The Unofficial Funny Face History

 

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Pillsbury is best known for it's refrigerated doughs, but the company hasn't always been poppin' with products. In 1950, consumers could find only seven different items with the Pillsbury name. Through acquisitions, the company attempted to broaden its product base. A big boost came in 1961 when Pillsbury acquired an artificial sweetener business and created an entire line of new products aimed at the public's new-found interest in dieting and weight control.


The Grocery Products Division introduced "Sweet*10", an artificial sweetener made with calcium cyclamate. It didn't take long for "Sweet*10" to become the top-selling artificial sweetener on the market.


By 1964, Pillsbury was introducing a non-caloric drink mix aimed at the children's market. The line was called Funny Face, made up of six flavors with a silly, smiling face to personify each flavor. There was Goofy Grape, Rootin' Tootin' Raspberry, Freckle Face Strawberry, Loud Mouth Lime, Chinese Cherry, and Injun Orange. (Orange and Cherry were renamed Jolly Olly Orange and Choo-Choo Cherry after complaints from ethnic groups.)


In 1965, backed by heavy television and print advertising as well as the introduction of a new flavor, Lefty Lemon, the line was rolled out nationally. It did an estimated $15 million a year in sales. Between 1965 and 1969, five more flavors were added: Captain Black Cherry, Loud Mouth Punch, Tart 'N' Tangy Lemon (later called Tart Lil' Imitation Lemonade), Rah-Rah Rootbeer and Chilly Cherry-Cola.


Then the government delivered a fatal blow. On October 18, 1969, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of calcium cyclamate in food products after it was found to cause cancer in lab rats. Pillsbury immediately withdrew Sweet*10, Sprinkle Sweet and Funny Face from the market, causing the company a $4.5 million loss.


Management quickly reformulated the products. Sweet*10 and Sprinkle Sweet were presweetened using sacchrine (which itself would draw the ire of the FDA a decade later), and Funny Face was reintroduced in both unsweetened and presweetened forms.


Promotions
What may best be remembered about Funny Face is the many great mail-away premiums used to reward loyal customers, or, more precisely, to reward the children who made sure their parents remained loyal customers. In May 1969, Pillsbury
offered plastic mugs of Goofy Grape, Freckle Face Strawberry, Choo-Choo Cherry, and Lefty Lemon-Lime (previously known as Lefty Lemon, and later as Lefty Lemonade). The mugs were free with seven empty packages. In October 1969, you could send in eight empty packages for one of four different Hot Wheels cars. (This may have been the only premium using non Funny Face prizes and it is very interesting as the Hot Wheels themselves are currently a heavily sought-after collectible.) In October 1970, Grape, Cherry, Lemon and Strawberry pillows could be owned for $1 each plus five empty packages.


Two new mugs -- Loud Mouth Punch and Jolly Olly Orange -- were also added in 1970. In 1971, Funny Face walker toys of Goofy Grape, Cherry, Orange and Rootin' Tootin' Raspberry were offered free with proofs of purchase. During 1972, there was a contest in which you could win one of several prizes including a Goofy Grape Kite. Also in 1972, Rah-Rah Rootbeer was dropped and Chilly Cherry-Cola added.


There were great changes for the line in 1974. Chilly Cherry-Cola and Tart Lil' Imitation Lemonade were dropped, making room for Lefty Lemon-Lime to become Lefty Lemonade (his final persona). Also introduced were Pistol Pink Lemonade, With-It Watermelon and Rudy Tutti Frutti. The latter two flavors added their mugs to the collection, bringing the total number of mugs offered by Pillsbury to eight. Also available during this time were two different versions of a Goofy Grape Pitcher one with a single face the other with faces on either side of the pitcher.


During 1975, there were 11 different iron-on shirt decals available representing the current line-up. One decal was free with three empty packages (so you would have had to drink a 55-gallon drum of Funny Face to get a full set of 11 decals). The other great premium from 1975 was a Pillsbury Cookie Dough tie-in offer for a 13x13 inch canvas backpack picturing Poppin' Fresh the Doughboy and Goofy Grape together. This is a very cross-collectible piece, probably even more desirable to Doughboy collectors.


There were many other premiums available throughout the 70's including popsicle molds, books, a watch, walkie talkies, a fan club kit, three plush dolls and a record. There were also a couple of different card-board drink-stands produced, so a kid could sell cups of Funny Face on a hot summer day.


By the late '70's, there was much less push to sell Funny Face. Kool-Aid was the market leader, and Pillsbury got down to seven flavors in a limited distribution only in presweetened form. By 1979, the product line was all but gone. In June 1980, the Funny Face brand was sold to Brady Enterprises, a manufacturer of dry powdered packaged products, including bar mixes. They continued to market the seven Funny Face flavors and, in 1983 in New Hampshire began test marketing Chug A Lug Chocolate (a chocolate milk mix). Although Chug A Lug never saw any large distribution, it lives on in the form of a plastic cup, produced by Brady from the old With-It Watermelon mold. The cup was given, if requested, as a premium for Funny Face consumers who responded to the mug offer on back of Funny Face packages, a tradition that Brady kept after inheriting the mugs with the business from Pillsbury. Since Chug A Lug Chocolate never saw widespread distribution, few people requested this

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