An American Icon: the Chia Pet
Chia Pets are American icons featuring styled terracotta figurines used to grow chia seeds (Salvia hispanica), where the chia sprouts grow within a couple of weeks to resemble the animal’s fur or hair. Moistened seeds of chia are applied to the grooved terracotta figurine body.
Marketed by Joe Pedott and produced by San Francisco, California-based company Joseph Enterprises, Inc., the first Chia Pets, the ram and the bull were created in the fall of 1981. Chia Pets and the corresponding television commercials achieved iconic popularity throughout the 1980s.
The catchphrase sung in the TV commercial as the plant grows in time lapse is “Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!“. This catchphrase originated at an agency brainstorming meeting, where one of the individuals present pretended to stutter the product name. As of 2019, more than 15 million Chia Pets were sold – mostly during the holiday season.
A range of styles have been produced, including several versions of puppies, kittens and frogs. Cartoon characters have also been licensed, including Trolls, Minnie Mouse, Garfield, Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, Shrek, The Simpsons, and Sponge Bob. Additionally, there are Chia Pets depicting presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington as well as Presidents Trump and Obama!
In 2003 Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, asked Joe Pedott to donate his company’s papers, television advertising tapes and a selection of Chia Pets to the Behring archive center.