The Unexpected Company That Took A Chance On Hidden Valley

If you live in the Midwest, you have undoubtedly dabbled in Hidden Valley Ranch. And although this U.S. region consumes more ranch than any other, the condiment is beloved everywhere in the country. According to the Association for Dressings and Sauces, ranch is the most adored dressing in the U.S., with 40% of Americans claiming it as their favorite. The second-place finisher, Italian dressing, doesn't even come close at 10% (via The New York Times).

Ranch even has its place in pop culture, where reality star Stassi Schroeder proclaimed, "On my tombstone, I want 'ranch is bae,'" Thrillist reports. There have been SNL skits about the sauce, and a sapphire-studded bottle of ranch once sold for $35,000 (via Eat This, Not That!). Considering ranch's versatility as a condiment, we're not surprised. Americans add it to everything, from pizza to popcorn, mozzarella sticks to fried chicken, salads to dips — the list goes on.

But while ranch is a renowned condiment, the story of its rise is less well-known, and you may be surprised to learn which company gave our favorite dressing its big break.

More than a cleaning company

America's most popular condiment comes from humble beginnings. In 1954, the founders of Hidden Valley Ranch got their start on a dude ranch in Santa Barbara, California. It was here that they fine-tuned their recipe for ranch dressing, which became so popular in their local community that eventually, word got out, and they began selling it all over the country (via Hidden Valley). "People carried it home in mayonnaise jars," founder Steve Henson told The New York Times. Henson continues, "[It] seemed like we were always mixing it, and we put it on everything: steaks, vegetables, potatoes."

By the time ranch dressing became a national success in the 1970s, bigger corporations had started to take notice, but it was Clorox that took the family business and turned it into a household name. In 1972, Henson sold his company with his ranch dressing recipe to Clorox for $8 million, according to KQED. Clorox has since brought innovation to the products while staying true to the original recipe. 

According to The Clorox Company, they launched bottled salad dressings in 1983, some exciting flavors in the 1990s (taco ranch and pizza ranch), and lower-fat and organic versions in the 2000s. The Doritos brand and Domino's also helped send ranch to stardom by introducing Cool Ranch Doritos and the ranch-pizza combination (via Ranch4Life). So while you may think of Clorox as just a cleaning product company, without their help, ranch dressing as we know it today might not exist.