Archive for the ‘Sliced Bread’ Category

English: veggies

Image via Wikipedia

Some inventions are truly great, yet rarely find their ways into the history books.   Sliced bread awards are one way of giving tribute to these often under-appreciated inventions.

One such commonplace invention is the thunder noise commonly found in grocery produce departments.

Grocery stores typically spray vegetables in their produce department with water to keep them looking fresh and moist.   Originally employees would do this manually with hoses, but most large chains have switched to automatic sprinkler or mister systems.   Over-spraying vegetables can result in soggy vegetables and sometimes even rot, but many stores have refined the system to apply the appropriate amount of moisture to each category of produce.   Another problem with these automatic mister systems was that they could sometimes catch the shopper unawares, resulting in a wet consumer.    Some grocery stores employed warning systems, such as a simple bell noise to alert the shopper.    A few would play the song “Singing in the Rain”.    The best system however uses the sound of distant thunder to warn the shopper of the oncoming rainstorm.    It’s simple, elegant and gets the point across.    Many modern Safeways implement this warning system quite nicely and have tweaked the sound effect to be soothing rather than frightening.    It’s difficult to find the origins of this invention, since most historians haven’t payed it much attention, but the Kroger chain seems to have been an early adopter, using the thunder effects since at least the early 90’s.

Not everyone’s supermarket may yet have these systems, but I find them thoroughly enjoyable.   Kudos to the inventor!

The Greatest Thing

Posted: December 12, 2011 in Sliced Bread
Sliced bread

Image via Wikipedia

Sliced bread is the standard by which all other inventions are based. The phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread” was referred to by the Kansas City Star as the “ultimate depiction of innovative achievement and American know-how”.    How did such a wonderful invention come to be?  I refer you to their article for the full history, but here’s a short overview.    The machine was invented and sold by Otto Frederick Rohwedder in 1928.    It was initially used by local bakeries, which touted it as “The Greatest Forward Step in the Baking Industry Since Bread was Wrapped”.    In the 1930’s a sliced version of “Wonder Bread” was sold nationally for the first time.   The same Continental Baking company was responsible for the Twinkie and eventually became Hostess Brands.

Consumers were initially skeptical of the advantages of buying pre-sliced bread due to concerns over the ability of the bread to remain fresh.   Advertising campaigns, small amounts of convenience and probably eventually preservatives seemed to overcome these fears.   The bread was sliced much more perfectly than anyone could manage by hand.     Interestingly enough, the invention of the pop-up toaster actually predated that of pre-sliced bread.    It seems anyone could understand the appeal of the toaster even if they didn’t have perfectly sliced bread.

Otto Rohwedder doesn’t appear in a lot of history books, but small smart inventions like his do impact a lot of peoples’ lives.    I plan to give tribute to some of these inventions and their inventors through a series of “Sliced Bread” posts.