By Heather Taylor
It’s America’s favorite salad dressing, but what do we truly know about ranch? Believe it or not, ranch is a fairly recent addition in the dressing world. Invented by the founders of Hidden Valley in 1954, the creamy masterpiece is now so popular with consumers that nine out of 10 people use Hidden Valley for more than just salads. From buffalo wings to French fries, ranch is a dipping sauce favorite for just about every food under the sun.
As Hidden Valley welcomes 2017 with the “Ranch Out” campaign, its most significant marketing shift in over 10 years, we’re heading back to the valley for a retrospective look at the brand’s 10 biggest milestones. From starting off as a mail order business to an unusual tie-in with The Flintstones, the humble ranch dressing has proved its staying power over the decades in making mealtime a delicious experience.
1. Ranch got its start in… Alaska?
Technically, yes! While the actual Hidden Valley Guest Ranch exists outside of Santa Barbara, California (we’ll get to that in a moment), the idea was born in “The Last Frontier” state. Hidden Valley Ranch Founder Steven Henson moved to Alaska in the 1940s where he worked as a plumbing contractor. As he helped build thousands of homes around Anchorage, he also fed his workers and began tinkering with a recipe that would become famous — ranch.
2. Hidden Valley (Guest) Ranch where ranch was born.
Dreaming of a life out West, Henson and his wife Gayle headed to California where they discovered over 100 acres of land nestled in the sprawling Santa Ynez Mountains outside Santa Barbara. Bewitched by the enchanting sight —streams, waterfalls, and a distant but gorgeous view of the ocean — they purchased the property in 1954. Originally known as Sweetwater Ranch, it became Hidden Valley Guest Ranch.
Here, the flavor of ranch was born and fleshed out as a bonafide homemade recipe. Guests lodging there couldn’t get enough of the creamy buttermilk taste and began asking to take samples home. For 10 years, Henson sent guests home with free jars of tasty ranch until it launched a business of its own.
3. Ranch heads to the 50 states via snail mail.
Later in the 1950s, the popularity and demand for ranch allowed Henson to start a mail order business. We’re pretty accustomed to getting ranch in bottles today, but back then ranch arrived in the mail as a dry seasoning packet. Henson included a handwritten note with each packet, instructing the owner how to make ranch. Before long, ranch was shipping to all 50 states and even heading across the pond internationally!
4. The original logo design is loosely connected to The Flintstones.
Each dry seasoning packet contained more than just a special blend of herbs and spices. It also included a logo of the “Ranch man,” designed by the cartoonist behind The Flintstones, John Bersman.
5. Hidden Valley Ranch hits grocery shelves in the 1960s.
From the mailbox to the convenience store, Henson’s ranch became such a phenomenon that it took on manufacturing operations. By the 1960s, ranch was available to buy on shelves at grocery stores and food chains.
6. The Clorox Company acquires Hidden Valley, airs first TV ads.
The 1970s were a big decade for ranch lovers! The Clorox Company acquired Hidden Valley Ranch Dry Dressing and Party Dip and the first TV commercial spots began airing in 1977. See if you can spot the original “Ranch man” logo featured on the packaging in this ad!
7. The 1980s brings us what we’ve always wanted: bottled ranch!
In 1984, Hidden Valley Ranch released its first bottled dressing along eight new ranch flavors. Commercials ran announcing the big update with the tagline “At last… Hidden Valley Ranch in a bottle.”
8. The brand gets a packaging revamp and even MORE new flavors.
Iconic valley imagery, first introduced in TV ads in 1985, was added onto packaging in 1994 with new a ribbon logo.
Who remembers pizza-flavored ranch? A line of kid-friendly flavors like pizza, taco, and nacho cheese hit the scene in 1993 targeted at kids who loved ranch with their veggies. (So good, they would blow your mind as the spot says!)
Seventeen years ago, Hidden Valley’s website had its first shout out on TV!
10. Time to Ranch Out!
How do you enjoy your ranch? Whether it’s smothering a pizza slice in cracked peppercorn ranch, drizzling cilantro lime ranch on tacos, or dipping all the veggies into the original blend, Hidden Valley’s new campaign “Ranch Out” is a salute to the ranch lover and their creativity for great taste. Check out tips on how to be inventive with the dressing and share how you #RanchOut via social media posts. (PS: Keep your eyes peeled for more ranch flavors to come soon too!)