One of the classic brand-extension blunders of all time has to be when toothpaste-maker Colgate decided to come out with a line of frozen dinners. The story is told in many places, and it's usually described as having occurred in 1982. For instance, here's the HuffPost's take on it
We suppose the idea behind Colgate Kitchen Entrees was the fact that you’d eat the Colgate frozen dinner and then brush your teeth with Colgate toothpaste, but this one just simply didn’t work. The frozen food market was already pretty saturated when these dinners were released in 1982, and when people think of Colgate they tend to think of clean teeth, not frozen Swedish meatballs.
Lots of other sites refer to this as having happened in 1982, such as here
, and here
. But when I took a closer look at the story I couldn't find any primary sources from 1982 about it. But there are several 1960s-era sources (Washington Food Report
, Weekly Digest
) that refer to Colgate having test-marketed a line of frozen dinners in Madison, Wisconsin in 1964. A 1966 article in Television Age magazine
offered some insight into what inspired the company to do this:
To enlarge its business, now dependent almost entirely on soaps and toiletries against the P&G and Lever competition, Colgate has long wanted to get into the $4.2-billion convenience food field. Its efforts here have been fruitless. A line of dried chicken and crabmeat entrees under a Colgate Kitchen label was introduced and quickly withdrawn. An apple-chip called Snapples has been tested off-and-on over a two-year period, and one or two other food items are in various stages. The company has specialty foods operations in France and Italy, but evidently is finding it hard to duplicate their success here.
So, unless someone can find some primary sources that indicate otherwise, I'm going to assume that the Colgate Kitchen debacle actually happened in 1964, not 1982. And it was only a test-marketing trial run, not a full product roll-out. It would definitely be bizarre if, after the 1964 failure, Colgate tried the same thing again in 1982.
There's a couple of images of Colgate Kitchen entrees floating around the Internet, but I think they're all photoshops or mock-ups. For instance, the one below is a recent mock-up created by the Museum of Failure in Sweden
Category: Business | Products | 1960s