When New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was launching her since abandoned presidential campaign in Iowa in February, her talk at the Airliner restaurant in Iowa City got photobombed by a 22-year-old college student elbowing her way through a small crowd gathered around the bar. “Sorry, I’m just going to get some ranch,” the student said in a video, which was captured on the phone of a CNN reporter and went viral.
That student, Hanna Kinney, dubbed “Ranch Girl,” was designated by her friends to get a bottle of ranch dressing for dipping pizza during a Bible study at the restaurant that night, in part because she’s a big lifelong ranch fan. There may be two lessons to draw here. One, Democrats could have simplified debate vetting by eliminating any candidate who couldn’t beat ranch dressing for the hearts and minds of Iowa college students. Two, ranch is a force to be reckoned with, particularly among millennials and Gen Z folks who increasingly use it where prior generations used ketchup.
According to Clorox Co., marketer of category-leading Hidden Valley Ranch, 70 percent of ranch usage now happens beyond the salad bowl – including for dipping pizza, French fries and popcorn. Ranch has also displaced bleu cheese as the dipping sauce of choice for wings, says Jacquie Klein, director of the brand studio that oversees Hidden Valley marketing.
Playing to the trend, Hidden Valley rolled out a line of dips earlier this year. And in 2018 it launched a new campaign with an ad from McGarryBowen showing a guy drinking ranch with a straw and the tagline: “HVR: You either love it or you REALLY love it.”
Count Kinney among the latter -- “super fans” who drive much of Hidden Valley Ranch's growth and an even bigger share of its social media campaign to “unleash more food joy on the world,” Klein says. The brand quickly signed Kinney for an appearance at a National Ranch Day celebration in Las Vegas in March alongside a made-for-Instagram 24-foot-high bottle of ranch – the biggest container yet for a brand that earlier had rolled out a ranch fountain for a Super Bowl promotion and a giant Magnum Bottle that holds 1.75 liters for the holidays last year. At the event, someone even bathed in ranch dressing.