The success of any industrial organization closely parallels its ability to meet the needs of the consumer on a consistent and continuing basis. National Presto Industries, Inc., is an outstanding example of this. Through its consistent efforts to develop the kind of products the consumer wants, the company today holds a position of leadership in the housewares and portable electric appliance field.
National Presto is recognized as a leader in the electric housewares industry due to its long history of innovation which has created major new categories of products. Expansion into these new product fields was the result of a long range planning and development program. It is the company's intention to continually provide innovative new products which meet the needs of today's changing lifestyles, as well as a wide selection of basic appliances which reflect the image of quality long associated with the Presto® name.
The company was founded in 1905 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It manufactured industrial-size pressure canners, known as "canner retorts," for commercial canneries. At that time National Presto, then called Northwestern Steel and Iron Works, was a major producer of fifty gallon capacity pressure canners. Subsequently, the company also began production of thirty-gallon canners for hotel use and soon thereafter developed ten-gallon models suitable for home canning. In 1915 the company installed an aluminum foundry for the specific purpose of manufacturing large-size pressure canners for home use.
When, in 1917, the United States Department of Agriculture determined that pressure canning was the only safe method of canning low-acid foods without risking food poisoning, all commercial canneries were forced to equip themselves with facilities for the pressure canning of their products. During this period the company became one of the largest manufacturers of cast aluminum cooking utensils in the world. Its products were marketed under the trade name “National,” and the company name was changed to “National Pressure Cooker Company” to more closely identify with its famous brand.
With its vast experience in manufacturing pressure canners and to more adequately meet the needs of the consumer, in 1939 the company introduced the first saucepan-style pressure cooker and gave it the trade name “Presto.” The Presto® brand soon became synonymous with pressure cooking, which represented to the American housewife a method of cooking in one-third the time while maintaining the vitamin and mineral content of foods and saving both food flavor and color.
So great was the consumer's acceptance of the Presto® pressure cooker that in 1941 facilities at National Presto were dramatically increased. By the end of the year, the Presto cooker ranked among the largest producers of housewares dollar volume in leading stores throughout the country.
World War II, however, brought a temporary end to the manufacture of pressure cookers as well as other cast aluminum cooking utensils. Quick to cooperate in the war effort, the company converted almost all of its production facilities into war work, manufacturing artillery fuses, aerial bombs, and rocket fuses. It became the first to manufacture rocket fuses on a mass production scale and was also one of the first companies in the state of Wisconsin to receive the Army-Navy “E” Award, receiving five such awards during its wartime operation. Throughout the period of World War II, the company continued to manufacture canners for the extremely important victory garden and canning programs. Materials for these canners were provided by the War Production Board, and the canners were made of steel since aluminum was not available.
With victory in sight in 1945, the company resumed a portion of its civilian production. First to be released was a 16-quart canner, followed by a 4-quart saucepan-type Presto® pressure cooker. The pent-up demand for pressure cookers was tremendous and, in an industry which included eleven other manufacturers, more Presto pressure cookers were purchased by consumers than all other brands combined.
In 1949 National Presto introduced its first electric appliance, the Presto® vapor steam iron. The product was an immediate success because it was the first steam iron to use ordinary tap water instead of costly distilled water. The success of the Presto® steam iron led the company to increase its research efforts and to expand its activity in the development and introduction of new products bearing the Presto® label of quality.
In the early fifties, the company's product line rapidly expanded to fulfill the growing needs of the homemaker for time-saving appliances. A new 6-quart pressure cooker was introduced and the company's line of pressure cookers was further expanded to include lighter-weight stamped models specifically designed for the young, budget-minded homemaker. Following this, technological advances in the fabrication of stainless steel products led to the introduction of a new line of stainless steel pressure cookers.
Because of its increasing diversification into portable electric housewares, on May 1, 1953, the company name was changed to “National Presto Industries, Inc.” The company's first commercial expansion outside the Eau Claire area also occurred in 1953 with the opening of a new plant in Jackson, Mississippi.
In 1956, National Presto introduced a revolutionary new concept in electric cooking. It involved a complete line of fully immersible electric cooking appliances employing a removable heat control. Because the unique Control Master® heat control concept allowed appliances to be washed safely and completely under water, it has since become the industry standard for construction of electric skillets, griddles, and comparable products.
