In the midst of a weak attempt at rebranding herself as "healthy," Food Network personality Paula Deen is launching her own line of butter at Walmart. After revealing her diabetes diagnosis a year and a half ago, Deen had been trying to move away from her image as a lying liar, pharma shill, shameless recipe thief, and private jet aficionado. In that light, butter may seem like an odd choice for her, but never fear, Deen's new butters are actually, really, truly being marketed as healthy. They're "finishing" butters that "let cooks bring a wonderful fresh butter taste to various dishes while just adding butter to the end of the cooking process," and they come in five flavors:
A Look at Paula Deen's Butters[Photos: Neil Chopra/Eater]
· Southern Grilling Butter ("Garlic goes with everything.")
· The Lemon Dill Butter ("Perfect for a tangy and creamy grilled chicken y'all.")
· The European Style Butter ("Y'all know that I love my travels to Europe and I call my European Style Butter 'Bread's Best Friend.'")
· Sweet Citrus Zest Butter ("My Sweet Citrus Zest butter is hard to practice in moderation...it feels so fresh and clean on your palette [sic]."
· Garden Herb Butter ("The herbs just explode in my mouth.")
She also is launching a line of tortilla chips and sugar free chocolates, available at Walmarts in the Southeast.
Video: Paula Deen on Today
Yesterday, Deen made a couple appearances on television in which she used butter at the end of a recipe, as opposed to her old schtick of all-butter-all-the-time. It's healthier that way, or something? This is a woman who has a recipe for deep fried butter balls that takes two and a half hours to prepare. What happened to Deen not wanting to "associate her name with butter anymore?" About a year ago, on HGTV's Celebrities at Home, Deen said, "When you hear the name Paula Deen...I want you to think of the word 'hope.'" Hope you like compound butters.
Anyway, she never mentioned her Walmart line in her appearances. Instead she appears to be laying last minute ground work to make it seem like finishing butter is just a thing that she does. Instead of promoting a product on television (which producers would likely not allow), she's selling the concept. Stopping by Today, she tells Matt Lauer, "I know you're going to find this heard to believe, but I've been trying to cook with less butter...I'm trying not to use butter during the cooking process. I wait til the end, and then I put the finishing butter on it." At no point does she mention she has a line of finishing butters at Walmart. "By the way, that still counts," Lauer astutely points out. Deen retorts, "But it only counts once instead of like six times."
Video: Paula Deen on The Chew
Next it was on to The Chew, where Deen made ribs with Mario Batali. They were finished with butter, obviously: "Y'all this is what I've been trying to do lately. I've been trying not to cook with butter like through the whole thing, but I just take the finishing butter and I finish up." The succotash was also finished with butter, which Batali points out got its fat from non-butter sources: "Instead of using that pesky butter, we use three pounds of bacon fat and then we finish it with a little bit of this finishing butter." Again, on neither The Chew nor Today did Deen mention she was selling finishing butters.
Both The Chew and Today were a large part of her diabetes announcement tour. Deen announced her diabetes diagnosis and pharma sponsorship on Today on January 17, 2012. The next day, doing damage control, Deen went on The Chew and said she would donate an undisclosed percentage of her pharma profits.
Video: Paula Deen on Paula Deen Foods
Deen also released a truly bizarre video via Twitter in which she talks about why she is launching her food line. It has to do with death, and memories: "So with the food company, it's given me an opportunity to encourage families to come back to the kitchen together and build those memories, because you never know when you're going to have to count on those to get you through the day-to-day struggles." Buy Paula Deen's butter, because some day your family will die? Here's the full transcript and the video:
Because of different things that have happened to me in my life, y'all, it really brought me to this stage in my life with a few passions. You know, I lost my folks early on when my brother and I were both very young, so I really, really, really count on my memories to fill in the gaps for me and to kind of complete my family. So with the food company, it's given me an opportunity to encourage families to come back to the kitchen together and build those memories, because you never know when you're going to have to count on those to get you through the day-to-day struggles. It's my hope to bring affordable, every day luxuries to these young mothers and fathers out there raising families, and to older couples that don't do a whole bunch of cooking any more. And you know one of the best parts of this whole Paula Deen Foods is a percentage of the profits are going to my new foundation called the Bag Lady Foundation. So it makes me very, very happy to know that I'm going to have a small part in paying it forward to others in their struggles. And I thank y'all so much for considering my products. I will try my best to never, ever let you down.
Butter profits are going to charity, y'all.
Here's the press release:
PAULA DEEN FOODS MAKES A SPECIAL OCCASION FOR EVERYDAY MEALS America's Favorite Chef Brings the Magic of Her Traditional Recipes & Lighter Fare to Leading Retailers Across America
Savannah, GA (June 5, 2013) – America's favorite cook, restaurateur, author and entrepreneur Paula Deen has launched her own line of food products at retail; Paula Deen Foods (www.pauladeenfoods.com), based on her traditional Southern recipes and lighter fare as well. Her initial product line will include all-natural tortilla chips made with fresh vegetables and a line of compound "finishing" butters that let cooks bring a wonderful fresh butter taste to various dishes while just adding butter to the end of the cooking process. Leading retailers Walgreens and Walmart will be featuring the all-natural chips and finishing butters, respectively. As well, Deen brings a very special benefit to this new venture, as a portion of the proceeds from the sales of her products will be donated to the organization that she has helped found, The Bag Lady Foundation (www.thebagladyfoundation.org}, which has a mission of serving women and families in need.
"It is such an honor to be able to not only let the everyday cook bring special fresh meals, quality ingredients and great-tasting snacks to their tables to share with their friends and families, but it is an overwhelming joy to able to give back to communities across the country through The Bag Lady Foundation," says Paula Deen Foods co-founder Paula Deen. "It is my dream that in the years to come, I'll be inspiring the next great cooks to enjoy the best ingredients and products available today with their families, friends and those they love."
It was just a little over two decades ago that Deen herself was challenged with supporting her family, as a single mom with two young boys. She was fighting agoraphobia and the only way she could make money was to cook in her own home and send her young boys door-to-door selling bag lunches and her first business "The Bag Lady" was born. Just a few decades later, Deen has launched this new venture in partnership with Buffalo, New York-based Nanco Group, whose principal Steven Nanula was involved with the successful Northeastern retailers Tops Neighborhood Market & Wilson Farms.
"We're honored to bring Paula's great products and recipes to American families to provide fresh meal solutions with the best ingredients that make every day eating a special occasion," says Paula Deen Foods CEO, Steven Nanula.
In 2013, in addition to her all-natural chips and finishing butters, Deen will be bringing a line of sugar-free and premium chocolates to the marketplace with these confections having been developed from her special private blend of chocolate. Late last year Deen launched her chocolates on QVC and the sales of her sugar-free line were tremendously successful.