Food makes for a good story. Familiar name brands evoke pleasant memories and bring delightful introductions to newcomers.
Stories behind Tennessee’s food and beverage industry are as diverse and colorful as the products themselves. The Volunteer State has produced such well-loved sweet stuff as Little Debbie snack cakes, Brach and Brock candy, and divine deliciousness from Bradley’s Chocolate Factory. Goo Goo Clusters, the world’s first combination candy bar—made by the Standard Candy Company in Nashville—were “born” in 1912 in a copper kettle, and advertised as “a nourishing lunch for a nickel.” Though the wrapper has evolved, the recipe for the round mounds of goodness remains the same: marshmallow, caramel, roasted peanuts and milk chocolate. Our famous MoonPies were first produced by Chattanooga Bakery more than 75 years ago and are now a part of Southern culture and inspiration for the RC and MoonPie Festival.
Mountain Dew, Dr. Enuf, Sundrop and Double Cola are a few Tennessee beverages that have traveled the world. Since the 1880s, the Goodson Bros. Coffee name has been synonymous with a great cup of coffee. Grocer James F. Goodson started Goodson Bros., a company that has produced such familiar names as JFG as well as the gourmet and special roasts on the market today.
For those interested in stronger stuff, Jack Daniel Whiskey is made from cool, pure, iron-free, cave spring water, flowing at 800 gallons per minute at a constant 56 degrees. The Lynchburg spring is “the why” for the location of the oldest registered distillery in the U.S., mellowing the whiskey drop by drop through ten feet of sugar maple charcoal. Seven generations later, the process is as Jack created it. Not too far from Jack’s is George’s—the George Dickel Distillery in Normandy—where clear water from the Cascade Springs feed the “whisky” operations. Tennessee’s wineries continue to win major awards for both traditional and regional wines.
In the food category, Bush Beans, Stokely brand foods and Mayfield ice cream, Pictsweet vegetables and Jimmy Dean sausage are all part of the Tennessee tradition. Bakers in particular owe a lot to Tennessee foods. Martha White’s “Hot Rize”—a powerful secret ingredient—exploded on the food scene in the 1950s, bringing convenience to cooks and kitchens alike. “Martha White Biscuit and Cornbread Time” on Nashville’s WSM radio and sponsorship of the Grand Ole Opry conveyed the advertising message: Martha White, the Flour of the Hour. Martha White’s 1945 slogan rings true today—whatever the product may be—if it’s made in Tennessee, “Goodness Gracious, It’s Good!”
Because Southerners love their baked goods, especially light, fluffy biscuits, White Lily Flour also became an institution in the South. Since 1883, cooks have chosen White Lily for its lightness (that’s why the bag is taller) in baking biscuits and cakes. In May, come to Market Square in Knoxville for the International Biscuit Festival where celebrity chefs—such as Tyler Brown of the five-star Hermitage Hotel’s Capitol Grille—creatively prep delicacies for eager festival taste buds.