As you know, that big rabbit hole called the internet can take you to places you never expect. In researching information for my previous blog about our non-stick coatings (https://www.nordicware.com/blog/dark-mystery-inside-your-oven), I came across an interesting story about the discovery of Teflon at DuPont. It turns out, one of their scientists (Roy Plunkett), was researching various gases to use as a coolant for refrigerators. He left a container full of gas in his lab. In the morning, he discovered that the gas was gone, leaving behind a solid residue that was slippery and highly resistant to chemicals and heat. It was PTFE (which DuPont would trademark as Teflon). An accidental discovery lead to a product that would have a major impact in many industries (cookware/bakeware, fabrics, industrial use, etc.).
(Photo of Mr. Plunkett, the original Teflon Don, photo from http://blog.garlock.com/?p=328)
Of course, being the internet, this story had links to other suggested sites. Soon I was reading about many other accidental discoveries that lead to great products:
Back when microwave cooking was a formal occasion.
In the early 1940's, while researching ways to improve radar, Percy Spencer at Raytheon was standing by a magnetron, a device used to generate microwave radio signals. He noticed a candy bar in his pocket started to melt. He successfully experimented with using the device to heat other foods such as eggs and popcorn. This led to the first microwave oven.
Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Nom. Nom. Nom.
In 1930, Ruth Wakefield and her husband bought a tourist lodge named the Toll House Inn (sound familiar?). She prepared meals for the guests. While making a batch of cookies, she realized she was out of baker's chocolate. She did have some Nestlé's semi-sweet chocolate bars on hand, so she decided to break them apart and add them to the dough. She thought they would melt and absorb into the cookie dough. Instead, the chips held their shape, and softened to a creamy texture. The cookies became a huge success.
Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya (nacho is a common nickname for Ignacio) was a maitre d at a restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico.
(Not an image of Nacho Anaya)
A group of soldiers' wives from a nearby US Army base arrived at the restaurant after it had closed for the day. Not wanting to turn them away, Ignacio quickly improvised a snack using whatever he had available in the kitchen (tortillas, cheese & jalapeno peppers). He cut up the tortillas, covered them with cheese and peppers and heated them in the oven. He called them Nacho's especiales (over time it became special nachos). They were a hit, and soon became popular throughout the southwest, and beyond.
There are many other stories out there regarding the accidental origins of products (Penicillin, Wheaties, Velcro, Slinky, to name a few). I chose to focus on the above entries because I discovered something fascinating, not only are they all food related, but they all played a role in the success of our company.
Teflon (PTFE): We were among the first licensees for the application of Teflon back in the 1960s. Today we apply many different types of non-stick coatings to our products.
Microwave Ovens: As the success of the MW oven grew, we realized the need to develop a line of cookware to work with this emerging technology. In the 1970s we developed a new line of thermoset plastic molded cookware for microwave use. Our most unique item was the Micro-Go-Round, an automated turntable. It's still one of our best selling items. Our extensive line of microwave products continues to grow.
Chocolate Chip Cookies & Nachos: Ok, these didn't exactly play a huge role in the success of our company, but they are delicious! We do have many baking pans that are used to make cookies, cakes, and yes, even nachos.
In fact, the chocolate chip cookie is featured predominantly on the cover of our new Food Service catalog:
Also featuring the elegant thumb of Jen from our home office.
You never know where the next great product will come from.