Issue 12 – Mustard
I love hot dogs and I'm from Chicago so we knew this was coming
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A Mustard Deep Dive
I have so many feelings about mustard I don’t even know where to start. It’s my favorite color (marigold, mustard yellow, same difference). I’m from Chicago. I love hot dogs. If you don’t understand, google “chicago ketchup”. I blow through jars of dijon like it’s nobody’s business because can you even make a good salad dressing without it? Just last week, I went to a German restaurant and ordered a plate-sized chicken schnitzel that was more or less a vessel for eating their incredible mustards (one sweet, one spicy). All to say, it’s a perfect condiment and it doesn’t get the love and respect it deserves. And let me tell you, the Mustard Rabbit Hole did not disappoint. The packaging is so inspiring and sincere, and I’m this close to booking a flight to Europe so I can buy some mustard in a tube (more on that below). Anyways, please enjoy this deep dive into a product category that is seemingly untouched by trendy packaging design in the best way. But first…
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1. Mustard for the person who has the palate of a 277-year-old
Grey Poupon was founded in 1866. Colman’s was founded in 1814. Maille was founded in 1747! I didn’t know just how old these legacy brands were until I started researching this letter, but after digging further it’s not all that surprising. Mustard as a spice is one of the earliest on record, appearing in Sanskrit manuscripts around 3000 BCE, and mustard as a condiment dates back to the early Romans. I’d love to see how they were storing this colorful condiment back then, but I’m quite pleased with how these brands are jarring it today. Per usual, this is one of my favorite categories in this deep dive because of that whole “timeless cool” thing that always wins for me when it comes to packaging design. Side note, I’m now obsessed with vintage mustard pots.
2. Mustard for the person who longs for the days of “Harvest Gold”
What’s “harvest gold,” you may be asking? Picture the “before” photo of a fixer-upper kitchen remodel in Domino. Or any number of recent brands that have been bringing back that avocado green and orange/yellow palette. All to say, these bottles and jars look like they could be set pieces on The Brady Bunch or That ‘70s Show. And because apparently mustard brands can do no wrong, these are all working. They don’t feel try-hard or overly designed, but rather truly feel like they time traveled 50 years to the future. I especially love that top left bottle of Finnish mustard and the type on Mister Mustard. Also, Mustard Girl would be a great Halloween costume.
3. Mustard for the person who believes mustard belongs in a yellow squeeze bottle
Do the same people who don’t like grainy mustard also not like pulpy orange juice or crunchy peanut butter? Just a thought. Like I said above, I’m from Chicago, so these sorts of classic yellow mustards have a time and a place, and that time and place is on a hot dog dragged through the garden. You probably recognize those three bottles up top–especially the top right if you, too, are from Chicago. Fun fact: Plochman’s factory survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Unlike ketchup, there’s more variety in the squeeze bottle department too. The label designs on these are nothing special, but they don’t need to be. Now that I know so many of the legacy brands are French, the fact that French’s is called “French’s” and describes itself as “American flavor in a bottle” is kind of funny (and American).
4. Ketchup for the person who doesn’t read labels
And by that I mean, these bottles and jars are screaming “mustard” without actually saying much. The color speaks for itself! If you’re not going to go all old world style as a mustard brand, I like this approach. Bonus points for Ikea putting a hot dog illo on their bottle. It feels right that their ketchup bottle has a tomato on it, and their mustard bottle has that instead of a mustard plant.
5. Mustard for the person who collects mustard
Or thinks the best part of traveling abroad is going grocery shopping. Just don’t put these in your carry-on and lose them to TSA (if you’ve lost a food souvenir to TSA because it was “liquid” please comment below and we can commiserate). I was losing my shit discovering all of these cute mustard tubes down the rabbit hole. Can you stand it? Now I’m desperate to design a mustard tube for a brand. Let’s not overlook the mustard-stein or mustard bear either.
Phew that was a fun one! I hope you enjoyed viewing that mustard packaging as much as I did finding it.
Time Travel Time
I’d frame a few of these ads (you can probably guess which). My biggest takeaway from traveling back in time through mustard ads? Mixing it with other packaged products like condensed milk, butter, and horseradish to create a sauce was all the rage. There was a noticeable lack of hot dogs in most of the ads too. Now I’m tempted to go on a hot dog deep dive to understand when mustard and hot dogs became so synonymous (or is that just me?).
