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Inventing Baby Food Gerber and the Discourse of Infancy

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Slide 1 - Inventing Baby Food: Gerber and the Discourse of Infancy in the United States (Amy Bentley) By: Michaela Frank
Slide 2 - Gerber’s Beginning In the late 1920’s- 1950’s American Academy advocates the nursing of infants up to 2 years with the introduction of solids at 4-6 months old Social and economic changes due to industrialization, mass production and advertising Helped spur the introduction of solid foods to infants at younger ages
Slide 3 - History of the Bottle Late 19th century Americans turned to science as the ultimate authority. There was a “medicalization of motherhood” during this “chemical period” Resulting in the promotion and advertisement of infant formula products such as: “Nestle’s Milk Food: Baby’s Friend” “Mellin’s Food for Infants and Invalids: The only perfect substitute for Mother’s Milk”
Slide 4 - The Times Are Changing 1920’s introduction of commercially produced canned goods that were affordable for all Made possible by advertising firms, popularity of magazines and newspapers, and increased population and literacy. Scientists’ discovery of vitamins increased emphasis on the importance of a healthy diet. “Advice manuals” such as Foods and Home Making, by Carlotta C. Greer
Slide 5 - So the story goes… 1927 Mrs. Dan Gerber, wife of Fremont Canning Company tried to strain peas for her infant. The job was tedious and time-consuming sparking the idea that the canning company could do it. By 1928, the company was profiting off of “authentic…woman’s ingenuity transforming child-rearing in the U.S.” Gerber became the exclusive producers of baby foods
Slide 6 - Beating out the competition Gerber did vary well during the depression years expanding their production to include toddler foods and cereals 1930: 842,000 cans of baby food produced 1931: 1,311,500 cans 1932: 2,259,818 cans of baby food By 1935 Gerber maintained dominance over the competitors, Beech-Nut, Heinz, and Libby’s
Slide 7 - The Gerber Baby Gerber symbolizes “quality and trustworthiness” Drawing by: Dorothy Hope Smith, and adopted as official trademark in 1931. http://www.snopes.com/movies/actors/bogart1.asp
Slide 8 - Advertising schemes Less spending during the Great Depression and suspicions about canned food quality prompted Gerber to “acclimate and familiarize people with the manner in which baby food was packaged”. Memorable branding became essential Advertising was directed at mothers and used health professionals as campaigners Gerber successfully marketed its products as wholesome, convenient, modern and scientific.
Slide 9 - Promotion using Dieticians Skepticism over canned foods still persisted in the 1930’s The ADA became influential in promoting Gerber products as “scientifically prepared and thus free of contaminants, vitamin-filled, healthy and wholesome food for infants” The ADA journals included research “funded by Gerber” proving the safety of their canned baby foods
Slide 10 - Convincing Mothers Gerber placed ads in leading women’s magazines like Ladies Home Journal Common practice: “advertisement urged women to send in one dollar for a set of Gerber foods, and asked them to provide the name of their grocer, whom Gerber would then persuade to carry their products.” Gerber later emphasized the “Freedom” aspects of their foods focusing on the independence from kitchen restrictions for mother and baby Gerber also had ads stating mothers can’t make food as nutritious as Gerber and to “serve them (Gerber foods) for baby’s sake” Another add focused on the husband- wife relationship
Slide 11 - Results of Gerber’s Ads It resulted in a mothers lack of confidence to take care of their infant Earlier introduction of solid foods to infants The Gerber Baby: “gives the implicit impression that babies this young should be eating solid foods” Gerber’s competitors also used younger and younger infants for their ads “While the early introduction of solids might not necessarily help infants, neither would it harm them”