Tidbits: Blue Parkay

  • Updated: January 2, 2002 - 10:00 PM


It was bound to happen in the wake of the popular green (and purple) Heinz EZ Squirt ketchup: Squeeze Parkay margarine is being made in colors -- electric blue and shocking pink. And it isn't just Squeeze Parkay: It's Fun Squeeze.

Mr. Tidbit is unable to think of anything constructive to say.

Parkay's tag line, "The Flavor Says Butter," remains on the label. The label doesn't suggest what the color says.


Trying to answer a consumer's question, Mr. Tidbit has learned that, unannounced, the Chun King brand of canned Chinese-American food launched in 1946 by Minnesota's Jeno Paulucci has virtually disappeared. A spokesperson for ConAgra Grocery Products told Mr. Tidbit that the Chun King brand is no longer distributed nationally; it is available only in parts of the Northwest.

It's a story with many twists, and Mr. Tidbit thinks students of American business might find it vaguely instructive.

In 1966, Paulucci sold Chun King to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (He began making frozen pizza in 1967, sold that business, too, and now makes both Italian and Chinese foods; that's another story.)

In 1980, Reynolds acquired DelMonte and it passed the Chun King brand to its DelMonte operation. In 1985 Reynolds (by then RJR Nabisco) blended DelMonte into its newly acquired Nabisco brands. In 1986 RJR Nabisco sold its (formerly DelMonte) frozen-food business (including licensing rights to Chun King frozen products) to ConAgra, and transferred canned Chun King to Nabisco in Parsippany, N.J.

In 1989, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) bought RJR Nabisco. Because KKR already owned Beatrice/Hunt-Wesson, which made the competing LaChoy brand, it sold the canned Chun King operation (the name and production plants in Maryland and Canada) to a joint venture in Singapore -- Yeo Hiap Seng Ltd. and Temasek Holdings.

In 1990, KKR sold Beatrice Co., parent of Beatrice Hunt-Wesson Foods, to ConAgra; ConAgra then had La Choy, plus Chun King frozen.

In 1995 the Singapore joint venture sold the Chun King name and facilities to Hunt-Wesson (of Beatrice of ConAgra), which shut down the Maryland plant. (Several months later Nabisco, part of RJR Nabisco [remember them?], bought the closed Chun King plant in order to make mustard, steak sauce, vinegar and soup there.)

And now ConAgra Grocery Products, still making LaChoy, has mostly folded Chun King.


Two new things at once: The new white Cheddar flavor of Cheese Nips, plus the newly prominent appearance of the Kraft logo on a Nabisco product. For now, it seems to be appearing only on cheese-related Nabisco items. Nabisco has been part of Kraft Foods since 2000, when tobacco giant Phillip Morris (which already owned Kraft) acquired Nabisco (which had once been owned by tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds). Clear?

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