Corelle Brands has been around for a while — like 100 years. And surely, you have seen its signature products, likely in your mother’s, grandmother’s or beloved elderly aunt’s pantry. By today’s standards, it looks anything like an innovative brand.
But then, looks can be deceiving — 100 years ago, Corning Glass Works had just introduced a massive innovation into the lives of home cooks everywhere. And had you been shopping for cookware a century ago, shortly after Corning rolled out its signature innovation, the Pyrex baking dish, it is likely your mind would have been blown.
Clear glass that could go in the oven and not break? As a consumer you would have never seen anything like it.
Corning didn’t invent heat-resistant glass when it rolled out its branded version of Pyrex. It was, however, the first firm to realize that glass that does not shatter when it gets hot might be useful in a kitchen. While easy to take for granted today, it was “the newest miracle in glass” in the early 20th century.
Flash forward 100 years and Corelle — the brand Corning eventually became — is once again embracing the newest miracle in cooking, though this time it isn’t made out of glass. Corelle is embracing the Instant Pot via a merger with the Canadian producer of the electric multi-cookers.
A New Kind Of Pothead
In the century since Pyrex took the kitchen by storm, the kitchen has been home to any number of innovations big and small. Electric ovens, electric refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, food processors, electric stand mixers, the pressure cooker, the slow cooker, the smart appliances — the list could go on and on.
But in recent memory, few goods on the market have gained quite the level of public affection — bordering on obsession — that the Instant Pot has managed to elicit in less than a decade on the market.
Instant Pot is the brainchild of computer science PhD and entrepreneur Robert Wang, who ended up discovering his innovation by accident while trying to find a way to feed his children that involved less takeout. When his electric pressure cooker actually worked, he decided there was a business there.
By January 2013, the second-generation Instant Pot was Amazon’s best-selling pressure cooker, and in 2016 the product rose to national consciousness when on Prime Day the price dropped to $70 and hundreds of thousands of people bought one. Mostly recently, New York U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ginned up a lot of Instant Pot buzz with a series of Instagram stories that feature her talking legislative life while making dinner in her pressure cooker.
Yes, Instant Pot-side chats are the fireside chats of the millennial generation.
Somewhat more seriously, the Instant Pot also seems to be the beloved dinner prep tool of the millennial generation. A hybrid gadget that works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice maker or bread maker has 1.8 million followers in its Facebooks group and a legion of fans that enthusiastically call themselves “Potheads” — finding one of the few two-for-one nickname opportunities life has to offer.
The success of the Instant Pot has motivated other, bigger and better known players into the market, most notably Breville and Cuisinart, to come up with competing products.
But now, via the merger with Corelle Brands, Instant Brands itself is about to be both a bigger and better known company.
Corelle CEO Ken Wilkes said in a statement that Instant Brands and its products “have become a staple in kitchens in North America, fundamentally changing how consumers think about cooking.”
At the conclusion of the deal, both firms will be owned by Cornell Capital, which bought Corelle in 2017. Wilkes will be the new company's CEO, and Instant Pot creator Robert Wang will serve as the company's chief innovation officer. Corelle is far and away the larger of the two brands, with 3,000 employees worldwide to the few dozen Instant Pot employs. But with a valuation around $556 million, it is widely speculated that Instant Pot is the more monetarily valuable brand.
Wang said Corelle's international presence, as well as its marketing and supply chain expertise, will help Instant Pot grow in new markets — as today Instant Pot invests zero dollars in marketing. Word-of-mouth-only advertising has pushed the device into about 20 percent of American households thus far.
“We are thrilled to partner with a global market leader in Corelle Brands as we look to embark on our next chapter of strategic growth and expansion,” he said.
Cornell Capital did not disclose financial terms for the deal, but the Wall Street Journal reported it is worth $2 billion.