11 Fun Facts About Iconic Thanksgiving Groceries

published Nov 19, 2020
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In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, most of us find ourselves scanning grocery store shelves for highly specific items that we rarely ever throw in our carts except for the during holiday season. Year-round grocery essentials are temporarily eschewed in favor of seasonal must-haves like tubes of dinner rolls, boxed stuffing, canned cream of mushroom soup, and, the most infamous of all, jellied cranberry sauce.

Why do these old-school groceries resurface every November? Nostalgia has something to do with it — if your grandmother’s stuffing recipe calls for Jiffy and Craisins, yours probably does, too — but marketing is also to blame (er, thank). Starting around the 1940s, companies like Campbell’s created in-house recipes meant to inspire home cooks to incorporate their products into easy meals, particularly around the holidays. Circulated in branded pamphlets and printed on the backs of boxes and cans, these recipes found their way into homes around the country, and the ingredients did too.

Interesting, right? Here are a few more little-known facts about the Thanksgiving groceries we can’t live without. (Something new to talk about while you gather with the same people you’ve been eating with for the past eight months, perhaps?)

Pillsbury Original Crescent Rolls

The Pillsbury Doughboy debuted in a 1965 crescent roll commercial. The now-iconic character popped right out of the dough can, which is how he got his real name: “Poppin’ Fresh.” He’s still known as Doughboy in our hearts, though.

Buy:Pillsbury Original Crescent Rolls, $2.18 for 8 ounces at Walmart

Kraft Stove Top Stuffing Mix

Instant stuffing might sound like it was tailor-made for Thanksgiving, but it was originally advertised as more of an anytime side dish, meant to be used all year round. The chicken and pork flavors had been around for years before a turkey version hit the market in the 1980s. 

Buy:Kraft Stove Top Stuffing Mix, $1.79 for 6 ounces at Target

Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Ocean Spray sells about 80 percent of its polarizing logs during Thanksgiving week alone. Here’s a fun bit of trivia: It takes about 200 cranberries to make just one can. 

Buy:Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce, $1.59 for 14 ounces at Target

Ocean Spray Craisins

Craisins are a relatively new creation: They hit the market in 1993. And (surprise, surprise) raisin producers weren’t thrilled about it! “Craisins … are just a little bit irritating because they are counterfeit raisins,” said Sun-Maid Raisin President, Barry Kriebel, back in 2012. Craisins are actually just dried cranberries with sugar added to make them sweet.

Buy: Ocean Spray Craisins, $5.88 for 24 ounces at Walmart

Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

A box of this top-selling baking mix costs 50 cents on average. One of Jiffy’s secrets to keeping prices extremely low: The company doesn’t spend a cent on advertising. They get by on street cred alone!

Buy:Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, $0.47 for 8.5 ounces at Walmart

Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

If you’ve been crediting Grandma with your family’s green bean casserole recipe, think again: The iconic dish was invented by the Campbell’s Soup test kitchen in 1955 to help boost Cream of Mushroom Soup sales. Soon after, it became the company’s most-requested recipe. It’s still printed on soup can labels to this day.   

Buy: Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, $0.99 for 10.5 ounces at Target

Green Giant Cut Green Beans 

Green Giant set a Guinness World Record last year for creating the largest green bean casserole ever. The base of the 1,009-pound casserole was 1,069 cans-worth of Green Giant Cut Green Beans. 

Buy:Green Giant Cut Green Beans, $0.75 for 14.5 ounces

French’s Original French-Fried Onions

Campbell’s green bean casserole recipe also called for a crunchy topping: French’s French-Fried Onions. This became a blessing and a curse, as the crispy spuds became so tied to the dish that French’s executives struggled to market them outside the holiday season. The company even went so far as to spend $20 million on a campaign that promoted the use of the product in an everyday crunchy onion chicken recipe in 2010.

Buy: French’s Original French-Fried Onions, $3.69 for 6 ounces at Target

Heinz HomeStyle Roasted Turkey Gravy

If you think that using pre-made gravy is a mortal sin and that you must stand over the hot stove whisking pan drippings until there’s nary a lump in sight, here’s a tidbit to make you feel better: Chrissy Teigen swears by Heinz jarred turkey gravy. She told Delish that she keeps it on hand in case her husband, John Legend, ruins the turkey. Relatable.

Buy: Heinz HomeStyle Roasted Turkey Gravy, $2.32 for 18 ounces at Walmart


The famous canned whipped cream has ties to the shaving cream industry: The founder, Bunny Lapin, sold his superior valves to shaving cream companies and even briefly sold a product called Reddi-shave.

Buy: Reddi-wip, $3.49 for 6.5 ounces at Target 

Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin

If you were in charge of the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving 11 years ago, you’re probably still scarred from The Great Canned Pumpkin Shortage of 2009. Cans of Libby’s pumpkin purée were largely absent from grocery store shelves that fall, the result of poor pumpkin harvests in Illinois the previous season. Shoppers who feared a similar scarcity this year were reassured by Libby’s on Instagram that shelves would be stocked by mid-October.  

Buy: Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin, $2.59 for 15 ounces at Target

Would you win a round of Thanksgiving grocery trivia?