New York (CNN Business)The companies that make Pyrex cookware and Instant Pot pressure cookers are merging. They'll form an alliance of a century-old kitchen staple and a 10-year-old trendy gadget.
Instant Pot and Pyrex companies are merging
Corelle traces its roots back to 1915. It makes Pyrex, SnapWare and CorningWare glass baking dishes, measuring cups, plates and storage containers. The Pyrex brand in particular has established itself as a household name, earning a presence in kitchens across the globe.
Instant Pot is a multi-function pressure cooker that also sautés, slow cooks, and makes yogurt and cakes, among other things. It has enjoyed cult-like status over the past few years, rising to become the top-selling third-party brand on Amazon and gaining a dedicated group of customers on social media.
When the companies finish their deal, they will be owned by Cornell Capital investing firm, which bought Corelle in 2017. Corelle CEO Ken Wilkes will be the new company's CEO, and Instant Pot creator Robert Wang will serve as the company's chief innovation officer.
Wang said Corelle's international presence, as well as its marketing and supply chain expertise, will help Instant Pot grow in new markets. About 20% of American households own an Instant Pot.
Cornell Capital did not disclose financial terms for the deal, but the Wall Street Journal reported that it is worth $2 billion. Corelle is a bigger company, with 3,000 employees around the world; Instant Brands has a few dozen. But Instant Brands probably is worth more. Before Cornell took control of Corelle, the company was owned by GP Investments Acquisition Corp, which in 2016 said Corelle was worth $566 million.
Corelle was originally part of glass maker Corning (. The company developed a temperature-resistant glass for railroad lantern globes in 1909, which Corning called Nonex. Corning then looked for other uses for its invention. )
The history of Pyrex begins in 1913, when Bessie Littleton, wife of Corning scientist Jesse Littleton, baked a sponge cake in sawed-off jars made of Nonex glass, according to Corning. The glass reduced cooking time and helped to bake food uniformly. Bakers could also watch their creations as they cook, because the glass was clear.
Bessie Littleton noted that the glass held up well in the oven and was easy to clean. So she baked steaks and french fries in it next.
Corning altered the Nonex formula slightly to develop a new consumer products line. In 1915, Corning made 12 ovenware dishes under the new brand name Pyrex.
Pyrex initially was a huge success for Corning, but sales slumped during the Great Depression. Corning lowered prices and repositioned its brand as an ovenware product for everyone.
Corning started a test kitchen with 35 employees. It eventually produced CorningWare ceramic baking dishes and Corelle glass-laminate dinner plates and bowls.
In 1998, Corning decided to focus on its scientific and technical glass businesses. It sold off its consumer products division, which was renamed World Kitchen. In 2017, the name was changed again to Corelle. Corning continues to sell glass laboratory equipment under the Pyrex brand.
Robert Wang started working on Instant Pot in 2009 with a pair of Canadian technology veterans. He sought to disrupt the home cooking market, which Wang has said had hardly innovated in the past several decades.
After 18 months of research and a lot of trial and error, Instant Brands released its 5-in-1 Instant Pot. It was a combination pressure cooker / slow cooker / rice cooker / steamer and warmer.
The Instant Pot was an instant hit, giving Wang & Co. sufficient capital to improve the gadget's design and functionality. In 2012, the company created a 6-in-1 programmable pressure cooker. Now the company makes Bluetooth-enabled Instant Pots that wirelessly connect to customers phones.
The 6-in-1 Instant Pot became a bestseller on Amazon. Eventually, the Instant Pot Duo became the bestselling product on Amazon across all categories. And the company's Facebook group has nearly 2 million followers.