The other day, kicking around in my pantry I came across a box of “Jiffy”corn muffin mix. As far as iconic branding of consumer packaged goods go, I’d put Jiffy’s near the top. On this day though it was not the Jiffy Blue, nor the interesting mix of typography on the box-front, nor the close-up of the finished product that caught my eye — the front of the box was actually facing away from me. What caught my eye was the line, at the top of the back of the box, above the “Jiffy” logo, and the prep directions: “Great products since 1930.”
The parent company of “Jiffy” is Chelsea Milling, located in Chelsea, MI. It has been around for nearly 200 years but introduced the first ready-made baking mix in 1930. This was the first year of the Great Depression, and, one would imagine, not exactly a great year for new product launches. Yet, 79 years later, “Jiffy,” now in 21 varieties, can still be found in pantries and cupboards around the country.
Though seemingly ubiquitous now, ready made mix was a technological leap forward, and no doubt a costly investment for Chelsea Milling. They took a gamble going to market in 1930 and it paid off. As I start my own company in a downturn I find reason for hope in the “Jiffy” story. It reaffirms for me my belief that in flux there is opportunity if you are courageous enough to pursue it. In an environment as challenging as the one we face now (though not as challenging as 1930) I’m seeking inspiration and finding that examples of smart risk taking and savvy management abound — even in a box of corn muffin mix.