The Food That Built America (2019) Poster

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Fascinating insights into what drove food tycoons to succeed
Paul_in_NJ14 August 2019
Kudos to History Channel for a riveting and well-made documentary about visionaries with ambition, drive, a thirst for success, and a willingness to risk everything on an untested, untried idea for a food that no one had experienced before.

This three-part six-plus-hour documentary follows the failure and success of several now-household product names from entrepreneurs Henry Heinz, Will and John Kellogg, Frank and Forrest Mars, Charlie Post and his ambitious daughter Marjorie, Milton Hershey, Harland Sanders, Clarence Birdseye, the two McDonald brothers, and the nearly-forgotten John Pemberton and his invention, Coca-Cola. Their tales are set against the backdrop of a country that, in the space of less than a century, evolved from a largely agrarian culture to the leader of the free world.

Each story is told by well-cast and talented actors, and supported by interviews with food historians, history professors, and food writers. The dramatizations take us to earlier times when success was far from assured, and failure and bankruptcy a real possibility.

The sets are stunning. Some exterior shots were done on location. I did wonder whether many of the interior scenes were filmed at the actual locations where they first occurred. They're first rate.

The people interviewed (primarily corporate and culinary historians) add their own in-depth knowledge to each tale. Whether they're discussing Hershey, or the Kellogg brothers, or Sanders, or one of the other culinary pioneers, each stresses that while they're household names today, success was not assured. Indeed, several of these 'food pioneers' went bust -- some more than once -- only to claw their way back up. Two world wars and a great depression challenged them to the point of failure, while post-war booms presented untold opportunities.

The people chosen each invented a food (or developed new ways to prepare or sell food) that had never existed before. In each case, they had to convince a skeptical public to try something new and unique, which meant big risk and long hours. In the end, each succeeded, and most of them reaped both fame and fortune.

The tale of the Kellogg brothers is intimately intertwined with that of C.W. Post, and their shared history is riveting. The same can be said of the friendship, then rivalry, then all-out war between two candy titans -- Hershey's Chocolate and Mars, Inc.

The histories of these food tycoons are somewhat different, but they shared the same goal: to change the way America looked at food. It was their overwhelming drive to succeed, and their certainty that their idea was the one America was waiting for, that finally paid off. The Food That Built America is entertaining, instructive, and even inspiring.
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Campbell Scott the narrator is outstanding
DingelBerry14 August 2019
The narrator of this very entertaining story is Campbell Scott, he is one if not the best at telling stories, love all the background stories on the major characters, a well deserved 10
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Almost perfect
drjgardner16 August 2019
"The Food that Built America" is another in the series about how American was "built". Previous series include "The Men Who Built America" (2012), "How Booze Built America" (2017), and "The Men Who Built America: The Frontiersmen" (2018). Each one is exceptional as is this one.
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Interesting and educational
rider32024 August 2019
Stunned my co-workers with all my "knowledge." Learn how Hershey, Kellogg, Post, McDonalds, and Heinz became household brands.
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