Mei 02, 2011

The History of Jell-O: Does impatience cost us a fortune?

Jell-O was invented by a New York-based cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle B. Wait. He bought a patent for powdered gelatin and added flavoring to the powder and gave the product its present name in 1897.

Two years after the invention, he figured out he failed to market the product, and in 1899 he sold the business to a neighbor, Orator Francis Woodward, for $450.

Woodward initially also struggled to market the product. He and his team at Genesee Pure Food company (which would later became, General Foods, which now had merged with Kraft Foods Inc.) did numerous marketing attempts at popularizing Jell-O, from distributing cookbooks, launching ad with various celebrities, and other innovative things driven to solve the problem of getting traction, and it was not until a decade later that the product began to get traction among housewives and cooks, and sales skyrocketed.

In 2008, there are more than 158 products sold under the Jell-O brand name and about 300 million boxes of Jell-O gelatin sold in the United States each year.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Mr. Pearle B. Wait did not get a single penny from his invention. Mr. Wait was not patient enough to wait.

I suppose this story brings out a very good question to ponder, just like my experience with the dark and winding road: How long should we keep going until we throw in the towel and say enough? A decade of pain and money-bleed of marketing and advertising is not something to be taken lightly about. Yet, it turns out the reward is substantial - only after a decade of faith and hundreds of iterations of problem solving.

Perhaps this skill is what differentiate a true visionary mind, a true problem solver, than the mediocre minds.

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