The last century has seen some incredible inventions that have transformed our lives and continued the forward momentum of mankind.
From penicillin to television, nuclear power to personal computer, life on earth has certainly taken a giant leap forward in recent times.
And yet, for all the joy, benefits and freedoms these breakthroughs have brought, the benchmark by which all future innovations are judged remains the brainchild of Otto Frederick Rohwedder who, about this time 100 years ago, was working on his lifetime achievement.
In fact it would be 1928 before Otto unveiled the fruits of his labour selling his first machine to the Chillicothe Baking Company in Missouri. Word spread fast and soon the world was living in the age of sliced bread.
Even today, no-one describes anything as the greatest thing since the internet, or even the best thing since the motor car, it’s by Otto’s masterpiece that all others are judged. As far as we know, prior to sliced bread, the internal combustion engine was never described as the greatest thing since the printing press, which in turn had never been marketed as the best thing since the invention of the wheel.
So, why is it that Otto’s bread slicer – which could also bag bread – took on such mythical status? Well, after a few changes to the slicing and packaging to keep bread fresher for longer, major bakeries began to get in on the act and in 1930 the Continental Baking Company began marketing the product as “wonder bread”
The invention of the pop-up toaster around the same time also helped and the fact children could easily make sandwiches if bread was already sliced. By 1933 more sliced loaves were being produced in the US than unsliced and by 1937 sliced bread had crossed the Atlantic. Even the war couldn’t stop sliced bread.
The US Govt. tried to ban it to save on metal and wax paper but a consumer backlash led to the ban being lifted just three months later.
Variations of the famous phrase popped up over the years but it is likely that a simple letter to a newspaper columnist coined the version that has conquered the world.
In 1962 Jeanne Boardman was so grateful for the consumer and lifestyle tips she read in the syndicated “Hints from Heloise” she wrote a letter stating: “this column is about the greatest thing since sliced bread”. It featured in the next “Hints from Heloise” appearing in over 600 newspapers and magazines.
At SK Foods we scour the globe to bring the world’s best food tastes to your local store. We wouldn’t claim to be the best thing since sliced bread, but, like Otto, we are all for handy, delicious food that saves time and makes life easier.