Have you heard about the strange obsession Mormons have with Jell-O? What is it about the sugary snack that has gained the adoration of so many people? Is it a religious thing, in some metaphorical way? Does Kraft Foods have some sort of deal with the Mormon Church?
Let’s Start With the History of Gelatin
Gelatin has actually been around for quite a long time. The snack was initially created in the late 1800s, believe it or not. However, the association between Mormons and Jell-O didn’t start until 1997, when the product had its 100th anniversary. Kraft Foods published their sales figures per capita for their gelatin Jell-O to celebrate the event. As it so happens, Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah, was the number one consumer.
A few years later, Utahns lost the title of number one to Des Moines, Iowa. In response to this change, some Brigham Young University (BYU) students campaigned to make the gelatin dish Utah’s state snack. The BYU students were successful! The State Legislature officially recognized Jell-O as Utah’s state snack in 2001.
The Winter Olympics, which took place the following year, embraced the Jell-O love phenomenon. The Olympics was held in SLC, and one of the Olympic pins for SLC, was a bowl filled with green gelatin. That pin made it official. The world knew that Utah loved Jell-O.
So Why Do Mormon’s Love Jell-O So Much?
The main theory proposes marketing as the culprit. Around the 1980s-1990s, the sugary snack went through a rough period where it was better known for Jell-O shots, and Jell-O wrestling. To improve this reputation, the manufacturers really hit hard with their family-friendly campaign. Around this time, Utah’s population was around 65% Mormon. This marketing technique would have hit home for many Mormons, seeing as the family is a very big foundational piece within the Mormon Church. So the theory proposes that the family-friendly marketing tactic drew in the family-minded Mormons.
Another theory states that gelatin’s popularity comes from it being an ideal food choice for large gatherings, and Mormons meet in large gatherings often. At the end of the day, gelatin is easy to make, cheap, and really versatile.
Personally, I think the Jell-O love is more a luck-of-the-draw situation. As a life long advocate of the Mormon Church, who also grew up in Utah, I actually don’t really care for gelatin-anything all that much. Every region and culture has their own unique preferences. Gelatin just happens to be a preference for the people of Utah. Currently, one of the more popular recipes in Mormondom is the raspberry pretzel Jell-O salad dish. Try it out yourself: Six Sisters’ Stuff Raspberry Pretzel Jello Salad