The Van Trump Report

This is the Greatest Thing Since “Sliced Bread”

I always remember my Pop’s saying, “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread”. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I always thought “sliced bread” had been around forever, dating back some 75,000 years ago when people first started growing and eating grain in western Asia. Wow, was I ever wrong?

Did you know “sliced bread” was sold for the first time during this week back in 1928, by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri. It was advertised as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was first wrapped”.

Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa, invented the first single-loaf bread-slicing machine. He had built a prototype back in 1912 that was destroyed in a fire, and it was not until 1928 that Rohwedder had completed a fully working machine-ready bread slicer. The first commercial use of the machine was by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri, who sold their first slices during the second week in July 1928. Their product, “Kleen Maid Sliced Bread”, proved to be a huge success.

St. Louis baker Gustav Papendick bought Rohwedder’s second bread slicer and set out to improve it by devising a way to keep the slices together at least long enough to allow the loaves to be wrapped. After failures trying rubber bands and metal pins, he settled on placing the slices into a cardboard tray. The tray aligned the slices, allowing mechanized wrapping machines to function.

W.E. Long, who promoted the Holsum Bread brand, used by various independent bakers around the country, was the first to pioneer and promote the packaging of sliced bread in late-1928. In 1930, a company called “Wonder Bread”, started marketing sliced bread nationwide.

As commercially sliced bread resulted in uniform and somewhat thinner slices, people started to eat more and more slices of bread at a time. They also ate bread more frequently, because of the ease of getting and eating another piece of bread. This increased consumption of bread and, in turn, increased the consumption of spreads, such as jam, and lunchmeats to put on the bread.

By 1933, around 80% of bread sold in the US was pre-sliced. Fast forward to modern-day, the market size, measured by revenue, of the Bread Production industry in the US was +$52.7 Billion in 2022, and it’s estimated that each American consumes, on average, 53 pounds of bread annually. 

Today the phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread” is a common idiom used to praise an invention or development that is essential and extremely simple in design. Now you know the story…

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