National Presto further enhanced its industry position in 1958 by introducing the world's first automatic, submersible stainless steel coffee maker. This product brewed the same flavorful, full bodied coffee obtainable in stove-top percolators, and it automatically kept the brewed coffee at the proper serving temperature. In addition, the unit's complete washability and stainless steel construction eliminated the aftertaste from previous use often associated with other percolators.
On March 3, 1969, National Presto Industries, Inc., was admitted to the New York Stock Exchange. It was a prestigious advancement in terms of company recognition and a symbol of the integrity of its products and finances. The company's third plant was built in 1971 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. This highly automated facility enabled a much needed increase in production of Presto products.
In 1974, National Presto introduced the revolutionary PrestoBurger® electric hamburger cooker. It was the first in a series of “mini appliances” designed to conveniently prepare smaller servings, in recognition of the shrinking size of many American families. Capitalizing on America's appetite for its favorite food—the hamburger—it was also the recipient of an “Appliance Manufacturers Pioneer Award.”
National Presto was quick to follow with the introduction of a new concept in deep fryers. The FryBaby® electric deep fryer used just two cups of oil to quickly and easily make two servings of food. It automatically maintained an ideal frying temperature, and a snap-on lid allowed oil to be stored right in the unit. Introduced in 1976, the FryBaby® deep fryer was an immediate success and led to the introduction of the family size FryDaddy® deep fryer in 1977, and the larger GranPappy® deep fryer in 1978.
Another new product innovation made 1978 a truly banner year for Presto. The PopCornNow® continuous corn popper was among the first poppers to use hot air instead of hot oil to “explode” kernels into crisp, plump puffs of popcorn. This new popping method produced a lighter, healthier snack and the popper quickly became a favorite of health conscious Americans.
During these years of progress in the portable appliance field, Presto® pressure cookers continued to sell steadily, leading to the introduction of a completely redesigned and reengineered line of pressure cookers and canners in 1978. The new units were, and continue to be, available in either aluminum or stainless steel with 4- and 6-quart sizes of both models. New features included an exclusive interlock system which prevented the cover from being opened while there was pressure in the unit.
In the eighties, consumers were demanding less fat and more fresh vegetables and fruits in their diets. National Presto responded in 1988 with the introduction of the SaladShooter® electric slicer/shredder. This truly innovative hand-held appliance was designed to easily slice or shred vegetables, fruits, and cheese for many kinds of salads, tacos, pizzas, and desserts. It could “shoot” one ingredient after another right into a salad so there were no extra bowls to clean.
The SaladShooter met with such overwhelming success that its name quickly became a household word throughout the country and led to the successful introduction of a larger, more powerful model in 1990. The Professional SaladShooter® electric slicer/shredder retained many of the design features of the original model while allowing for even more versatility. It featured a larger food chamber, an adjustable food pusher that could adapt to large or small loads, and additional processing cones to make ripple cuts and thick slices as well as thin slices and shreds.
In 1994 the Presto tradition of innovation continued with the introduction of the PowerPop® microwave multi-popper. While microwave popcorn poppers had been on the market for years, they had a reputation for leaving hundreds of unpopped kernels. All this changed with the unique design of the PowerPop®. An exclusive combination of a reflector that was built into the unit's base and a special disposable popping cup enabled the PowerPop® to concentrate microwave energy so effectively that virtually every kernel would pop. The PowerPop® was also designed to pop with or without oil so consumers could have a choice of delicious buttery popcorn or a light, low fat snack.
In the summer of 2000, Presto unveiled a revolutionary appliance that allows consumers to conveniently cook one of America's favorite foods. The Pizzazz® pizza oven takes regular or rising crust pizza, fresh or frozen, and cooks it to perfection in minutes. With no preheating, families can enjoy pizza faster than with a conventional oven. By simply adjusting the top and bottom heating elements, consumers can cook their pizza with a crispier bottom, a chewier crust, or an extra bubbly top. The pizza revolves on a nonstick baking pan, cooking “right before your eyes,” so it's easy to know when the pizza is done. And because of its compact size, it's perfect for dorm rooms or cottages.
Forecasting the needs of the American consumer and seeking to fill those needs through a consistent program of product innovation, quality manufacturing, and aggressive marketing has been the objective of National Presto Industries for over 100 years, and it will continue to be in the years ahead.