Cuisinart has been dominated the home appliance food processor market during the mid 1970’s and 80’s. They make a large variety household kitchen appliances but are best know for their food processors.
Shirley and Carl Sontheimer founded Cuisinart in the early 1970’s. Carl is an engineer who received his training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and previously owned a company called Amzac Electronics which he eventually sold in 1967. He was always an avid cook and after selling Amzac he focused his attention on cooking and combined with his engineering experience lead to the development of the food processor. While in France in 1971 Carl attended a housewares show and was drawn to the large, commercial food preparation machines that where being used by restaurants and food manufacturers. He put his skills and knowledge to work when he returned home and developed a home version of the larger machines which became know as Cuisinart.
In 1972 Carl made some noticeable improvements to the Cuisinart which consisted of improving the performance of chopping and slicing blades as well as increasing the length and size of the feed tubes. He also added safety features to the machine to meet United States appliance codes. Further changes where made to the machine the following year which increased the performance to the point it could chop up a pound of meat in less than sixty seconds as well as make puff pastry dough in fifteen seconds.
The timing for his new food processor couldn’t have been better. During the mix 70’s home cooks where starting to made more elaborate meals at home and new kitchen gadgets became all the rage with the Cuisinart being one of the best selling with almost 250000 being purchased by house wives in 1976. Other manufacturers like Hamilton Beach and Sunbeam jumped on board in 1970 with their own offerings of food chopping machines but they where smaller, cheaper and didn’t have the durability and quality of the Cuisinart. Carl stuck to his guns and actually made a larger, more powerful andmore expensive model in 1978 which proved to be the right decision. The Cuisinart continued to dominate the market and the cheaper, lower quality processors other companies where making pushed the Cuisinart to the top of the desired list, similar to a fancy pair of designer jeans, it was the appliance you wanted your friends and neighbors to see sitting on your kitchen counter.
Over the following decades Cuisinart continued to fight of the competition from other companies like Kitchen-Aid by offering a trade in credit for current Cuisinart owners to upgrade to the newer models. A consumer could get up to $66 worth of credit towards the food processor of their choice. Sunbeam introduced a lower cost alternative called the Oskar which sold for $60 and they ended up taking 25% of the market. Carl refused to follow the same practice with the Cuisinart as he said he couldn’t make a better piece of machinery than they already had and was worried if they tried to make a cheaper version is would permanently damage the Cuisinart brand name.
In 1988 the Sontheimers exited out of the food processor business and sold the company to bunch of investors for the sum of sixty million dollars.Timing for the sale was good, the company had good cash flow and was generating eighty five percent of its revenue from its food processors. After the sale the company began to slide and consumers decided they liked the smaller, more portable processors made by other manufacturers better. They complained the Cuisinart was too big and spent most of its time sitting in a cupboard somewhere being to heavy and difficult to take out for quick chopping tasks. In 1989 the group of investors filed for Chapter 11 and with over 43 million in debt. Cuisinart was eventually sold to Conair Corporation who also manufactured other home appliances.