Cotton Incorporated’s consumer-directed television advertising and other promotional programs by the cotton industry’s research and promotion company “have provided the critical mass that has helped rebuild cotton’s market share from a low of 34 percent in the early 1970s to more than 61 percent by 2000,” says Brad Robb.

At the summer meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at Biloxi, Miss., he outlined some of the successes of the organization funded by producer checkoff dollars and contributions by importers of cotton and cotton textile products.

“The latest TV commercial in the award-winning ‘Fabric of Our Lives’ series features Hayden Panettiere, star of the ‘Nashville’ TV series, tying her popularity to our cotton brand,” says Robb, communications director for the Cotton Board at Memphis.

“After just the first two weeks of the campaign, it had earned 29 percent visual recognition among the targeted demographic audience — women ages 18 to 34. It has gone on to a high of 66 percent recognition. That’s a really fantastic number.”

In the commercial, Panettiere sings her own unique version of the “Fabric of Our Lives” theme (see the commercial here: http://bit.ly/13sh44y).

She is shown wearing a wide range of cotton clothing styles, ranging from campfire casual to dressy outfits for a night on the town. The website also has an interactive feature that allows the viewer to see the clothes in Panettiere’s closet, with information about each piece and a video of her talking about the clothing. There is also a question-and-answer in which she talks about clothes, fashion, and cotton.

Another Cotton Incorporated promotion, “Cotton From Blue to Green,” has collected nearly 1 million pieces of denim from people all over the U.S. for recycling into an insulation material that is used in Habitat for Humanity housing.

“Consumers turn in old or unwanted denim clothing,” Robb says, “and a company called Bonded Logic turns it into ‘Ultra Touch’ denim insulation, which is donated to the Habitat for Humanity program for housing and building projects in economically-distressed areas, particularly those hit by natural disasters.

“Through the end of 2012, the program had received over 954,000 pieces of denim. This is material that is going to a very useful purpose — and it represents 600 tons of denim that didn’t go into landfills.”

It is estimated that over 2 million square feet of insulation can be produced from 1 million pieces of denim.

The “Cotton From Blue to Green” program was an outgrowth of the very successful “Cotton’s Dirty Laundry” tour that was conducted from 2005-2007.

One of the early denim collection events was held at Mississippi State University in fall 2007. “Hundreds of students came out, played education games, won prizes, and donated more than 1,200 pieces of denim,” Robb says.

Guinness world record

In 2009, National Geographic Kids Magazine participants set a Guinness world record for collecting the most clothing to be recycled — 33,088 pieces, which were contributed to the denim insulation program.

“This has been an excellent call-to-action program that allows people to get involved in a worthwhile consumer sustainability initiative,” Robb says.

Anyone wishing to participate can ship jeans or any denim apparel items, in any condition, color, or size, to Cotton From Blue to Green Recycling Program, 431 N. 47th Ave., Phoenix AZ 85043.

In other campus-related promotions, Cotton Incorporated has a website that is an educational resource for parents, teachers, or anyone wanting to obtain and share information about cotton. “There’s a wealth of information on the site (http://cottoncampus.org/) and it’s all free,” Robb says.

Today, cotton is not just a crop that provides fiber, it also can be used in food items, he notes.

Highlighting the work of Tom Wedegaertner, director of cottonseed research and marketing for Cotton Incorporated, a line of flavor-infused cottonseed oils has been introduced.

The oils — with flavors ranging from Jalapeno-Lime to Hot Habanero to Curry Spice, Fresh Cilantro, Sweet Guajillo Pepper, Smoky Chipotle, Fresh Roasted Garlic, Fried Shallot, and Pure Cottonseed Oil — are an outgrowth of research aimed at adding value and opening new markets for cotton and cotton products.

“The oils, which are wonderful for sautéing and seasoning, were created by Acala Farms, an Illinois winery and bottling company,” Robb says. “They were featured in this year’s Fancy Foods Show in New York and were very popular. (Info and ordering at http://www.acala-farms.com/)

“Their acceptance continues to grow, particularly in the agriculture community, and the Plains Cotton Growers Association has announced that the oils will soon be on store shelves in the Lubbock, Texas area.”

Cottonseed oils are heart-healthy — zero cholesterol and zero trans-fats — have a high smoke point, exhibit intense flavors with no oil-taste halo, and “they’re just plain fun to use,” Robb says.

Cottonseed oil was first bottled in the United States in 1882, shortly after Eli Whitney developed the cotton gin. By 1899, Wesson Oil, developed by Chemist David Wesson of the Southern Oil Company, had found its way to general store shelves as the first commercially available all-vegetable shortening. In 1911 Crisco, an acronym for Crystallized Cottonseed Oil, was released, solidifying cottonseed oil’s place in American kitchens.

“Cotton has always been grown and regulated as a food crop in the United States,” Robb notes. “And cottonseed oil has long been a staple ingredient in common food products — from mayonnaise and salad dressings to ice cream, hot dogs and potato chips.”

More food uses have been opened up with the development of cotton varieties that have been bred to eliminate gossypol from the seeds while retaining natural pester-deterrent characteristics.