History of Utz Girl and its Comparison with Peko Chan

For a symbol research project, I picked the Utz girl logo because I adore it. I think it captures the cuteness of girls in its simple design, but it also has a bit of an eerie feeling from its deformation and simplicity. I was instantly drawn to the girl when I saw an Utz potato chips bag for the first time. Whenever I see the girl in delis or drug stores, it makes me happy.

The logo in 1921

Utz Quality Foods started as “Hanover Home Brand”, a potato chips producer, in 1921. William and Salie Utz, the founders, made about 50 pounds of potato chips per hour in their summer kitchen. At that time, the logo of the “Hanover Home Brand” potato chips was a girl with a flapper hairstyle and a big red ribbon. One of her hands reaches into a bag of potato chips.

The Utz girl in 1947

The company steadily grew, and in 1947, the business was incorporated. The logo at the time was the same as the one in 1921. The company continued to expand with new machines and bigger facilities and with the production of other snacks such as pretzels and corn chips.

I saw a picture of the Utz’s factory in 1975, but I am not sure if the logo is still the original one or it had already changed to the new Utz girl.

A picture of the Utz factory in 1975

By 1987, the logo definitely became the current Utz girl. The girl became round, much simplified, and much younger (around 10years old while the original one looks like mid-late teens).  Also, she looks at you with big round eyes, while the original one looks down with modesty. She continues to reach into a potato chip bag.

The company in 1987

The company in 1989

 

 

 

 

Today, Utz is the largest independent privately held snack brand in the US. You can see the Utz girl in delis and drug stores on the East coast. Their potato chips and other snacks usually cost from 25 cents to around $4. You can see the animated Utz girl (with blinking eyes and moving mouth and hand) on their company homepage. She even writes blogs. (http://www.utzsnackcentral.com/)

The company today

(The information above and pictures came from http://www.utzsnacks.com/about_history.html)

I looked for an American girl logo that looks like the Utz girl but I could not find any.  The only girl logo I know that bears similarities to the Utz girl is Peko or Peko-chan, the mascot girl of the major Japanese confectionery, Fujiya Food Service co., Ltd.

Peko came out in 1950 as a paper-mache doll. People were fascinated with the girl in pigtails with her tongue hanging out of her mouth. The life-size dolls were so popular that people often tampered with them and the company’s employees had to fix them frequently. She was fashionable and changed her clothes, following the fashion trend at the time. She is eternally 6 years old and in 1951, her boyfriend Poko was born. Poko is eternally 7 years old.

Poko

Paper-mache Peko and Poko

Peko started participating in social activities and showing up in TV commercials. She even became the title and subject of children’s magazines. In the late 50s, Peko dolls started to be made of vinyl or plastic. In 1961, American designer Raymond Loewy designed the “F” mark of Fujiya, and Peko dolls sometimes wore that mark on her red overall.

Different Pekos

F of Fujiya designed by Raymond Loewy

In the 60s, her wardrobe expanded. She sometimes dressed as a hotel employee or Superman. Around that time, there were many different versions of Peko chan.

To standardize the look of Peko, the company created a rulebook on Peko, regulating facial expressions and poses of Peko. The rulebook is considered an important secret document of the company. In 1981, she started appearing on small goods that girls liked to collect. In 1995, a new character and a friend of Peko and Poko, “Dog”, joined the group.

Dog

In the late 90’s, Fujiya introduced “mini mini Peko chan”, a palm-sized mascot that comes with a chocolate. People bought the chocolate to collect Peko dolls in different ethnic outfits so that shops ran out of the chocolate easily.  In 1998, Peko and Poko were issued the first three-dimensional trademarks by the Patent Office.

There was a little change made to her face in 2006 and her eyes started having little white precuts.

New eyes of Peko

A wide variety of Peko goods have been invented and sold. Peko is as popular as ever.

Peko is more popular in Japan than the Utz girl in the United States. Most of the people in Japan know about Peko and have seen her somewhere. She’s been on TV and in magazines, and her real-size dolls were placed in many places. Peko merchandise is ubiquitous. She is a social phenomenon. On the other hand, I see that Utz girl goods exist on the company’s website and their gift shop, but the selection is still limited. Both of the girls are very cute, but I think I prefer the simplicity of the Utz girl, maybe partially due to my inclination to cheer for the underdog. I am curious to see how the Utz girl and Peko will develop in the future.

Different Peko goods

(The above information and pictures came from the official Fujiya website: http://www.fujiya-peko.co.jp/pekoworld/history/history01.html)

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