Workhorse turned style icon
If you read food blogs or zap your way through ubiquitous cooking shows, you will in all likelihood come across a common piece of equipment: a large, beefy machine which has become a style icon – the KitchenAid.
But not only has it been a firmly established part of cooking shows, it is also difficult to imagine homes and professional environments without this clever appliance from Ohio. And in fact, the name of KitchenAid not only stands for a machine, even though it may seem that way, but for a complete long-standing product family from toasters to blenders – and to said appliance that kicked off the history of the company, exactly 100 years ago this year.
Back in time
Strictly speaking, the story even starts much earlier: in 1908 in Troy, Ohio at the Hobart Corporation, which at the time was (and still is) specialised in rinsing, cooking and preparation technologies and launched the first dishwashers. Engineer Herbert Johnston is believed to be the inventor of the machine. He was inspired by the technically demanding, manual production of bread dough and looked for a mechanical way of making the job easier. The result was the Hobart H model, a mixing machine with a capacity of about 75 litres. The appliance was sold primarily to bakeries and other companies for professional use. For use in homes the machine was a little oversized, so the company thought about making a smaller version for the kitchen. The result was the H-5 model in 1919, the first electric mixer for private households, which for the first time in a KitchenAid blender offered the planetary action still used today. The actual name of KitchenAid was given to the product by the wives of the gentlemen from Hobart management; they are believed to have said: “No matter what you call it. This machine is the best kitchen aid I’ve ever had”. The “KitchenAid” brand name was born, was registered as a trademark at the US Patent Office and production started.
The next big step was taken in 1927 with the lighter and more compact G model which was sold 20,000 times within a period of three years. In addition to the mixers, the company also started to design and market other products.
A design classic is born
In 1936, KitchenAid hired industrial designer Egmont Arens who with the K model created the basis for the classic KitchenAid design still built today in several versions. Arens also put his typical design stamp on other appliances; the Hobart Streamliner meat slicer has even made it to the Museum of Modern Arts in New York. The K45 model from the early 60s is still the bestselling KitchenAid overall today. During the 50s – in another style-defining development – some of the typical colour variations were created which still stand out in today’s range. A classic feature, in addition to the extremely robust design, still continuos to be the expandability of the basic function through attachments, which turn the basic mixer into a mincer, a pasta machine, a citrus press or similar.
Over the decades and with continued economic success, the company not only expanded into other production areas of the small household appliances segment, but has also been producing large appliances such as dishwashers, fridges and cookers. After World War II, the company moved to Greenville, Ohio to expand its production capacities. In the middle of the 80s it was taken over by the Whirlpool Corporation, a major supplier of household appliances with an annual turnover of approximately 21 billion dollars, 92,000 employees and 70 manufacturing and technology locations (as of 2017). As part of the acquisition, the company headquarters moved to St. Joseph, Michigan and therefore closer to the Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor. There are now additional production sites not only in Ohio but also in other US states, in Canada and in China. The typical stand mixers are still assembled in Greenville, Ohio.
The current product range
In addition to the classic models, KitchenAid provides a wide variety of mixers, many of them based on the classic design, so the range has been expanded even into areas such as electric kettles, toasters, coffee mills, hand mixers, food processors and much more. Especially for the demands of professional environments such as bakeries, hotels, restaurants, commercial kitchens and other catering establishments throughout the world, the company offers a professional line. The high-performance direct-drive motors are particularly quiet and powerful. Overall, this part of the product range has been designed for stability, robustness and reliable constant operation which are important factors in industrial use.