History of Ranch Dressing


Ever wonder where the famous, ever-loved Ranch salad dressing originated? Are you curious as to how it got the name Ranch to begin with? Is what they say on the Hidden Valley commercials about the dressing true? Well this article can tell you all about the beloved dressing and dip used by millions of people every day.

Creators of Ranch

The creators of Ranch dressing are Gayle and Steve Henson from a dude ranch outside Santa Barbara, California. That name of that ranch was Hidden Valley Ranch. The Hensons opened this ranch in 1954 and visitors came to enjoy horseback riding and taking in the scenery. However, the more memorable experience of these trips was generally the taste of the homemade salad dressing served at the ranch. On the menu at the dude ranch was a special salad dressing made up of buttermilk, mayonnaise and a dry mix of herbs and spices. This dressing became termed Ranch and soon was the only salad dressing served.

Exposure of Ranch Dressing

As more and more people began to visit the Hidden Valley Ranch and taste the special salad dressing concocted by the Hensons, word spread about the amazing flavor of this wonderful dressing. When a guest requested to take a large batch of the dressing with him to Hawaii for a party he was hosting, Steve Henson agreed. Soon that guest wanted more because everyone had fallen in love with the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.

Marketing the Product

Steve Henson realized he had a great product and wanted to expand on his success. He hired extra help for mixing the dressing at the ranch. He then decided to sell a powdered mixture of the herbs and spices used in the Ranch dressing. However, the problem with the powdered packets was that it required users to mix it with their own buttermilk and mayonnaise, and many households did not keep buttermilk on hand.

The Sale of Ranch Dressing

Steve Henson decided to sell the Hidden Valley Ranch brand in 1972 to the Clorox Company for $8 million. The company then decided to change some things to make the dressing more easily usable for consumers. They added butter flavoring to the mix so that users would not have to mix the herbs and spices with buttermilk; they could use plain milk instead. However, in 1983 the dressing really soared when a shelf-stable bottled version of the dressing became available. At this time the new rage was bottled salad dressing that did not have to be refrigerated, and Hidden Valley Ranch was one of the new products available. Clorox added preservatives to the recipe to keep the dressing shelf stable for up to 150 days.

Ranch Takes America by Storm

Ranch dressing soon became incredibly popular, overtaking the more common salad dressings such as Italian, Caesar and Thousand Island. In the 1980s mayonnaise was at the top of its game and Americans completely approved of its use in just about everything. Ranch came along as an alternative when restaurants began using it in their recipes, increasing the demand for the dressing. Ranch began to be used as a dipping sauce, on burgers and sandwiches and as flavor for chips such as Hidden Valley Ranch Wavy Lays. Ranch is now a common household name, and dozens of other salad dressing companies have created their own version of the dressing. Although Hidden Valley Ranch is the original Ranch dressing, varieties can be found such as Cucumber Ranch, Bacon Ranch, Spicy Ranch and more. The dressing is now sold in more than 30 countries.