Attention, shoppers, and game show enthusiasts alike! Your favorite grocery store game show from the ‘90s is back, and it’s as hilariously ridiculous as ever. As fun (and addictive) as the new show is to watch, not all viewers know that Supermarket Sweep has actually been around for over five decades.
The game show is not a new concept. In it, three pairs of contestants answer trivia questions before running around a grocery store, loading up their carts, and basically acting like survivors of a zombie apocalypse. The ‘90s version of the show, which ran on Lifetime and the PAX network, was actually a remake of a show with the same concept from the ‘60s. This and more fun facts about Supermarket Sweep.
Over 50 Years of Supermarket Sweep
Supermarket Sweep might have a special place in the hearts of ‘90s kids, but it’s those kids’ parents who might feel the most nostalgia when they watch the game show. That’s because the original show was on TV way before the Clinton administration. That also means that the face of the show, David Ruprecht, wasn’t its original host.
Before we started seeing people run around a grocery store like maniacs on color television, they were doing the same thing in the ‘60s, just in black and white. Supermarket Sweep first debuted in 1965 on ABC and ran for three years before being canceled. The original host was Bill Malone, and the concept was very much like the ‘90s version.
The Major Difference Between the ‘60s and ‘90s Versions
The original show also consisted of three couples who had to answer food trivia questions and race around the store frantically. However, according to MeTV, the female contestants typically answered the trivia as the men handled the task of grocery ransacking. One major difference between the original and the second reboot was how they were filmed.
The ‘90s version of Supermarket Sweep was filmed on the same set every week. The original format, however, had the production actually visit different working grocery stores in the New York City area. It makes sense why that format ended, though, because if the show rolled into your local supermarket, then you would have a clear advantage in finding the high-priced items.
How They Choose Contestants
A man named Mike Futia was on the game show in 2001 with his girlfriend because having a partner to appear on the show with was one of the requirements. Finding another person who wanted to win game show cash isn’t the most difficult of tasks, but these contestants also had to be a good fit for TV.
The boxes that the producers were looking to check were “fun, outgoing and dynamic pairs of couples, friends, school, and workmates or family duos.” As Futia explained, “We were out there to perform,” adding that when they went through the process, “they put you in a room with a few other people and ask you sample questions. And you could sense it was because they wanted to see if you were slouching and things like that.”
The Supermarket Was Pretty Small
You would think that Supermarket Sweep had contestants running around a full-scale grocery store, but it wasn’t actually that big at all. Big surprise – reality TV is deceptive! The set was hardly a normal supermarket size. Futia said it was only about four aisles in size. “It looks huge, but it’s small,” he revealed.
He described that, in the aisles, he had to be careful if he and his cameraman were running and another group was coming down that same aisle.” To be fair, though, it is a TV show and not a working grocery store (anymore). Still, Guy’s Grocery Games films their shows in a huge 15,500-square-foot supermarket set.
David Ruprecht Confirms the Rumors
On an episode of Great Big Story, former host David Ruprecht confirmed the rumor: yes, “All the meat was fake.” Even our “consultant,” Mike Futia, confirmed the fact to The A.V. Club. He revealed that “Everything that was meat, cheese — all that was fake because they’d get the meat juices on their sweaters. And that’s not telegenic, so they wanted to get rid of that.”
Not only that. Most of the food had expired. Ruprecht admitted to Great Big Story that they shot for about five months every year, using the “same food over and over again.” Yuck
Gross, Rotting Scenery
Ruprecht confessed: “A lot of the food, having been thrown in and out of the carts for three, four months had gotten pretty beaten up.” He added that by the third month, the hot dogs started to ferment in the package, and the plastic would swell up.
The Supermarket Sweep set designer, Scott Storey, confirmed the details, saying that as gross as the meat would get, it was done to save money in the budget. “Buying fake meat was too expensive,” Storey revealed. He also said that everything was “just rotten” since there’s no refrigeration. So, those $24 roasts being tossed in the carts were just gross, rotting scenery.
And Some of It Was Fake
Eventually, the real (and rotten) foods changed as the show went on. One contestant from the later years said most large perishable foods were completely fake. As Futia pointed out, plastic hams happen to be a lot easier to pick up than real ones.
