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June 25, 2006

Fluff Kerfuffle — 'I'm going to fight to the death for Fluff'


So said Massachusetts state representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein, quoted in Andrew Ryan's June 23 Associated Press story about an uproar just unleashed by state senator Jarrett Barrios's proposal to ban the serving of Fluff in school lunchrooms and cafeterias.

For those who may not be familiar with Fluff (somehow I doubt it's very big in India — but I could be wrong), it's a spreadable combination of corn syrup, sugar, dried egg white and vanilla.

Why the brouhaha?

Perhaps because Fluff was invented in Massachusetts (by Archibald Query, who sold it door-to-door before World War I) and has been made at Durkee-Mower Inc. headquarters in Lynn, Massachusetts since the 1920s.

They're on track to sell seven million pounds of the stuff this year, an all-time record.

Representative Reinstein has jumped to Fluff's defense and introduced legislation which would make the Fluffernutter — peanut butter and Fluff on bread —


"the official sandwich of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

And the talking heads continue to cluck in wonderment at why young people don't find the political arena of any interest or consequence.

Here's the AP story.

    Mass. Company Just Wants to Make Fluff

    Much of Don Durkee's 80-year life has been Fluff. His father first began peddling Marshmallow Fluff — a gooey, spreadable, sticky delight — door-to-door in 1920 and later founded a family business to make it. Ever since, New England schoolchildren have grown up on Fluffernutter sandwiches — peanut butter and a layer of marshmallow on bread. Now, in its home state of Massachusetts, Fluff has come under fire.

    A state senator proposed limiting its availability in school lunchrooms to once a week, horrified at the prospect of it being a daily staple of kids' diets. Another lawmaker jumped to Fluff's defense, nominating the Fluffernutter as the official state sandwich.

    Durkee, who now leads his family's company and churns out Fluff by the ton inside the Durkee-Mower Inc. headquarters in Lynn, isn't one for the spotlight. He's content to make Fluff and nothing else — in fact, this year, the company is on the brink of selling 7 million pounds for the first time in its history.

    Ever since the controversy broke out, he's shunned calls from reporters.

    "Like most people, I think it is a little frivolous to bring it to the attention of our governing bodies," Durkee said during a recent interview with The Associated Press as he sat in his office and fidgeted with his reading glasses. "I think obesity is a problem, but I don't think it can be legislated."

    The kerfuffle has stirred passions in generations of New Englanders who fondly associate Fluff with their childhood, while others question its place in an increasingly obese world.

    Fluff's allure isn't up for debate. Even state Sen. Jarrett Barrios, the lawmaker who proposed limiting Fluffernutter sandwiches in schools, says he has it at home.

    "He loves Fluff as much as the next legislator," said Barrios aide Colin Durrant.

    State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein announced her own legislation designating the Fluffernutter as the official state sandwich. Barrios insisted he isn't anti-Fluff and said he plans to co-sponsor Reinstein's bill, but still supports schools rationing Fluff in school lunches.

    "I'm going to fight to the death for Fluff," Reinstein said.

    Fluff was invented in the Somerville kitchen of Archibald Query, who sold it door-to-door just before World War I.

    In 1920, two Infantry veterans of the war — H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower — bought the recipe from Query for $500. With a barrel of sugar and a secondhand Ford, the pair began driving around looking for customers. Back then, a gallon of the stuff sold for about $1; these days, a 16-oz. jar goes for a little more than $2.

    Fluff has always been just four ingredients: corn syrup, sugar, dried egg white and vanilla. The corn syrup and sugar are cooked and poured into 13 mixing bowls that stand 6 feet tall. One person measures the egg whites and vanilla for every batch by hand.

    "I can't tell you how long we whip it for," Durkee said without smiling. "That's about the only part of the trade secret. You could almost invent it by accident."

    While most other companies start with one product and then branch out, Durkee-Mower just makes Fluff. About as diverse as it has gotten is making different flavors, such as raspberry and strawberry.

    "While it looks like it's old-fashioned, they are not so dumb," said Roberta Clarke, a marketing professor at Boston University. "There is no other word for Fluff. They own the category."

    The privately held company says it can be used in fruit salads, cheesecakes, lemon meringue pies, fruit flavored shakes and dessert bars. Dollops of Fluff can go in hot chocolate or be used as the base for cake frosting. The Yummy Book, a Fluff cookbook, includes recipes for Sweet Potato Souffle, Never Fail Fudge and Popcorn Fluff Puffs.

    "It makes great Whoopie Pies," Durkee added.

    Durkee-Mower does have some competition in the spreadable marshmallow market, including Kraft Food Inc., which makes Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme. Kraft would not disclose sales figures or poundage.

    More than 50 percent of the Fluff sold is in New England and upstate New York, said Durkee, who wouldn't disclose exact figures. However, as Northeasterners move west and south — and supermarket chains merge — Fluff has followed.

    "Fluff has gone through so many generations — parents, children — so many people grew up on it," Durkee said. "It's convenient. And kids like it."


Yeah, I figured that right about now you'd be wondering exactly how Fluff could cause such strong emotions to erupt.

You want to try it but they don't have it where you shop.

No problema — that's why we're here.


Three 16 oz. plastic tubs of Fluff — enough to determine definitively whether or not it's for you, it would seem to me — will set you back $14.50.

June 25, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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At risk of sounding like Marvin "Sounds awful"

Posted by: Skipweasel | Jun 26, 2006 4:41:52 PM

um. I think at this age I would rather develop a taste for... say.. truffles, than corn syrup, sugar and vanilla. My teeth started hurting when I read that.

Btw, if you apply the 'modern' meaning of the word 'fluff' into that article, it becomes MUCH MUCH more interesting - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluffing

Posted by: IB | Jun 26, 2006 5:59:52 AM

When I moved to Ohio from R.I. I would bring it back when I visited. Graham crackers and peanut butter and Fluff is what my hubby took to Ford for years in his lunch.

Posted by: Jackie Keesee | Jun 25, 2006 8:59:34 PM

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