The Company That Owns Hidden Valley Ranch Has Nothing To Do With Food

Ranch dressing has become a staple of the American palette. "Ranch is now far and away the most popular salad dressing in the country," according to The New York Times, which cited a 2017 study by the Association for Dressings and Sauces in which 40% of Americans said ranch is their favorite dressing — 30% more than any other. Popular as a dressing and as a dip for foods like vegetables and chicken wings, ranch is a buttermilk-, sour cream-, or mayonnaise-based condiment that's usually flavored with herbs, onion and garlic, pepper, and sometimes lemon. 

Hidden Valley Ranch is one of the most famous brands of pre-made ranch — 97% of people have heard of it, according to YouGovAmerica. Its blue-and-green label is iconic. It frequently tops lists of best-tasting ranch, such as this one at My Recipes. Hidden Valley's "for everything" ranch even ranked number two on Serious Eats' taste test. 

Birthed in 1954, Hidden Valley Ranch is named after an actual ranch in California where the owner, Steve Henson, routinely wowed guests with his signature salad dressing, so much so that they wanted to bring extra home with them (via Hidden Valley). Then, after considerable success throughout the 60s selling ranch ingredient packets through the mail, Henson sold Hidden Valley to a huge conglomerate.

Clorox bought Hidden Valley Ranch in the 70s

Steve Henson and his family received a whopping $8 million for Hidden Valley Ranch in 1972 from, oddly enough, the Clorox company (via The New York Times). To put that legendary sale into perspective, that $8 million would equal about $53,808,229.67 today, according to US Inflation Calculator

Cleaning product companies, especially bleach manufacturers, may not be the most appetizing thing to be associated with ranch dressing — or any food. Yet, ranch as a flavor has exploded since Clorox took over Hidden Valley, flooding the market with ranch-flavored chips, crackers, taco shells, and even soda. Hidden Valley products earned more than $450 million in 2017, according to KQED, about 56 times Clorox's initial investment in just one year. 

Ranch in general and Hidden Valley specifically continue to have their super fans. Ranch devotees can even show their love for their favorite dressing on their feet — with Hidden Valley Ranch Crocs.