The crazy merchandise Cheetos, Coke and KFC and other food companies sell to get attention

You could use that $1 bill toward a small bag of Cheetos.


Or you could use 20,000 of them to buy a Cheetos earrings and ring set with orange sapphires and black and white diamonds set in 18-karat gold. Yes, that’s $20,000 U.S. dollars.
As competition on supermarket shelves and in food courts grows fierce, food manufacturers and fast-food chains are looking beyond the usual T-shirts and baseball hats to accessorize customers.

Companies from KFC and McDonald’s s to Hidden Valley and Coca-Cola are peddling items that have little to do with the noshes they’re known for.


Think chicken and pillowcases ($14), Big Macs and wallpaper ($47), ranch dressing and fountains ($89) and soda and purses ($36.03).
Taco Bell, in late September, announced it was teaming with Gen Z retailer Forever 21 for a fashion line that includes several iterations of a bodysuit. This month, Whataburger unveiled a silver charm featuring its logo. And in the spring, Hidden Valley —yes, the maker of salad dressings — started selling a ranch dressing fountain. And yes, that’s like a chocolate fountain, but with ranch dressing.

“The brands are really fighting for mindshare, and they don’t want to just be seen as a very functional brand that helps you satiate your hunger. They want to be a part of your lifestyle,” said Julie Cottineau, CEO of Westchester, N.Y.-based consulting firm BrandTwist. “They’re trying to give you a means to say, ‘This is a brand that’s part of my identity.’ ”

While few people are willing to shell out the price of a new car for bling that showcases their love of cheesy snacks, plenty will spend a few bucks on wacky items, such as Little Caesars’ headphones for $13 or an Arby’s curly-fry golf club cover for $28.

Coca-Cola views its swag as an opportunity to connect with customers, and it’s doing it a lot. “We sell more than 500 million branded products each year,” said Kate Dwyer, director of the company’s licensing group.

Coke isn’t new to selling merchandise to the masses. The soda company’s first promotion was in 1914 — a calendar that cost two pennies. Newcomers to the swag game include In-N-Out burger, whose line-up includes air fresheners.

“Our hope is that items like these are simple and fun reminders of In-N-Out Burger that our loyal customers can enjoy or give as gifts,” vice president of operations Denny Warnick said.
In a field filled with McDonald’s ski helmets for $118 apiece and Hidden Valley dressing bottle cozies for $20, here are examples of swag gone wild:


Pizza Hut Yoga Pants
The tribal-inspired patterned pants feature triangles that look suspiciously like pizza slices. Perfect for downward-facing dog — or pigging out. $49.99.

Whataburger charm
Whatapieceofjewelry. The silver charm branded with the multi-W-ed logo of the Texas-based burger chain dangles delicately from your bracelet or necklace to tell the world that your favorite accessory is meat packed between two buns. $60.

KFC pillowcase
Who wants a One Direction member or Ryan Gosling on their pillowcase when they can have the man who’s as hot as his chicken, Col. Sanders? As the chain’s aging founder peers at his bedmate across a white expanse of brushed microfiber polyester, the pair can hunger for each other’s… wings. $14.

White Castle ornament
It’s just a small leap from White Christmas to White Castle, so “slider” into the season with a snowflake-shaped tree ornament. $7.50.
In-N-Out Burger air freshener
The iconic California chain’s air freshener comes in sets of five, showcasing its Double-Double Burger, fries, drink cup, shake cup and crossed palm trees. But alas, they don’t smell like the food. The scents are cinnamon, coconut, strawberry, peppermint and pine. $9.95.

Coca-Cola evening bag
Excuse yourself by telling your date that you need to go to the can — and mean it. This red and white purse is actually made out of vinyl-covered chrome. $36.03.

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