According to Business Insider, using fake food for TV shows is pretty common. Studios have specialized prop houses for the phony foods. If, for instance, a TV set needs a package of ground beef, a prop artist will use crushed corkboard. This is why you never see anybody on Supermarket Sweep eating any of the food.
Winners Didn’t Keep the Food
After hearing what Ruprecht said about the meat and the expired food, contestants were probably glad that they didn’t get to take the food home! According to Great Big Story, they didn’t even get to take their sweatshirts home, either.
“They got $5000,” said Ruprecht, “but they didn’t get their sweatshirts.” While winners got their cash but no sweatshirt, the losers got a consolation prize, which was the sweatshirt! According to Futia, they “didn’t get to keep the dickey.” (The dickey was the item they wore above their clothes.)
Winning Didn’t Guarantee Collecting Your Winnings
It was a syndicated show, so they taped all the episodes, which meant that you didn’t know if you were going to get the money (if you won) unless it aired on TV. And that could be six months later because the producers had to sell it. So, the winners left empty-handed.
Speaking of winning, Ruprecht revealed a pro tip. He revealed that heading for the beauty aisle rather than the meat freezer could easily win you the game. Those who used that strategy typically won. With one cart of beauty products, you could beat everybody.
Shooting Lasted 12 to 14 Hours
And to make it worse, most of that time consisted of simply waiting around. Contestants were placed in a room and were told to “Be prepared to be here.” It was a long wait because there are only three pairs of people on each show.
Futia explained: “That day, they were taping something like eight shows. So you had 48 people just in a room.” The first thing they tape is each contestant’s introduction, where they run down to the camera and get introduced to David Ruprecht. Then, they call them back and tape the first segment.
Mapping Out Their Routes
The contestants on the show ended up looking like chickens running around with their heads cut off, but the truth is that the show tried to prevent that, at least somewhat. The show gave them some time to strategize.
Before taping the round, each contestant got about 10 minutes or so to walk around the store to get a feel of the products and their prices. As Futia explained, everything has a price on it, so the contestants would map out what they were going to do. “It’s the weirdest things that were expensive,” he said, “like hoses.”
Supermarket Sweep Went International
Part of what made Supermarket Sweep so easy to go international is that it’s based on something everybody does. Who doesn’t go grocery shopping? Because of that, it was translated easily because we all shop,” Tino Monte, host of the Canadian version, said.
Supermarket Sweep popped up on TV screens from Ukraine to Canada to Australia. For the Argentinian version, the name was changed to Clink Caja, and the episodes involved laser tag (with a price-scanner gun). The host of the Vietnam version dressed in a red and gold outfit that made the shirt and tie of Ruprecht’s grocery store manager look utterly boring.
The Market Monsters
Do you remember the “market monsters” from the ‘90s version of the show? They were actual people who dressed up in bad monster costumes whose job was to jump out at contestants. Why? Because they were trying to throw them off their game as they ran through the grocery aisles.
One of those monsters was Mr. Yuk, and others were Frankenstein, a giant gorilla, and a turkey who went by the name of Big Dave. These monsters went extinct pretty early on, though. The show’s producers soon realized that the monsters were more annoying than a scary obstacle for shoppers.
It Wasn’t Too Difficult
The most fun and entertaining part of the show was seeing people run frantically through the aisles, but before anything went into those carts, shoppers had to make it through the trivia round. The producers wanted to make sure that the trivia questions weren’t too hard.
After all, it wasn’t Jeopardy! Futia said that they gave them little hints to help them along. “They’re helping you. It’s geared to families. It’s fun,” Futia said. Really, the questions aren’t all that hard, especially when the possible choices are Pop-Tarts, Comet, and Lipton.
The Reboot with SNL’s Leslie Jones
Leslie Jones was part of the Saturday Night Live cast for five years, and just hours after announcing that she was leaving, she made another announcement – that Supermarket Sweep was coming back and she’d be stepping into David Ruprecht’s shoes as the host.
The new version still features three teams of two (obviously wearing colorful sweatshirts) and playing a series of games and answering grocery-focused trivia questions. The mega prize? $100,000. With a fun, new reboot comes a nice, new sum of cash.
And it turns out there’s another Supermarket Sweep reboot…
The UK Version Isn’t As Good
In 2019, reality TV star Rylan Clark-Neal started handling hosting duties across the pond. The UK version is pretty much exactly the same as its American cousin, only fans in the UK used to watch Dale Winton rather than David Ruprecht.
