"Ten years ago we started out with one barrel of sugar (at 28 cents per pound) a few tin cans: two spoons: one second hand Ford, and no customers, but plenty of prospects. Today (after a short span of only ten years) we have thru the fine cooperation of the wholesale grocers, the largest distribution of marshmallow cream in New England, and no Ford."
H. Allen Durkee, co-founder of Marshmallow Fluff.
Marshmallow Fluff was first manufactured in 1917, in Somerville, Massachusetts, by Archibald Query, in his kitchen. He sold it door-to-door in his hometown until wartime shortages meant he had to stop making his product. After the war ended he sold his Fluff formula to H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower for $500. The partners named their product "Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff". Thankfully, that name didn't stick, but Marshmallow Fluff did, and since 1920, that's what it's been known as.
Their Marshmallow Fluff was also originally sold door-to-door but they were soon selling out of state and had a retail business by 1927. In 1929 they moved the company to Brookline Street, in East Lynn, Massachusetts, to a 10,000 square foot manufacturing facility. It was also in 1929 that the partnership of Durkee-Mower purchased Rich's Sweet Milk Cocoa but they didn't change the name to Sweeco until 1937.
The partners were ingenious marketers of their product. In 1930 they sponsored a weekly "Flufferettes" radio show on the Yankee Radio Network. This network had 21 radio stations broadcasting all over New England. They had prime air-time as well: Sunday evenings, for fifteen minutes, right before the Jack Benny show aired, one of the most popular shows in radio broadcasting in the 1930's. Some of the first of these 15 minute programs were 13 comedic sketches featuring a Bostonian "scholar" by the name of Lowell Cabot Boswell, presenting some revisionist history of America. Each segment ended with the voice-over announcer telling the audience that Boswell had left to continue his work on his book - which turned out to be a cookbook for making cake, candy, frosting and pies from... you guessed it, Marshmallow Fluff! You can still get this book, The Yummy Book, now 32 pages long, by writing to the address on the back of the Marshmallow Fluff label, and sending them $1, or by downloading it from their website.
Another war nearly removed Marshmallow Fluff from grocery stores. Sugar, along with everything else, was severely rationed and the partners didn't have enough to sugar to maintain production, without altering the recipe. They chose to stick to the original recipe, but they had to distribute the product on a limited basis to sellers who had the highest pre-war percentage of sales. Their large factory wasn't being used to full capacity, so they converted part of it to wrap electronic and optical parts in waterproof packaging. They also changed some of their advertising to promote Victory Gardens, in conjunction with the Massachusetts State War Garden Committee. The Flufferettes concentrated on advertising their support for the armed services.
Once the war was over, and sugar rationing ended in 1947, the partners expanded their production and administrative facilities and redesigned their product. Their customers told them that they wanted shorter jars, which would fit more easily in refrigerators, even though Fluff doesn't need to be refrigerated. They also wanted the jar to have a wide opening to make it easier to get a tablespoon into the jar. They added stippling to the jar to make it easier to grip and to make the jar stronger. This same design is still in use today and it required a new manufacturing facility, which was opened in 1950. With the new factory they were able to go from producing 80 jars a minute to 125 jars a minute!
In another fantastic marketing move, the partners collaborated with the Nestle company, a rival in the chocolate business, in a nationwide advertising campaign which won them a Promotion of the Year award and us, Never-Fail Fudge. They followed that collaboration with one in 1966, with the Kellogg's Company. Can you guess what they came up with?
In 1920 you could buy one gallon of Marshmallow Fluff for $1.00!
Fluff is gluten free!
Fluff is Kosher!
Marshmallow Fluff now comes in Strawberry and Raspberry flavors which is, to me, just wrong. The original Fluff was perfect - why mess with it?
Reader's Questions: "Ok, fine, but what is in it besides sugar, what does it look like, feel like, taste like, and do you like it? Oh, and can you bathe in it?"
Dearest Reader: According to the Marshmallow Fluff website, this nectar of the Gods is made from "corn syrup, sugar syrup, vanilla flavor, and egg white. There are no artificial preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers, or colorings in Marshmallow Fluff."
It looks like dried up white paint. It's sticky like..., well, use your imagination.
Do I like it? Yes. Especially on white bread, with peanut butter, and Fritos in between.
I wouldn't suggest bathing in Marshmallow Fluff. It is rather sticky and gooey. Applying it to various body parts and then licking it off might be a fun experiment to try, however.
History of Marshmallows