Some contests are incredibly dramatic. Super Bowl LI, where Tom Brady and the Patriots stunned a Houston crowd with a shocking fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Atlanta Falcons in historic fashion. The 1993 NFL playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers, when the Bills overcame a 35–3 deficit to beat the Oilers in overtime. The July 1994 game between the Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals from which the Astros emerged victorious despite trailing 11–0 in the fourth inning.
And then there are those in which victory seems almost predestined. Secretariat winning the Belmont by 31 lengths, George Foreman knocking Joe Frazier down six times in two rounds to win his first heavyweight championship, Georgia’s 65–7 victory over TCU in January’s national championship game. And—added to that list—we have one more: the winner of our Ultimate Texas Brand Bracket was absolutely dominant throughout its run, tearing through the competition like Mario bouncing through so many Goombas and Koopa Troopas after swallowing an invincibility star. There were many well-loved brands that entered the tournament, rallying fans and tagging social media influencers as they fought their way through a single-elimination bracket against one another. Let’s take just a moment to remember those that fell along the way. (Before you read the next paragraph, go ahead and click “play” on the video below.)
We had Whataburger, Dairy Queen, Pappas, and Shipley. We had Buc-ee’s, Academy, and Whole Foods. We had Dr Pepper, Stetson, and Yeti. We had Schlitterbahn, Six Flags, Austin City Limits, and Southwest Airlines. Beyond them, there were more: Torchy’s Tacos, Chili’s, Dave & Buster’s, Rudy’s Bar-B-Q. Cavender’s, Texaco, James Avery, and Fiesta Mart. We said goodbye to Big Red, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Shiner, and Lucchese, and to Magnolia, Mattress Mack, Ford trucks, and USAA. The first round was a bloodbath, and even some of our most beloved brands failed to make it out of the starting gate. We’ll always remember you, El Fenix, Taco Cabana, Chico’s Tacos, Taco Palenque, Chuck E. Cheese, Luby’s, Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, and Jim’s Restaurants. You’ll always have a place in our hearts, Whole Earth Provision Co., Half Price Books, GameStop, Fossil, Randalls, J. C. Penney, Tom Thumb, and Neiman Marcus. We hope you had the time of your lives, SAS Shoes, Mrs Baird’s, Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs, Kendra Scott, Bolner’s Fiesta Brand spices, Lone Star, Tecovas, and Igloo Coolers. Our hearts will go on, Thomas J. Henry, Dell, American Airlines, SpaceX, Mary Kay, Chevy trucks, AT&T, and Texas Instruments. And you, too, Blue Bell, eliminated in the final round of the tournament.
And now, our winner: H-E-B, which entered the bracket as a top seed and never so much as faced a real challenge, is the most beloved, most iconic, most Texan brand, according to you, the people of Texas. You love H-E-B. We’ve known this for a long time—we can write stories about the grocery chain’s candles or its potato chips and you’ll eat ’em right up (please do not eat a candle). We can muse about the chaotic or lawful alignments of its in-house products and you will debate along with us. We can cover the way the company prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic and you will demand that H-E-B run the whole dang country. We had reason to believe that H-E-B was so beloved, and it has now been confirmed: y’all love Whataburger and Dr Pepper and Chip and Joanna Gaines, but you love love H-E-B.
It’s no mean feat for a company that only serves a portion of the state to earn such high honors. The Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex has a scant handful of stores, many of which have been there for fewer than five years; H-E-B has only been in Houston since 2001; you won’t find a store within a hundred miles of Amarillo or El Paso. But the passion that Texans feel for the company exceeds geography. Those who live in an area H-E-B covers scarcely shop elsewhere; those who don’t simply wish that they did.
In the end, across all voting platforms (TexasMonthly.com, Facebook Stories, Instagram, and Twitter), H-E-B defeated the runner-up, Blue Bell, overwhelmingly—voters preferred the supermarket by a margin of more than two to one. It was just the last of H-E-B’s dominant performances; the grocer trounced Whataburger by nearly as much, Buc-ee’s by almost three to one, and its first three competitors by genuinely shocking margins of at least ten to one. Ultimately, the outcome was never really in doubt. When it comes to burrowing its way into the hearts of Texas consumers, truly, no store has done more.
Congratulations to H-E-B, and farewell to all of the brands that came before.