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Borden’s Elsie Steps Back Into Spotlight With New Look

Elsie, Borden spokescow
Elsie’s new look

Borden, founded more than a century and a half ago, has re-emerged with new ownership, leadership, a focus on its people and an optimistic vision. At the center of the revival is Elsie, Borden’s “spokescow,” who has been given a more modern look.

First introduced by Borden in 1936, Elsie is one of America’s best-known brand mascots and was named one of the top 10 advertising icons of the 20th century by AdAge. Elsie’s new appearance can be seen across the company’s marketing channels and will be on product packaging in dairy aisles throughout the southeastern U.S. this summer. 

“Despite not having made marketing investments in recent years, the Borden brand still holds a lot of equity, driven by over 150 years of dairy leadership,” said Joe DePetrillo, chief marketing officer at Dallas, Texas-based Borden. “Elsie remains a beloved and iconic representation of this proud heritage with people of all generations. For these reasons, we wanted our brand refresh to be evolutionary in nature rather than revolutionary. We were mindful to respect the familiarity and trust Elsie has earned while ensuring that our brand stays relevant to today’s consumer.”

Part of Elsie’s reintroduction involves a new marketing campaign with a “Glass Half-Full Since 1857” tagline.

“Our research showed that Elsie represents pure joy and optimism for American families, which we are harnessing as key drivers in all marketing initiatives in 2019,” DePetrillo said.

Borden partnered with BrandCory on its logo refresh and with Ohio-based Curiosity for its marketing strategy and plan. Curiosity will support a fully integrated campaign, including creative, consumer strategy and media.

In its heyday, Borden was the only national dairy company in the U.S. and the world’s largest dairy operator, surpassing $7 billion in annual sales. Besides being known for its milk, Borden was woven into pop culture, thanks to Elsie. She was considered America’s sweetheart, reaching celebrity status with appearances at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the World’s Fair, major universities and even cameos in Hollywood and on Broadway.

Borden ran into turbulent times after an ownership change in the 1980s. Sales dropped, and Elsie’s fame dimmed due to limited exposure and lack of marketing support. But now she’s back, and Borden, a newly independent company, is gaining momentum and industry share.

Leading Borden’s rejuvenation is CEO Tony Sarsam. Sarsam has more than three decades of experience in the food industry with companies including PepsiCo and Nestlé. Just prior to Borden, he served as CEO at Ready Pac Foods, guiding the company to an industry-leading 60 percent growth over four years.

Since taking the helm at Borden in March 2018, Sarsam has handpicked a new leadership team, re-established the marketing and sales functions and added a research and development team to help the company launch new products.

He also introduced “The Borden Difference” to be a rallying cry to be the most service-oriented dairy company for customers. Through his commitment to a “people first” culture, Sarsam said he is eager to attract and retain a talented workforce. The efforts are paying off with significant sales growth, the company says.

“Borden has a rich history spanning many decades and filled with both victories and lessons learned,” Sarsam said. “When it comes to our future, the people of Borden have a ‘glass half-full’ outlook. We are passionate and ready to bring innovation and pure joy to milk lovers everywhere.”

The company was founded in 1857 by Gail Borden Jr. It was the first company to develop a patent for the process of condensing milk, as well as the first company to use glass milk bottles.

Today, Borden operates 13 milk processing plants and almost 100 branches across the U.S. that produce and distribute nearly 500 million gallons of milk annually for customers in the grocery, mass market, club, foodservice, hospitality, school and convenience store channels. The company employs approximately 3,300 people.

Elsie new look on truck

Borden rates No. 16 on Forbes reputable companies list

Borden has landed the No. 16 spot on Forbes’ 2019 list of America’s 100 Most Reputable Companies. It is the only Texas-based company ranked in the top 20.

“We are honored to earn a spot on this year’s list of Most Reputable Companies and look forward to ranking even higher on the list as we continue to prioritize consumer needs and product innovation,” Sarsam said. “We know Americans have a lot of options for delicious and nutritious food and beverages, so consumer trust is something we’ll never take for granted.”

Forbes’ Most Reputable Companies List, compiled annually by the Reputation Institute since 2007, ranks companies based on public perception of each brand’s products, performance, leadership, governance, workplace, citizenship and innovation. Approximately 2,200 companies were measured and 167,000 people were surveyed from January to February 2019.

About the author

Lorrie Griffith

An observer of the grocery industry since 1988. Away from her editor job, she's a wife and mother of two grown sons and thinks cooking is (usually) relaxing.

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