Friday, February 17, 2006

This guy was cool!

Robert E. Rich Sr., 92; Invented Nondairy Whipped Topping
From L.A. Times Staff and Wire Reports

Robert E. Rich Sr., 92, a food industry pioneer who in 1945 created nondairy whipped topping, died Wednesday at his home in Palm Beach, Fla. The cause of death was not disclosed.

During World War II, Rich was running Wilber Farms, a Buffalo, N.Y., dairy, and working with the War Food Administration. The war agency's diversion of milk products such as butterfat to U.S. soldiers caused Rich to begin thinking about developing nondairy alternatives for the home market.
When he heard scientists at a Ford Motor Co. laboratory were working on a nondairy whipping cream made from soybeans, he secured permission to experiment with the same process. After considerable trial and error, he came up with a soybean-based whipped topping that was superior to cream because it could be frozen.

Marketed under the name Rich's Whip Topping, it became a staple of school cafeterias, restaurants and bakeries. Soon Rich spun off nondairy icings, fillings, dessert toppings and a coffee creamer. His company, Rich Products, grew into an international operation with 7,000 employees and annual sales exceeding $2.5 billion.

Rich's contributions to the food industry were recognized in 1990 when he became one of the first four inductees in the National Frozen Food Industry Hall of Fame.
For the record, Ford was interested in cultivating soybeans for use in plastics, but of course were very open to other moneymaking methods. Eventually using plastics from soybeans proved too expensive to manufacture. But as with all wars, new food innovations took place. They always do because soldiers need to eat on the run, and wars create shortages that in turn cause food scientists to come up with cool stuff, like non-dairy whip.

Napoleon sent the troops off to Waterloo with canned foods -- an invention created for the war. K-rations were developed by Ancel Keys, who was way, way ahead of his time.

But because I'm a serious geek, can you believe this Frozen Food Industry Hall of Fame? Seriously, even I'm not that geeky. Yes, of course I am. It's really called the Distinguished Order of Zerocrats Frozen Food Hall of Fame. And they only started in 1990. I'm sure Clarence Birdseye was right there on top of the list. But I can't find the list.


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