The late Winton hosted it from 1993 to 2001, and then again for a brief time in 2007. The UK version has had mixed results. Unlike Americans, UK fans aren’t so excited about the new hour-long format. The Guardian’s review referred to it as “stiff as a frozen potato waffle.”
Where Does the Food Go?
The reboot of Supermarket Sweep uses real food for the show, which raises new questions that earlier versions didn’t have to account for. For one, people want to know where all the food goes at the end of the day.
Viewers should be happy to hear that all the excess goods go to a good cause. It’s filmed in Los Angeles, and the leftover food is donated to various charities, including the L.A. Food Bank, Food Finders, Food Cycle L.A., The L.A. Mission, and Downtown Women’s Shelter.
They Include Pets, Too
There are also products such as pet food and treats. The network also considers our furry friends when cleaning up the shop, especially when there’s extra meat that might not be edible for people but is perfectly fine for animals.
Local wildlife organizations, like The Rancho Wildlife Foundation, received the majority of the show’s meats, and a pet welfare organization, The Rescue Train, received pet food and supplies. When a spokesperson for the show was asked what the most popular food on Supermarket Sweep was, they said frozen turkeys; almost every team grabbed one every episode.
Did They Get the Whole $5,000?
Compared to the new reboot’s cash prize of $100,000, the ‘90s version of $5,000 seems pretty minuscule. Mike Futia was asked if he got all of his cash winnings. He said that he and his girlfriend won $1,511. They went into the last round with $1,111, but then they had to guess three clues and find more money in the store when they were running around.
Every clue solved meant another $250. If you found the third clue, only then did you get the $5,000. Futia and his girlfriend solved the first two clues but didn’t find the third one, so they only got $500 additional dollars.
Don’t Drop or Damage the Item
Although the show makes it seem like they draw people from the studio audience, all of the contestants that go up to have been carefully selected. Each contestant had to go through an audition process and get a call back for a taping session.
Those selected get a list of things they can and cannot do. For instance, they can’t drop or damage an item. If they do, that item won’t be added to the sweep. So, you have to either return the item to the shelf or leave it in the shopping cart, taking the risk of a $25-per-item penalty.
Speaking of No Harm
This may seem like a given, but contestants aren’t exactly careful when they make a mad dash to the shelves when the competition begins. The show has a $100 penalty for any damage done to the displays and for anyone who happens to run into the cameramen or crew.
Contestants don’t give any commentary while they are shopping because they aren’t wearing mics. Instead, it’s the announcer who provides the play by play of what they’re grabbing and how much time is left. It’s probably better for us not to hear all the heavy, anxious panting as they frantically move around aisles.
Remember Brandon and Kevin?
For anyone who actually watched all the old episodes of Supermarket Sweep, there’s one that garnered more attention than the others, thanks to a pair of young guys who have recently gone viral. Brandon and Kevin stood out for demographic reasons.
They were college roommates from the University of California in Santa Barbara, meaning they weren’t just rare for being an all-male team. They were also a decade or two younger than the average age of the women competing. And they totally dominated the game, too.
There are even videos online of people watching the roommates play, amazed at just how good they were in the trivia rounds and the Supermarket Sweep. People were wondering if they were “just” friends. When host David Ruprecht asked Brandon how he knows Kevin, Brandon said, “Kevin is my roommate from Santa Barbara.”
Remember, this was the ‘90s. Today when two young, attractive men with well-put haircuts say they’re “roommates,” people know there’s a little more to the story. Emmaline Childs is a TikTok user and Supermarket Sweep obsessive who posted on her account, calling out to anyone who might be Brandon or Kevin’s kids.
Tracking Them Down
She wrote: “If this is your dad, duet this!” Her call worked. Brandon’s daughter, Emily, found the post and showed photos of her and dad. Then, Kevin’s wife got on board and created a TikTok account in which she posted a video of their three boys re-enacting a final sweep in a local grocery store.
At the end of the clip, Kevin posed with his sons. Brandon L’Herault and Kevin Keenan were tracked down to talk about their friendship and their epic episode. Neither Brandon, from Santa Clarita nor Kevin, from Austin, are on social media. They have been relying on friends and family to keep them updated on their newfound viral fame.
