He took the Bush’s Baked Beans secret family recipe to the grave — literally.
One of the dogs who played Duke from the infamous commercials has passed away.
According to CBS News, the Bush’s Baked Beans “spokesdog” was a family pet who went by the name of “Sam.” He lived with his owner named Susan in rural Apopka, Florida, says David Odom, a neighbor who shared the news of Sam/Duke’s passing on Facebook.
In his online tribute, Odom remarked that Susan is a dog trainer by trade, and it’s because of her careful training of Sam/Duke that he was selected to be one of the iconic pooches in the long-running commercials.
However, in recent times, he’d been suffering from an “aggressive form of cancer,” and ultimately had to be put down.
Sam/Duke was best known for his sarcastic remarks made to his “owner,” Jay Bush, the son of the founder of Bush’s Baked Beans. Often threatening to expose the “secret family recipe” to the delighted audience, the concept of Jay having Sam/Duke — who was a golden retriever — play the “Robin” to his “Batman” was created in 1993 by David Garzotto of the Cole, Henderson, Drake advertising firm in Atlanta, Georgia.
The advertisements performed well in test markets and were released nationally in May 1994. They’ve continued ever since.
According to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries, Bush’s Baked Beans subsequently earned 80 percent of the market share thanks to Jay Bush, and Duke’s, popularity. Duke was so popular, in fact, that in 2006, a children’s book called Duke Finds A Home, featuring the precocious pooch, was a bestseller.
Odom’s posting about the passing of Sam/Duke has subsequently gone viral — so much so, in fact, that even though Bush’s Baked Beans didn’t release an official statement at the time of Sam/Duke’s death, they did so in response to Odom’s posting.
Claiming that Sam hadn’t played Duke in a good number of years, the company was “overwhelmed” by the love and support for the “spokesdog,” and that it was this love and support that embodied the “Bush family values.” However, they’d worked with a number of dogs over the years, all of whom played “Duke.”
What’s more, the company said that they will continue to use the character of Duke — in various incarnations — in their ads, because he’s so iconic.
It’s unclear, however, if Sam/Duke was able to sell the “secret family recipe” of Bush’s Baked Beans.