If you hang out on the same internet as me, surely you already know. I’ve been admiring her work and style from afar for years, and am always impressed by how original and true to herself her style is. She’s not one to follow trends, and whether she means to or not, she’s often the one creating them. To put it simply, she has great taste. Ali runs the branding studio and creative consultancy Ali Labelle Creative, writes the incredibly inspiring newsletter (I mean it, you should subscribe), and is also the woman behind Pasta Girlfriend. As expected, I discovered a lot of new things through Ali’s answers to the below questions, and I’m excited to share them with you.
What are 3-5 items that are always stocked in your home?
Ricola Mountain Mint (the Swiss candy kind, not the CVS throat lozenge kind)
Maison Louis Marie candle in No. 4
Homecourt dish soap in Cece
Why are you loyal to those brands or products?
I’m really sensitive to scents and smells—I really feel like it can make or break an environment. And I just really hate the smell of chemicals! So if I have an opportunity to make a choice that smells woodsy or minty or fresh, I always will.
I got obsessed with the little boxes of Ricola you can buy in European bodegas and pharmacies on a recent trip to Switzerland. I love the little cartons they come in and they just taste so good! My friend got in my car the other day while I had one in my mouth and she was like, “Why does it smell so good in here?”
I am a total creature of habit and I always come back to Maison Louis Marie candles, especially in the No. 4 scent. The packaging isn’t anything exciting but I think that’s why I like it—I prefer simplicity over things feeling over-designed. I buy them 4 at a time.
And I was so skeptical about Courtney Cox’s homecare brand Homecourt, which sells things like countertop sprays and dish soap that cost way more than I’d normally spend on such things, but I honestly find myself cleaning more now that I use products that smell good. I hate hate hate doing the dishes, but this helps.
What was the last thing you bought because it stood out to you on the shelf?
This is a frequent repurchase: Al Frantoia di Aldo Armato dried hot red pepper flakes. I keep it out on my counter because I love how it looks (and I use red pepper flakes in almost everything.)
What was the last thing you bought because someone you know recommended it?
I think it was a book: The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer. My friend Sarah just read it in a day and I trust her taste so I ordered it immediately.
What was the last thing you bought because of an algorithm?
That SSENSE sale really killed me; I feel like once I clicked on one person’s “here’s what I bought” haul an avalanche of SSENSE content made its way to me. Against all odds I only bought two things: a crystal Mondo Mondo bracelet and a Toteme jacket.
Favorite place to shop irl?
Book stores and grocery stores. I do love a curated experience (like a museum gift shop or a pantry shop) but I also just really enjoy a long walk around Barnes & Noble or Gelson’s.
Favorite place to shop online?
Chairish. I’m mostly window shopping, but I could scroll and scroll for hours.
Someone is visiting where you live for a day, what are 3 musts?
Bucatini in Echo Park. It’s a pantry shop full of Mediterranean imported foods and home goods owned by two of my good friends, Victoria and Sofia. A lot of stuff they sell are things you can only find there (it’s the one place I can buy my Ricolas in LA) so it feels a little like a treasure trove of pastas and pestos and cookies that you might not already be familiar with. And it’s beautiful; the shop is filled with antique furniture and textiles that Vic and Sofia collected themselves.
Nickey Kehoe in Beverly Grove. Half showroom, half home goods store, Nickey Kehoe is like, if the inside of my brain became an IRL place. The things they make are gorgeous—sofas, light fixtures, throw pillows, and more—but they also curate items from all over the world that just have a classic, “picked this up in a market in France” vibe.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. I don’t think there’s a more beautiful place in LA, and I’m lucky to live right down the street. Its 130-acres include a rose garden, a cactus garden, a Japanese garden, lily ponds, herbs, fountains, and more—you could just walk and walk for hours and feel like you’re traveling the world. My favorite part is the museum, which houses a stunning permanent collection as well as visiting exhibitions. It’s so special.
Thank you, Ali!
(Those loose leftover pieces at the bottom of the box)
Mustard Dorito’s, Y or N? If I saw this squeezable mustard sauerkraut at a store I’d impulse buy it. Windy City Mustard Sauce, aka Chicago style hot dog toppings in a bottle. I’d buy it in a pinch after learning last summer how hard it is to find sport peppers in the Hudson Valley. Old news, but French’s Skittles are an absurd brand collab I’d actually try. Perfect brand merch in the form of a Colman’s jumper, beanie and scarf. Mustard jars with spoons are the new salt cellar (according to me). If this shirt wasn’t sold I would have purchased instantly. And on the subject of vintage tees, I think about this early 2000s UO graphic tee that I once rocked far too often. I kind of wish it said “everyone loves a mustard girl” though.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading, I love you. If you’re feeling generous or inspired, please forward this newsletter to a friend and encourage them to subscribe too <3
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