For those of us old enough to remember (and even for those who aren’t) 1991 was a pivotal year. The Soviet Union dissolved. The Internet became commercially available. Nirvana started the grunge movement with Smells Like Teen Spirit.
And then it came down to shoving White Castle pusher into a Thanksgiving turkey.
As the story goes, this year a long-time White Castle employee was helping Grandma make the turkey, and one way or another a bag of pusher was wrapped in the bird. Nobody is sure if it was a way to save the poor old woman for some time (browning the beef and toasting the breadcrumbs is a pain after all) or maybe it was just an excuse to eat White Castle on a vacation who doesn’t hug fast food. Be that as it may, the White Castle-infused filling was a hit at the table, and the recipe for The Original Slider Stuffing soon found its way into company headquarters and, over time, America.
Today, as homes across the country grapple with the traditional excitement and stress of preparing a meal where the filling is the traditional star, White Castle put its slider filling recipe on its website a standout game. Requires at least 10 of the square mini-burgers (12 are preferred), plus more traditional add-ins like chicken broth, celery, and condiments. White Castle even modified the ingredients last year and introduced a meatless version of the recipe that requires the Impossible branded sliders.
Brands that publish vacation recipes that save time – and require healthy shoveling of their own products – are one of the oldest marketing games in the book. And this year it might be the most topical, too: Over half of Americans in a recent OnePoll reported feeling under the gun to make a perfect meal this year, and 53% said Thanksgiving 2020 was double due to the pandemic will be so stressful.
So it’s no wonder Kraft-Heinz has a veritable encyclopedia of Thanksgiving recipes, including a turkey salted with garlic herbs made with a whole bottle of Italian Kraft dressing, and Conagra (who already owns the turkey brand Butterball) has a nifty recipe for Pan Fried Brussels Sprouts & Bacon, which calls for Birds Eye Sprouts and Italian Wish Bone Dressing – two other brands he happens to own.
Even so, White Castle is a pioneer when it comes to fast food chains. “At 99 years of family business … we are proud and humble to say that we were the first fast food restaurant with a trademark to inspire a holiday tradition,” White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson told Adweek. “Would there even be such a fanfare for autumn-flavored lattes if the original recipe for the slider filling hadn’t paved the way 11 years ago? You’re welcome, bigger competitors! “
But behind the straightforward strategy of encouraging stressed food makers to save themselves a bit of grief and just stop by a local White Castle (which is open on Thanksgiving), there’s a less obvious set of machinery here: the freezer section.
As well as coming off the grill lines, White Castle sliders have had a huge impact on the freezers from Walmart, Target, any number of supermarket chains, and delivery apps like Instacart. Restaurant chains found years ago that expanding grocery stores not only provided additional sources of income, but also a hassle-free way to keep their brand names in front of consumers. Because of this, the aisles are filled with items like pre-ground Starbucks coffee beans and chunky salsa from Chi-Chi.