Unlike most other refrigerator manufacturers, KitchenAid has never been its own business entity. It originated as a brand of the Hobart Manufacturing Company in 1919 for their line of electric food mixers. These mixers were designed as a countertop-sized alternative to large, industrial mixers used in restaurants. Rumor has it that the name originated from one of the company executiveâ€™s wife, who (after testing it in their home) said, "I donâ€™t care what you call it, but I know itâ€™s the best kitchen aid I ever had." In 1924, the KitchenAid brand was associated with coffee makers made by Hobartâ€™s other subsidiary, Troy Metal Products, which was later renamed the KitchenAid Manufacturing Company.
The KitchenAid mixers were at first sold by door-to-door salesmen. They would often offer prepare meals for guests in the hopes that they too would order the mixers, as well as the man or woman of the house. Over time, several attachments were developed for the mixers to suit different types of foods.
In the 1930s, Hobart expanded the KitchenAid brand into larger household appliances, starting with dishwashers. Thirty years later, Hobart acquired the Plumbing Equipment Division of the National Rubber Machinery Corporation. The company took advantage of this new resource of expertise to develop new products, such as KitchenAid branded garbage disposals, trash compactors, and hot water dispensers.
In 1986, the KitchenAid brand was purchased by the Whirlpool Corporation, however completing the deal was a rocky endeavor. According to their arrangement, Whirlpool would acquire the KitchenAid brand name while their dishwasher and trash compactor operations would be sold to Emerson Electric Company. An antitrust suit was then filed by competing appliance manufacturers, White Consolidated Industries and Magic Chef. The two claimed that Whirlpoolâ€™s deal with Emerson would give them an unfair advantage in the market. After an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, their suit was dropped and Whirlpool was allowed to obtain the KitchenAid brand as planned.
Whirlpool soon took aggressive action toward making use of its new brand, catering only to dealers that focused on high-quality products in order to give the public impression that the KitchenAid brand was synonymous with "quality". In the late 1980s, they developed new lines of KitchenAid household appliances, offering high profit margins to dealers that carried the entire line. They also constructed incredible store displays in the form of full-sized kitchen mock-ups filled with KitchenAid brand appliances.
In 1988, the Whirlpool Corporation had reorganized its subsidiaries, selecting KitchenAid to maintain its premium line of appliance products. After reaping the success of record sales numbers since the Whirlpool acquisition, the company began selling KitchenAid products through nearly 4,000 retail outlets, which made up nearly one third of all outlets in the United States. By 1990, Whirlpool had formed the North American Appliance Group, a subsidiary division to associate all of their American brands, KitchenAid included.
Itâ€™s often been confusing for consumers to distinguish which brands are manufactured by which company. For example, KitchenAid has its own line of cookware, though itâ€™s actually made by the Meyer Corporation. Many Sears Kenmore appliances are really KitchenAid models produced by Whirlpool. KitchenAid refrigerators often use Whirlpool refrigerator water filters, marked with both brand names together.