54 ;e Costco Connection JANUARY 2014
for your health: VITAMIX SUPPLIER PROFILE
A successful business
Vitamix is a healthy
company, in many ways
By Teri Cettina
TUNE TO A program on the Food Network—
or any of your favorite cooking shows—and
you get a quick glimpse inside a real chef’s
kitchen. Along with the professional-grade
stove and high-carbon steel knives, you’re
likely to see the same blender among every
chef’s equipment: a Vitamix.
Those appearances aren’t paid endorsements. Vitamix has a strict policy against
making deals with celebrities to encourage
sales. “Quite simply, the blender is there
because the TV chef insisted on it,” says Tony
Ciepiel, Vitamix’s chief operating officer.
But you don’t have to turn on your TV to
see a Vitamix at work. If you buy chilled,
blended coffee drinks, smoothies or shakes,
your beverage was most likely made in a
Vitamix. The world’s top three coffee chains,
top two smoothie chains and one of the
world’s best-known fast-food restaurants use
the Vitamix to craft their blended drinks. In
addition, more than 150 U.S. culinary schools
and more than 100,000 commercial restaurants and food-service companies use the
brand’s blending equipment.
Based in Cleveland, Ohio, with more
than 90 percent of its blenders produced and
shipped from this Midwest location, using
mostly local suppliers for materials, Vitamix
has a consumer fan base that’s growing exponentially, with household blender sales up a
whopping 500 percent in the past five years.
Jon Berghoff, Vitamix’s national sales
manager, attributes the company’s exploding
growth to the current emphasis on homemade healthful foods and the popularity of
fine cooking as a hobby. “People want to
know what’s in their food, and to use quality
ingredients and whole foods when making it
themselves. The Vitamix plays into that perfectly,” he says.
In fact, the health-food trend was pre-
cisely what company founder William Grover
Barnard—affectionately called “Papa”
Barnard—hoped to tap into when he founded
the firm in 1921. His company was initially
called The Natural Food Institute, and he
traveled around the United States selling
modern kitchen products and promoting
fresh food preparation. In 1937, he discovered
the then-recent invention known as the
blender. He quickly focused his efforts on
revolutionizing this tool and pairing it with
his passion for healthful eating.
In 1949, Barnard took his own “
VitaMix” blender to the airwaves, creating what’s
generally regarded as the world’s first TV
infomercial. Barnard’s son, Bill, took over the
company in the 1950s and officially changed
the firm’s name to the Vitamix Corporation
in 1964. In the late ’60s, the company introduced more-powerful machines that could
actually cook soup, knead bread dough,
make frozen desserts and grind whole grains,
just as the company’s machines do today. In
the mid-1980s, the company also introduced
However, the 1980s proved to be the fam-ily-owned Vitamix’s most challenging decade.
A national recession severely affected sales.
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