What Is It About Bloody Mary Mix And Airplanes?
By Tyler Maroney

(FORTUNE Magazine) – We all have our own ways of dealing with air travel. Some of us read; some of us try to get some work done; some of us stare out the window and wait for the Valium to kick in. But when that beverage cart comes by, an astonishing number of us do something we normally don't do on the ground: Enjoy a can of Bloody Mary mix. No vodka, just mix. Yes, people do drink Virgin Marys on terra firma, but not as often as they do in the air. Mr. and Mrs. "T," the reigning king of Bloody Mary mix (with two-thirds of the retail market), sells roughly half its product to airlines; Campbell's, more than 80%. "I drink Bloody Mary mix on planes but never at home," says frequent flier and perfect example Margaret Feldstein, an editor at a fashion magazine.

Rumor has it that Bloody Mary mix was first offered in the air in the early '60s when an American Airlines exec sampled Mr. and Mrs. "T" and immediately contracted the mix for the entire fleet. American now serves Campbell's, which makes the stuff only because it was persuaded to do so specifically for airlines. According to Lisa Douglas, American's menu-design manager, the airline serves 2.3 million cans of vodka-free Bloody Mary mix a year, which puts it 17.7 million cans behind Coke. But then, you don't see many global ad campaigns for Bloody Mary mix.

Why so much airborne craving for what is essentially liquefied salad? Steve Albert, an inflight-services manager at TWA, offers a physiological reason: "It's the saltiness and savory flavors," he says. "At altitude, your taste buds are different; your mouth is much drier." It could also be that plain mix tastes similar to a Bloody Mary, but without the coach-class surcharge. Or, if you're like Feldstein, Bloody Mary mix is food. Especially, she says, "when the alternative is reheated congealed beef."

--Tyler Maroney