French’s Mustard: A Spicy National Habit

Now that we’re in the heat of the summer, I’m sure we’ve all attended plenty of cookouts and consumed our fair share of hot dogs with mustard (and ketchup). The folks over at McCormick & Co. must’ve had summer cookouts on their mind when they announced that they were acquiring the iconic French’s mustard couple weeks ago. McCormick bought French’s and other products from Reckitt Benckiser, including Frank’s RedHot and Cattlemen’s BBQ sauces, reportedly for the hefty sum of $4.2 billion.

McCormick is the 10th largest condiments maker in the US, most known for its spices and herbs, including Old Bay, as well as brands like Zatarain’s, Thai Kitchen, and Stubb’s bbq sauce. With the acquisition of Reckitt Benckiser’s food business, the Maryland-based spicemaker will launch into a leading position in the category, rivaling Kraft Heinz, maker of Heinz ketchup (and mustard).

Over the years, French’s became the leading mustard brand on the market, beating Heinz, Gulden’s, Grey Poupon, and more. While still capturing the number one spot in the mustard wars, sales have recently declined; in 2016, French’s demanded a 35 percent market share in mustard sales, down from 40 percent in 2014.

French’s mustard was originally introduced in 1904 by the French brothers – Robert, George, and Francis. They introduced the classic yellow mustard at the St. Louis World’s Fair, served with plenty of hot dogs. The French brothers based their operations in Rochester, NY, and until 1987, the mustard brand’s headquarters were based at 1 Mustard Street in Rochester, NY. They were a major company in the local area, often sponsoring the Rochester Red Wings baseball club and the local weather forecast. In 1921, French’s launched their first advertising campaign with their trademark pennant logo.

In 1926, J&J Colman took notice and bought French’s for £750,000. J&J Colman’s was a UK-based company that had their own line of mustard and food products, including Frank’s RedHot, as well as the leading Reckitt household product line. In 1999, the company became what it is now, Reckitt Benckiser after a number of acquisitions and mergers.

French’s has also had its fair share of classic advertising campaigns over the years, including a number of TV spots. In this 1961 spot, the brand touts its classic yellow mustard on hot dogs, “a spicy national habit”. It also promotes its new bbq sauce with “sass”.

In this classic spot from 1980, an adorable boy sings “You Are My Sunshine” while making a mustard sandwich, declaring it to be “delicious”.


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