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Who Invented the Food Processor, And When? (History)

electric food processor

The food processor was the poster child of household modernization. In the 1970s and 1980s, food processors took the world by storm. In conjunction with the microwave, these devices represented a new age of residential living. Chores did not have to take a lot of time. Previously mundane tasks could be automated. Free time would be more abundant, and life could only get easier and easier. That is what the food processor represented when it hit the market. But who invented the food processor? And when was it invented?

The creation of the modern food processor was a joint effort. In Europe, the food processor was invented by a man named Pierre Verdun. He was a French inventor that focused on helping commercial kitchens save time and money during food preparation. His first food processor came to market in 1960 and aimed at professional caterers. His residential version would come to market a decade later. Verdun is also credited with coming up with the term food processor, which is why he is given the credit as the inventor of the first legitimate modern food processor. In 1973, a man by the name of Carl Sontheimer built on Verdun’s work and created the first Cuisinart food processor for the American market, which was an instant hit.

Like all inventions, Verdun’s creation was not made in a vacuum. There were ideas, predecessors, and stepping stones that began in the 1940s that cumulated in the food processing craze of the1970s.

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Early Predecessors (1940s)

Early iterations of the food processor started coming into existence in the 1940s. In 1946, in the wake of World War II, a German engineering company called Electrostar began tinkering with new appliances. After the war, the electric motor became a more popular item, and companies around the world were rushing to find new and novel uses for the simple electric motor. Electrostar was starting to put together new products based around the small and affordable electric motor. One of their early products was the Starmix. The Starmix was little more than a small blender, but it did come with some innovative novel attachments.

Despite creating one of the earliest precursors to the modern food processor, the product did not take off until the food processor revolution over twenty years later. During this time, the term food processor had not yet been invented, and few people consider the Starmix the first true food processor. Electrostar would go on to primarily make vacuum cleaners and dryers.

crumbling stale bread in a food processor
Image Credit: Arina P Habich, Shutterstock

From Commercial to Residential (1960s)

In 1960, Pierre Verdun created the first commercial food processor. Verdun noticed that commercial kitchens, restaurant chefs, and catering companies spent an inordinate amount of time preparing food. Chopping, slicing, shredding, and mashing took hours of manpower and held many kitchens back from producing more food. To combat this problem, Verdun invented the Robot-Coupe, which was a large processor with a massive electric engine and a flat blade for chopping and slicing. Robot-Coupe was invented for large catering operations, and he coined the term “food processor” in order to sell his invention. Food could be prepared and processed like any other industrial business if you used the right tools.

It would take another decade for the food processor to be altered to fit into standard residential kitchens. After the commercial success of the Robot-Coupe, Pierre Verdun began working on shrinking his invention. His new model, designed specifically for at-home cooks and families, was rebranded Le Magi-Mix or Magimix. The Magimix began hitting shelves in France in the late 1960s and instantly caught the attention of other inventors and other companies around the world.

The Food Processor Revolution (1970s)

The 1970s saw food processors go from a new niche product to a household item. By 1970 there were multiple new food processors coming to market. Electrostar was so invested in their new Starmix mixers that they changed their name to Starmix in 1968 to go all in on food processors. The newest scaled-down Magimix would debut at a Paris trade show in 1971 and quickly spread through Europe. American designers were keenly working on a variation of Pierre Verdun’s ideas that could be brought to the North American market.

In 1973. Carl Sontheimer introduced a retooled version of the Magimix 1800 in Chicago. The new food processor was designed and sold under the Cuisinart brand, and it quickly became a phenomenon. The rise of the Cuisinart food processor in North America, coupled with the success of the Magimix food processor in Europe, drove sales through the roof by the end of the decade.

In the course of ten short years, the sale of food processors hit hundreds of thousands of units. By 1980, thousands of households featured food processors on their countertops, and millions of people were considering purchasing a food processor for their own kitchens.

top view of a food processor
Image Credit: pkajak201, Shutterstock

Food Processors Today

Food processors are still around today, though they are not as popular as they once were. Many residential cooks now use high-tech blenders and stand mixers rather than food processors. However, food processors are still around, and they have gotten more durable, more advanced, and more versatile in the intervening years. Modern food processors are still headlined by familiar names. Lists featuring the best food processors available on the market include names like Cuisinart, Magimix, and KitchenAid.

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Conclusion

Pierre Verdun is credited as the inventor of the food processor. His initial invention, the Robot-Coupe, showed the world what was possible when you combined an electric motor and a series of versatile blades. He shrank his original commercial designs down to fit modern kitchens. In 1973, an American inventor worked with Verdun’s Magimix to create the Cuisinart food processor, which swept the United States in the late 1970s. Food processors are still a force in modern cooking to this day. All of that is thanks to Pierre Verdun and Carl Sontheimer.


Featured Image Credit: Serghei Starus, Shutterstock

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