Kevin got curious and searched #SupermarketSweep on Twitter, which is how he discovered all the tweets saying, “Roommates? Hahaha…” Brandon had no idea that part of their viral fame was because people assumed they were a closeted couple.
Not just that – people even had hopes that the two were still together all these years later. Both men find it very funny and clarified that they are indeed straight. Kevin is married with four kids, and Brandon has a daughter with his ex-wife. The two are still good friends.
They Were 21 at the Time
The now-47-year-olds were only 21 when they auditioned for Supermarket Sweep. It was one of those whims, a “wouldn’t this be a funny story one day?” as they put it. At the time, they were living in a student home with six other students.
Every day, after their morning classes, Brandon and Kevin would watch Supermarket Sweep. “There were only like 12 channels at the time, and half of them were showing soap operas,” Brandon recalled. They soon realized that they were actually pretty good at the game. So, they called the number that was provided at the end of each episode.
Dorking It Out
They got the audition information and made the 90-minute drive to L.A. to try it out. There, they scanned the crowd outside of the studio and realized that they might even have an advantage over the rest. “There were a lot of old grandmas, you know, and some housewives. There were no guys there at all,” Kevin recalled.
The two then looked at each other and asked themselves, “Are we going to ever see anybody here again in our lives?” That’s when they just “cranked it up to full. We can dork out with the best of them.”
The Same Day as the Cheers Finale
They taped the episode on May 20, 1993. And when they finally got back to Santa Barbara after an 11-hour day of filming, they sat down to watch the Cheers series finale that had aired that same night. The guys revealed that when they were seen cheering in the audience when they were announced as contestants, it was actually one of six different times that scene was shot.
“We just kind of annihilated,” Kevin laughed about it. In the Mini Sweep rounds, from the “Cat Chow” fill-in-the-blank onward, they simply dominated. Kevin got every question correct, even guessing “Steero” (which is a brand of bouillon cubes).
His Number One Outfit
When the two men were asked about their outfits that day – fashion that just screams the ‘90s – they sheepishly giggled. “That was probably my number one outfit,” Kevin laughed, remembering his button-up shirt, whitewashed jeans, and Nike Flight high-tops.
“When you’re 21, you have your number one outfit, like your good outfit.” Those sweaters, by the way, have fake collars that contestants are – for some reason – forced to change into. Five years ago, Brandon bought a replica as a gag gift for Kevin. He never expected the show to be put on Netflix and that everyone would suddenly be talking about those sweaters.
He Was More Athletic
Before the taping, the guys decided that Kevin would be the one to run the sweep round. “I was a little more athletic,” he admitted. “Brandon’s six-foot-five frame was better for blocking shots.” Kevin proved to be the right person for the task as he easily hurled 14-pound turkeys and massive jugs of laundry detergent into the cart.
They were a noticeable contrast to the show’s other, more elderly contestants. Kevin’s first stop was the coffee grinder, but he instantly encountered a glitch that he’s still bitter about three decades later.
30 Seconds of Dead Time
It was supposed to take only 10 seconds to grind the coffee. But after 30 seconds of precious time just waiting, Kevin realized that something was wrong with the machine. The cameraman then told him to move on, and producers ended up awarding him the bonus in the end.
Still, he missed out on extra cash that he could have earned during that dead time. “I still think they owe us like four or five hundred dollars,” he confesses. He also remembered that the shopping carts were incredibly heavy. When they were full, they were basically like 200-pound wrecking balls.
He Almost Took Her Out
Despite the weight of the carts, Kevin had no problem moving his cart, which was a hazard to Laura, a woman on an opposing team whom he nearly took out. Both guys remember that Laura had a rough go during the final sweep.
So much so that a medic had to be brought in after the shooting. Production even had to pause for 15 minutes since she was so out of breath. They were concerned that she might have suffered a heart attack. As Brandon said, “These are people who had never had to do that sort of CrossFit-type exercise in their lives.”
What They Spent Their Money On
The guys earned a $5,000 bonus in addition to their total of $1,009. After their particular episode aired, Kevin and Brandon received checks for $3,004. Kevin chose to buy a mountain bike, and the two took a trip to Las Vegas. As for Brandon, he invested in a giant stereo system.
The rest of the money helped fund his social life during the rest of his college years. The pair went on to enjoy more game-show glory. Each competed, separately, on the game show Sports Geniuses.