In post-World War II years, Americans became obsessed with convenience foods. Prepackaged and easy to assemble cake mixes, pre-sliced bread, TV dinners, instant coffee, and more became popular purchases at the grocery store. In 1971, Indiana native Ruth Siems invented a new addition to the ever-growing list of convenience products available on store shelves: Stove Top Stuffing.
Ruth was born in Evansville, Indiana, and February 20, 1931. Her parents were both teachers. After graduating from Bosse High School, Ruth enrolled at Purdue University. There, she earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics, graduating in 1953.
After graduating, Ruth returned to Evansville, where she got a job at the General Foods plant. Ruth was assigned to test the quality of cake and flour mixes. After a few years, Ruth relocated to the company’s Tarrytown, New York facility, where she began to work in research and development.
It was while employed in the research and development department that Ruth became the lead inventor on a project to develop and improve ready-made stuffing mix. Stove Top Stuffing was born. The secret to the recipe’s success was the perfect sized breadcrumb, a development that the company later patented in 1975. Delicious, perfectly made stuffing, was now just five minutes away with the addition of water and a little heat.
The product hit shelves in 1971. The company had a great product, but part of the secret to its success lay in General Foods’ marketing strategy. Stuffing was ubiquitous with Thanksgiving, but in order to be profitable, the company needed strong year-round sales. Using the tagline, “Stuffing Instead of Potatoes?” General Foods embarked on an ingenious marketing plan to convince Americans that Stove Top Stuffing could replace the starch in their weeknight dinners. The plan was highly successful, and soon Stove Top had become a food icon. Although the side dish is still heavily associated with Thanksgiving meals, today it has become a year-round staple for many families.
The Stove Top brand was purchased by Kraft Foods in 1995. Today, it is available in five flavors: turkey, chicken, beef, cornbread, and sourdough. An estimated 60 million boxes are sold each year.
Ruth worked at General Foods for over 30 years before retiring in 1985. After retiring, she returned home to Indiana. Ruth purchased a historic home in Newburgh, Indiana. She spent her retirement years collecting antiques and restoring historic spinning wheels and looms. She was widely known in her community for her love of sewing. Ruth died on November 13, 2005, and is buried in her hometown of Evansville, Indiana.
Stove Top Stuffing has been in high demand since it first hit product shelves in 1971. Debuting at a time in America when convenience foods were in high demand, Stove Top Stuffing reinvented the way Americans thought about the traditional holiday food. Today, millions of Americans enjoy stuffing year-round.