There are some ad campaigns that just stick with you, using catchy phrases that people still remember decades later. If "It's Parkay!" sounds familiar, you might remember a little talking tub of Parkay margarine. The Parkay butter and margarine argument was a popular (and funny) series of commercials that got its start in the 70s, but Parkay and margarine go back even farther back.
Margarine, or oleomargarine, was invented in France in the 1870s. When the butter-like spread found its way to the United States, the dairy industry fought against it. They got the Federal Margarine Act passed, which taxed margarine and other spread that pretended to be butter.
Margarine might not have caught hold in the U.S., but then World War II happened. The shortages of food staples like butter meant that families across the U.S. reached for the best alternative. Margarine gained a place on the breakfast table and kitchen counter, especially after the margarine tax was repealed.
In the 70s and 80s when dieting became something of a national pastime, real butter was seen as unhealthy. Home cooks looked relied on margarine as a healthy alternative for topping pancakes and buttering pans.
In 1973, Kraft used a series of commercials to promote the buttery taste of Parkay. The set up was the same for each ad: Someone would look at a container of Parkay and call it Parkay, the container would talk back and say "Butter." The argument would go back and forth until the person tried a bite of the margarine. After realizing the creamy taste, they would argue that it had to be butter and the container would answer back with "Parkay!"
All sorts of celebrities got in on the act. Football great Deacon Jones, Laurel and Hardy, Vic Tayback and others argued with a tub of talking Parkay about whether or not it was butter. The commercials were funny and memorable, and people still know what it means when you say "Parkay!"
While Parkay is still produced and sold, now by ConAgra, these days it's seen as a less healthy food. Parkay ingredients include liquid soybean oil, water, palm oil, nonfat milk, whey, salt, buttermilk, vegetable monoglycerides, diglycerides and soy lecithin as emulsifiers, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate as preservatives, natural and artificial flavors, phosphoric acid and vitamin A palmitate. The vegetable oil spread is colored with beta carotene, which is also a source of vitamin A. However, Parkay is cholesterol free and has a total fat content of only 8 g, so it's not so bad.
You may be more familiar with Land O' Lakes Margarine, Country Crock, or Earth Balance, but Parkay Margarine is still alive and well with its creaminess and "Parkay" catchphrase. You can find Parkay in its original stick form, but also in a Parkay squeeze bottle, a spread and even as a buttery spray. If you want to avoid trans fats, get the spread instead of the sticks, which have 1.5 grams of trans fat per one serving size according to the product information on the Parkay website.
This post was originally published on May 20, 2020.