How Little Debbie Was Named

With so many delightfully sweet treats to choose from, Little Debbie has been putting smiles on faces for decades. Many who grew up snacking on these tasty desserts have fond memories of excitedly tearing open a pack and taking that first delicious bite. Whether you're a fan of the crispy Nutty Buddy bars, chocolate Swiss Rolls, stripey Zebra Cakes, or the classic oatmeal creme pies, there's a huge variety of Little Debbie bakery items to love.

Have you ever wondered about the story behind the familiar smiling, blue-eyed little lady with the straw hat on all Little Debbie's packaging? Founder O.D. McKee started from humble beginnings selling snack-sized cakes from the back of his car during the Great Depression. Deciding to continue their baking legacy, the McKee's set up shop in 1934 and went through several years of hardship before their hard work began paying off in 1960 (via Little Debbie). 

But what exactly made their business suddenly become so successful?

The secret is in the smile

O.D. McKee and his wife, Ruth, began selling snack cakes in bulk in "family packs" featuring their smiling granddaughter's face on all the packaging. This method of packaging wasn't really a thing back then, and it allowed McKee Foods to lower their snack prices while sales started taking off (via Today I Found Out). 

Little Debbie was chosen as the face of the company by packaging supplier Bob Mosher (unbeknownst to her parents, Ellsworth and Sharon McKee). Her black-and-white photo was brought to life in full color by Pearl Mann, an artist in Atlanta. Debbie's parents only learned that Debbie was the new face of their company after the logos started getting printed on boxes.

It proved to be the perfect brand image for a family-owned and operated business that has stood the test of time. Today, not-so-little Debbie McKee-Fowler currently serves as the Executive Vice President of McKee Foods and continues to inspire. She was recognized as a Woman of Distinction of Greater Chattanooga in 2015. According to Huffpost, the committee stated, "What makes her one of our women of distinction is not the fact that her face has been on one the country's favorite snacks since the 1960's; it's the fact that she has not used this platform to promote herself or her family to any position of prominence or power, but has quietly worked to enrich her community."