This story aired in February 2012
The last place you’d probably expect to find a Bible verse is on aisle five of your grocery store. But’s there! It’s on food items like potato chips, barbecue sauce, cereal and even a can of chili. You could call it ‘Soul Food’.
When we showed the can of chili to Vivian Coleman, who was shopping at Huntsville’s Star Market, she remarked, “That’s a little unusual.” In fact, she wasn’t quite sure what to think seeing a Bible verse on a can of food.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Coleman said. “It’s definitely unusual.”
Another shopper, Betsy Roberts, agreed. Her reaction to seeing scripture on the label, “Ah, okay, a Bible verse. That is new. I’ve not see that on a can of food before.”
But Bible verses like Proverbs 15:01 have been on cans of Vietti Chili for 10 years now. The verse reads “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
“We have to look at our labels on our products as kind of a billboard and reach out to our customers by using the labels,” said Philip Connelly, President of Vietti Foods, Inc.
Connelly is the brains behind putting scripture on the chili cans. He says it’s a way to reach out to consumers in a way that the competition either can’t or won’t.
In the past decade, Vietti’s used two dozen different verses on its chili cans distributed to more than half a dozen southern states. People have taken notice.
“We get letters periodically from consumers that say, you know, I appreciate what you’re doing,” said Connelly. “And that means we’re reaching them in a way that we wouldn’t have if all they had to look at was the brand and the price.”
The Bible verses are from the Old Testament. Sharing them on a label is also a testament of the company president’s faith. “It is,” said Connelly. “I’m a Christian and I was proud to put a scripture on the label, on each label and we’ll continue to do that.”
Chili accounts for only about five or six percent of Vietti Foods annual sales but still, the company produces five million cans of chili every year at its plant in Nashville. That’s a lot of Bible verses.
Several hours to the west of the Music City, another company in Bartlett, Tennessee is sharing the gospel too on more than 100 of its products. But you can find them right here in the Tennessee Valley. Robert Garrett is a distributor for Brim’s Snack Foods in Madison, Morgan, Lawrence and Cullman counties.
Brim’s salty snacks include everything from pork rinds and cracklins to popcorn and potato chips. And on every bag they sell, you’ll find a Bible verse. Visit their website and there’s a tab to help you find Everlasting Life.
Garrett believes in the products he sells. In 2005, the company he worked for filed for bankruptcy. Several potential employers called him. One of them was Brim’s Snack Foods.
“I told my daughter the only way that I’m gonna know that I made the right decision is God is going to have to write it on a piece of paper and hand it to me,” said Garrett.
When he got home after the interview, he told his daughter Whitney about seeing scripture on every sample they showed him.
“She said ‘Daddy, I think you just had your note handed to you’,” Garrett said. That was seven years ago.
Like Vietti’s, Brim’s gets a lot of positive feedback from people. In today’s world though, some might say putting scripture on a food product could hurt the sale of a product.
“We take some risks and there’s a chance that some folks won’t like it and that’s their prerogative,” said Phillip Connelly.
It looks like the risk is paying off.
“I hope so, I think so. We’re doing well,” said Connelly.
Some consumers like Larry Word of Huntsville will spend their money to support a company brave enough to take a stand a let their little light shine.
“I’ll probably try it,” Word told us. We asked him if he’d do that because of the Bible verse. He looked at us and said, “Because of the Bible verse, yes sir.”