Goody’s Headache Powder

Written By Jessica Lee Thompson

The nation’s leading headache powder companies–Goody’s, BC Powders and Stanback—originated in North Carolina.  Largely a regional product, the headache relief powders’ success in North Carolina depended greatly on textile and tobacco mill workers.

Like many pharmacists in 1932, Martin “Goody” Goodman compounded his own headache relief powder called “Goody’s” to sell in his local pharmacy. Goodman packaged his headache powders to sell to individuals and to wholesale providers.  One of Goodman’s wholesale providers, A. Thad Lewallen, Sr. of Bennett-Lewallen Wholesale Candy and Tobacco Company, purchased the formula and the rights to Goody’s in 1936.  Lewallen began mixing and packaging the product in two downtown Winston-Salem offices and hired a traveling salesman to market the product to convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery marts.  Eventually, thirty-seven Goody’s salesmen traveled the Carolinas, but the advent of contract purchases with chain stores reduced the need for so many.

To build a larger marketing base and increase profits, Lewallen incorporated innovative advertising and started giving his product away. “Put it in the people’s hands and if they try it and they like it, they’ll buy it,” remarked Lewallen’s daughter, Ann Lewallen Spencer, concerning her father’s marketing strategy.  The company targeted prospective repeating customers: tobacco and textile mill workers.

According to Tom Chambers, former president and chief executive of Goody’s, “the tobacco and textile mills were hot, noisy places and the workers needed something that would give them quick relief from the long hours and bad working conditions.” Goody’s eventually earned the name “production powder” for its popularity among mill workers. Success in the headache powder business, explained Chambers, depended almost entirely on advertising, for “marketing was the key because the ingredients weren’t all that different.

Goody’s continued its innovative marketing techniques in 1977 when it became one of the first non-automotive sponsors of NASCAR.  For Goody’s management, NASCAR, arguably the most popular sport in the Southeast, provided the perfect forum to promote their product’s “fast relief” to their targeted audience.  In time, Richard “The King” Petty became the official spokesman for the headache powder.  He was later joined by his son, Kyle Petty, and two-time NEXTEL cup winner Tony Stewart.

Goody’s Headache Powders, however, has also faced difficult dilemmas, such as the death of a Tennessee man after ingesting a Goody’s powder on November 30, 1992. The packet of Goody’s powder that William Tucker Williams took was actually filled with cyanide and had evidence of tampering. Until the conclusion of the FDA and FBI inquiry, Ms. Lewallen Spencer faced a difficult decision. The company announced a full recall of their headache powders, halted plans to build a new production facility, and temporarily laid off thirty employees until the financial impact of the recall could be accessed. By January 1993, the FBI had concluded that the product tampering was not committed by any other person and was likely connected to Mr. Williams’ effort to commit suicide. In February 1993, Goody’s resumed production of the headache powders again.

Goody’s has also supported philanthropic efforts in North Carolina through its involvement in programs such as F.A.S.T. (Finding a Solution Together) and the Victory Junction Gang Camp. In 2004, Goody’s created F.A.S.T. as a community grant program focused on assisting non-profits in the greater Charlotte area in improving “the quality of life and implement better initiatives” in the African-American community. Goody’s is also a founder of Victory Junction Gang Camp, a racing-themed summer camp for terminally ill children.  It opened in Randleman, North Carolina in 2004. The camp hospital, “The Goody’s Body Shop”, is sponsored by Goody’s.