based on a painting done by one of their favourite wildlife artists whose artwork hangs both in the headquarters in Minneapolis and here in Winnipeg. And that’s not… That’s not really typical for some of your larger multinational companies. Those sorts of local connections, personal interests, get weeded out because they’re seen as quirks rather than, you know, advantages for the business.
DOUG KROCHAK: Sometimes, you know, you’re just talking with a group of people and it’s sort of our age group, and something would be sort of… I don’t know what the talk would be, but then somebody would go, yeah, “Sold for a hundred Old Dutch points!” And everybody in our age group knew exactly what you were talking about. My kids don’t have a clue.21
KENT DAVIES: You have been listening to Preserves: A Manitoba Food History Podcast. Produced, written, narrated and hosted by myself Kent Davies, Janis Thiessen, Benoit Morham, and Matthew Csuk. With interviews by Sarah Story, Elizabeth-Anne Johnson, and Sarah Reilly. Kimberley Moore creates the photos and images that accompany each podcast. Our theme music is by Robert Kenning. Preserves is recorded at the University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. You can check out the OHC and all the work we do at oralhistorycentre.ca. For more Manitoba Food History Project content, information and events go to manitobafoodhistory.ca. We’re also on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. If you have a Manitoba food story that you want to share, contact us by clicking on the contact link on the website. Preserves is made possible from a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Thanks for listening.
7 Bebe Maqsood, interview by Sarah Reilly and Elizabeth-Anne Johnson, January 27, 2013 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording (00:29:28–00:30:14). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
8 Bill Bashucky, interview by Elizabeth-Anne Johnson, December 10, 2013 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording (00:04:07–00:05:01). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
9 Bill Bashucky, interview by Elizabeth-Anne Johnson, December 10, 2013 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording (00:29:50–00:30:48). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
10 Bill Bashucky, interview by Elizabeth-Anne Johnson, December 10, 2013 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording (00:19:00–00:19:55). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
11 Bill Bashucky, interview by Elizabeth-Anne Johnson, December 10, 2013 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording (00:28:08-00:28:44, 00:29:07-00:29:40). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
13 David Oye, interview by Sarah Story, December 11, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording (00:47:58-00:49:16). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
14 David Oye, interview by Sarah Story, December 11, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital Audio Recording (00:42:38-00:42:58). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
16 Doug Krockak, interview by Sarah Story, November 24, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital audio recording (00:06:11-00:06:17). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
17 Doug Krockak, interview by Sarah Story, November 24, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital audio recording (00:05:06-00:05:46). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
18 Doug Krockak, interview by Sarah Story, November 24, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital audio recording (00:09:44-00:09:59). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
20 Doug Krockak, interview by Sarah Story, November 24, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital audio recording (00:22:22-00:22:55). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.
21 Doug Krockak, interview by Sarah Story, November 24, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB. Digital audio recording (00:07:38–00:08:02). Snack Food Project, “Old Dutch Interviews," Oral History Centre Archive, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB.￼
Preserves is made possible by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and assistance from the Oral History Centre at the University of Winnipeg.