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Company Wants New Multi-Ethnic Look for Betty Crocker

September 12, 1995

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (AP) _ Betty Crocker, the white-bread-and-mayonnaise symbol of middle America, is getting a multi-ethnic makeover.

General Mills Inc. said Monday it will select photos of 75 women _ to celebrate Betty Crocker’s 75th birthday _ and digitally ``morph″ them into a new Betty.

Chances are, she won’t be the fair-skinned, blue-eyed homemaker whose image has appeared on and off over the years on cookbooks, cake and brownie mixes and Hamburger Helper.

``I guess they want to put some fire under her tail,″ said Lehman Brothers analyst Caroline Levy. ``I think it’s a great idea to revitalize the brand.″

The new face, to be unveiled in February, will be the eighth Betty Crocker since the fictional character was created in 1921.

Small changes were made over the years _ she smiles in the 1955 portrait and wears a pearl choker in ’65 _ but she always remains prim and proper. The latest incarnation, in 1986, wears a red business suit and bow tie.

University of Minnesota marketing professor Akshay Rao said the idea reflects the increasing percentage of minorities in the nation.

``The face of the nation is going to be very different than it was 20 years ago,″ he said. ``If they can identify with the person on the brand better because it looks like them, this is a wise thing to do.″

Quaker Oats Co. has given periodic makeovers to Aunt Jemima, who has slimmed down and become more sophisticated-looking over the years.

General Mills is asking Betty wannabes to send in their photos along with an essay on how they embody the company ideal of family and community spirit, creativity and interest in cooking. Winners will be chosen on the basis of the best essays.

What if an aspiring Betty happens to have a nose ring, cheek tattoo or lime green mohawk?

``I have no idea what the judges will do, but I don’t think there will be a significant number of fringe winners that will affect Betty looking mainstream,″ General Mills spokesman Barry Wegener said.

And what about a male version of Betty? Such applications will be read, but ``we are looking for women,″ project manager Cindy Guettler said.

Toni Green, director of marketing for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, wasn’t all that impressed with the campaign.

``If I am going to buy cake mix, it doesn’t matter if she is white,″ said Green, who is black. ``I think sometimes they overthink these things, and I think there are more pressing issues in the world than trying to get a more politically correct woman.″

In the cake mix aisle at a grocery store in Minneapolis, Joan Mensinger said she never gave a second thought to the packaging.

``I only care if it’s a good cake mix,″ Mensinger said. ``Part of me thinks it’s silly. The other says they don’t have a choice. You offend someone no matter what you do.″

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