Hidden Valley is here with a banger installment in the “products nobody asked for” line. On Wednesday, the company announced a new collaboration with drugstore mainstay Burt’s Bees “to infuse the irresistible flavors of a basket of wings into your favorite lip balm.” The balms will come in your choice of Hidden Valley Ranch, Buffalo Sauce, Crunchy Celery, and Fresh Carrot, all of which sound like they’d evoke the feeling of making out with someone after a tailgate.
Listen, there is nothing wrong with ranch dressing. But Hidden Valley seems to be on a singular mission to coat nearly everything in a vague dusting of buttermilk and herb and onion. Food analytics group Datassential predicted 2024 will be the year of ranch, with Hidden Valley clothing pushing name recognition with ranch-branded streetwear drops. But the brand has produced more than sweatshirts and wallpaper you’d get sick of in 30 seconds.
Looking through my inbox from the last year, there’s a flood of Hidden Valley ranch content. Before the lip balm there was, of course, the ice cream collaboration with Van Leeuwen, which left my mouth coated in a residue reminiscent of freezer burn and old cooler. There was the ranch caviar churro at Charlie Palmer Steak in New York, the release of pickle flavored ranch, ranch popcorn in partnership with AMC, ranch chili crunch topping with This Little Goat, and a weird email where the company hyped up a collaboration only to reveal it was a “self” collaboration to create Double Ranch, “the ranchiest ranch yet.” In 2022, Hidden Valley created a 2 carat diamond ring with Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning, selling it as “a beautiful and timeless way for ranch lovers to show their love for each other and ranch.” And ranch!
And that’s all aside from the vertical integration with other snack brands: the Doritos Cool Ranch and Bugles and Lay’s and Ruffles coated in green-flecked umami. This is astroturfing. This is popularity by brute force. The strategy seems to be if Hidden Valley can say “ranch” enough times, an idea will be permanently implanted in our heads — this is good, but what if it tasted like ranch? But not everything needs to taste like ranch. Ice cream especially does not need to taste like ranch. We’re barreling toward Too Much Ranch, the moment where trend curdles to oversaturation and nobody cares anymore, which is a pity because, once again, there’s nothing wrong with ranch dressing.
But this is how it works now, or has worked forever. Seize the moment, cash in, become ubiquitous while you can because nothing lasts. Except we’re talking about ranch here, a dressing and a flavor that has been massively popular and lucrative for Hidden Valley since its invention in the 1950s. Anyway, the year is sure to bring even more ranch innovation. In fact, I’ve been so primed to think ranch is everywhere that in researching this piece I googled products that don’t exist, that I’m now sure I’ve Lathe of Heavened into being. So if Hidden Valley releases a ranch perfume, sorry, that was on me.
Update, January 17, 2024: This post has been updated to add additional information on the Hidden Valley x Burt’s Bees lip balm.
Update, January 12, 2024: Product information in this post has been updated.