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Archive for March, 2014|Monthly archive page

Bean And Gone

In Beans, Bernard Roundhill, Canned vegetables, Peas, Wattie Cannery Ltd, Wattie's on March 15, 2014 at 10.46

Wattie's Garden Peas 1950s  pre Feb 1952 edit further smaller

An early-mid-1950s label design, image courtesy of Mike Davidson collection.

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Today’s post is a short and sweet one, focusing on labels, that I know of,  for Wattie’s peas and beans that have been produced over the years (excluding boxes or packets  for frozen and dried products).

Canned peas were one of the all-time most popular and enduring products along with peach halves, tomato sauce, Bartlett pears in syrup, creamed sweet corn, and baked beans or spaghetti (I imagine that their ranking would be quite low today given the quality of quick frozen product). One of the earliest Wattie’s products launched in 1937, canned peas have been relentlessly advertised through the decades. Although, seemingly Wattie’s felt no need to advertise at all until after the second world war was over when their contracts for ration supply had really wound down, and they were planning on keeping the ball in the air as far as profit margins – meaning a slew of new products urgently needed to be marketed.

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garden peas on shelves 1959

This can label was in use between at least 1956-1959, as evidenced by slides I previously wrote about here. This design was also made into a miniature and given away as a promotional lighter, now rare and highly collectible. I recreated the design from the images captured on film as they came off the conveyor belt.

The company had the foresight to launch “experimental” packs of asparagus and peas into the marketplace in 1936 as a test run, and it had been met with a very positive response from the consumer. This was great foresight, since through 1935-1937 fruit crops met with massive failure due to a combination of brown rot and hail – which effectively destroyed them.

At the point Wattie’s launched canned peas, it was a fledgling company, less than three years in and had a total range of seven products (peaches, pears, cherries, asparagus, tomato soup and a range of jams were the others), and also manufactured eleven different types of bulk fruit pulps – which were for the most part sold to other jam, jelly and conserve manufacturers.

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gren peas l;ate 1940s

This design probably dates from the late 1940s. It really looks like classic Bernard Roundhill artwork.

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Beans were added to the roster in 1938. By this decade it’s known that commercial artist Bernard Roundhill was already working on the Wattie’s account – and continued to do so right through to the 1970s that I know of – so it is quite likely he worked on most, if not all of these label designs.

However I am not aware of any labels that date before the late 1940s that have survived – although I’d love to see some, of course. Even when Wattie’s issued a range of reproduction labels on their cans for the fiftieth anniversary of the company, supposedly representing the 1930s – it looks like they actually dated from early 1952-early 1954 judging by examples I’ve seen from the range of that era. So it seems likely that even the company don’t have any archive record of their earliest labeling endeavors.

garden peas on shelves 1963

A version of the classic pressure-cooked peas can, which was on the market around 1964.

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french sliced beans

A label that I would have guessed dates from the early to mid 1960s, judging by the range of the time – which mostly had a similar standard layout of a lemon background and a navy strip at the bottom. However the logo tells the story of a design that could go back to the 1950s.

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garden peas 1 lb 14 oz

The classic pressure-cooked garden peas can that was in use from the mid 1950s – at least 1956 – until well into the 1970s. Judging by the logo this dates from the late 1950s to early 1960s. The change of label designs was fairly arbitrary and some didn’t get a revamp for as long as ten to fifteen years, with other designs for the same product in the market concurrently.

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garden peas 11 oz

An eleven ounce version of the above label that I recreated. The logo tells the story of a design issued mid-1960s onwards, possibly as late as 1972. Both these and the pair of stringless sliced French beans labels at bottom were alleged to be part of a collection that was amassed by a marketing manager who worked at a company from the 1950s  through the 1970s, and retained samples of all the products he handled during that period. I’ve covered this story here, here herehere, here and here.

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Wattie's Label green beans late 1940s-early 1950s     pre Feb 1952 edit more copy  smaller

This can label  was known to be on the shelves around 1954. By this time Wattie’s now had quite a large range of products. Up until the end of the war the range was quite compact. This image originally courtesy of Peter Michel.

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green beans early 1960s-early 1970s 1 lb

A label for French beans was definitely on the supermarket shelves in 1963-1964 although the logo indicates it was likely in production later in the decade.

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green beans early 1960s-early 1970s 11 oz

An eleven ounce version of the above label, again around 1963-1972. Both are recreations. There was also at least one completely different bean can design also on the market at the same time.

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