Automating and Innovating
Food processors large and small focused on increasing production and cost-efficiency, automating key aspects of their operations. Some firms, previously ramped up for World War II production, continued to grow their processing capacity to match the postwar population and economic boom. Others developed innovative products and production methods that fed consumers’ insatiable appetite for the “new and improved.”
Krispy Kreme of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, had been making doughnuts since 1937. In the 1950s, as the company expanded to a small chain of stores, it sought ways to ensure a consistent and profitable product. The firm created a dry doughnut mix and developed a machine that automated the doughnut-making process. The Ring King Junior formed, fried, turned, and cooled about sixty dozen doughnuts per hour, reducing labor costs.
New generations of doughnut-making and packaging equipment allowed Krispy Kreme to expand into retail sales at grocery stores and other outlets. These workers are boxing doughnuts just off the conveyor belt at a plant in Savannah, Georgia.
Engineer and inventor Joseph T. Listner was early to recognize the appeal and convenience of bagged, ready-to-eat vegetables. In 1959, he designed and built a one-of-a-kind machine that sliced raw carrots into sticks. The machine enabled a small-scale producer like Listner, Inc., in Wallington, New Jersey, to slice an estimated one million pounds of carrots in sixteen years of operation. Listner sold his bagged carrot sticks and cole slaw to stores, including the Grand Union supermarket chain.
A Concentrated Success
In 1945, the National Research Corporation developed a powdered form of orange juice for the U.S. Army. After World War II, the company reconfigured the dehydration process to create a new product for the consumer market: frozen, concentrated orange juice. Packed in cans at Florida processing plants and sold nationwide, it became the postwar era’s first frozen-food success story. While canned juice was already available year-round, many consumers found the taste of frozen juice more appealing and the cost more affordable than fresh oranges.
Paradox of Plenty
Many Americans expressed excitement and pride in the numerous and sweeping changes that were transforming the food production chain. At the same time, many were increasingly concerned about issues ranging from hunger to food safety.