Cool Whip. It puts the exclamation mark on apple pie, strawberry shortcake, ice cream, and so many other summer desserts. It keeps a long time in the refrigerator, can serve as an ice cream substitute, and helps make cakes and frozen pies look airy.
Cool Whip went from new product to top seller quickly. In just two years, it was the biggest seller and most profitable product in the Birds Eye portfolio of General Foods. (For those interested in corporate family trees, General Foods later merged with Kraft/Philip Morris, then became part of Altria until Kraft was spun off from Altria in 2006. Ten years later, Kraft merged with Heinz, forming KraftHeinz.)
Today, Cool Whip is the leading whipped topping in the US. More than one-third of American households buy at least one tub of Cool Whip at least once a year, with sales nearing 200 million tubs per year. Reddi-Wip, the whipped cream in the aerosol can, is a distant second.
A whipped cream substitute normally sold in 8 ounce tubs, Cool Whip was created in 1966 either by George Lorant, a food scientist at General Foods, or by William A. Mitchell, depending on whose Wikipedia page you believe. One of America’s most notable food chemists and inventors, with 70 food patents to his name, Mitchell also invented Jell-O, the powdered drink Tang, and Pop Rocks.
In 1966, as homemakers were focused on speed in cooking and with more women working, Americans turned increasingly to convenience in their food and meal preparation, purchasing products like instant mashed potatoes and frozen dinners.
According to Alice Julier, associate professor and director of food studies at Chatham University, the brand took off because the ads “did an unbelievable job of convincing people these were wonderful new inventions, and also necessary in making lives convenient. Trying it meant you were trying something new.”
Cool Whip, a technological leader in the 1960s, has evolved and stayed ahead of food trends. For example, in the 1990s, when dieting was the goal, the brand launched Cool Whip Lite and Cool Whip Free products. Social media, specifically Pinterest, has also been credited with keeping it top of mind among today’s young cooks.
In this 1999 spot, the brand shows off Cool Whip’s versatility:
And for those looking for recipes, Gretchen McKay wrote about Cool Whip, on the occasion of Cool Whip’s 50th anniversary.