KitchenAid manufactures and markets a full line of premium-price home appliances, including microwave and conventional ovens, cooktops, refrigerators, dishwashers, in-sink garbage disposal units, and automatic clothes washers and dryers. The company also continues to manufacture the product on which its name was built, the popular KitchenAid electric stand mixer. Acquired in 1986 by the Whirlpool Corporation, the largest appliance maker in the world, KitchenAid has increased its market share through the expansion of its product line.
The name KitchenAid was first introduced as a brand name for an electric stand mixer developed by the Hobart Manufacturing Company in 1919. In the early 1900s Hobart had begun producing the first electrically driven machines for grinding food items, including coffee beans, peanuts, and hamburger. In 1915 the company's subsidiary, Troy Metal Products, introduced the first model of an electric mixer. Designed to mix large quantities quickly, the appliance featured "planetary action," in which an individually rotating beater traveled in one direction around the inside of a mixing bowl. Allegedly, when Hobart executives brought the first mixers home for testing, one executive's wife remarked, "I don't care what you call it, but I know it's the best kitchen aid I ever had." KitchenAid was subsequently adopted as the mixer's trademark.
The KitchenAid mixer became wildly popular during the 1920s and 1930s. Like most housewares at the time, the mixers were sold either door to door or through a KitchenAid party at which a salesperson demonstrated the appliance's functions by using it to prepare a meal for the guests, who were then encouraged to order a KitchenAid mixer. During this time several attachments were developed for use in mixing a variety of foods, and the KitchenAid name was also given to an electric coffee mill introduced by Hobart. In 1924 Hobart's Troy Metals subsidiary was renamed the KitchenAid Manufacturing Company, and its headquarters were set up in Dayton, Ohio.
In 1926 Hobart acquired another appliance manufacturer that would figure prominently in KitchenAid's future. The Crescent Washing Machine Company was founded by Josephine Cochran, who had build a dishwashing machine--initially for her own use in the home--that was named the top invention at the 1893 World's Fair. Quickly realizing the marketing potential for such machines in restaurants and other institutions, she founded the Crescent Company in 1880, which built both hand and power operated dishwashers. More than forty years later, Hobart, already recognized as a leader in the commercial dishwasher market, purchased the highly successful Crescent company and began to explore further the feasibility of producing a dishwashing machine for use in the home. Research and development were curtailed during World War II, but finally, in 1949, Hobart introduced a new home dishwasher, the KD-10, featuring a patented washing mechanism and the KitchenAid brand name. The KitchenAid home dishwasher soon established a reputation for reliability.
KitchenAid gradually came to be known for other products as well. In 1966 Hobart acquired the Plumbing Equipment Division of the National Rubber Machinery Corporation. Benefiting from the expertise of this division, the company developed a KitchenAid food waste disposer, which it began to market in 1968. An instant hot water dispenser was brought out in 1971, and the following year the KitchenAid trash compactor was introduced.
During the 1980s the company underwent several changes. In an effort to broaden its product line, it acquired a major manufacturer of built-in cooking equipment, the Chambers Corporation of Oxford, Mississippi. KitchenAid subsequently introduced a line of ovens and stovetops. By 1985 the company was one of the most successful manufacturers of home appliances, while Hobart had become one of the foremost producers of appliances for use in commercial kitchens.
That year the company was approached by the Whirlpool Corporation , a leading manufacturer of home appliances interested in acquiring KitchenAid, and a deal was soon negotiated whereby Whirlpool would pay &Dollar;150 million for KitchenAid while Emerson Electric Company would purchase KitchenAid's dishwasher and trash compactor operations. However, an antitrust suit filed by appliance manufacturers White Consolidated Industries and Magic Chef delayed the acquisitions for a year. The two companies alleged that Whirlpool's arrangement with Emerson would give them an unfair amount of power in the market, allowing them to take away a substantial amount of business from White and Magic Chef. After an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, the suit proved unsuccessful, and in February 1986 KitchenAid was acquired by the Whirlpool Corporation.
Whirlpool had several immediate plans for its new acquisition. In August of that year, KitchenAid's Ohio staff