Commentary

Corelle Brands, Instant Brands Cook Up A Merger Deal

Instant Brands, the maker of the overnight food-prep sensation of the past decade, Instant Pot, is merging with Corelle Brands, which markets such venerable products as the Pyrex cookware that your great-grandma used to bake her famous casseroles and brownies. Financial terms were not disclosed in the release announcing the agreement; the deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2019.

“‘Instant Brands is the No. 1 small kitchen appliance company in the U.S.,’ with the device in 20% of homes, said Corelle CEO Ken Wilkes, who will be CEO of the combined company. That creates ‘a lot of room for growth,’ he said,” writes Corilyn Shropshire for the Chicago Tribune. 

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“Comparatively, Pyrex is in 80% of American homes -- including 3 out of 4 millennial households. Wilkes said the combined company plans to expand the marketing and sales of Instant Brands’ Instant Pot Ace 60 Cooking Blender as well as add other new products, particularly in its Corelle dish brand line,” Shropshire adds.

“Instant Pot, an electric cooker that is a pressure cooker, slow cooker and a rice cooker in one, has built a cult-like following over the past few years. Its millions of devotees, who sometimes refer to themselves as ‘Potheads,’ share recipes on social media and have made it one of the top-selling items on Amazon.com Inc.’s online marketplace,” the Wall Street Journal’s Miriam Gottfried wrote Sunday night while breaking news of the impending deal.

“There are multiple versions of the device, which is also a cake and yogurt maker and can be used for sautéing, searing, steaming and warming, including a model that lets users control it remotely via an app on their smartphones. Instant Brands has also been diversifying its lineup. It now sells a blender that cooks food and a sous vide immersion circulator, among other accessories,” Gottfried continues.

“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,” David Goldman reports for CNN Business.

“After 18 months of research and a lot of trial and error, Instant Brands released its 5-in-1 Instant Pot…, [which] 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,” Goldman writes.

“A confluence of factors -- its availability on Amazon, touting of technological advancements like sensors to help optimize cooking, its relatively low price and popularity among bloggers with evangelical fervors -- helped make it a phenomenon,” Michael J. de la Merced observes for the New York Times.

“The success of Mr. Wang’s invention has inspired scores of cooking websites now to promote recipes for items like Instant Pot spaghetti, butter chicken and cheesecake, while also prompting bigger rivals like Breville and Cuisinart to come up with competing products,” de la Merced adds.

Instant Brands headquarters will remain in Ottawa, Ontario.  Wang will serve as its Chief Innovation Officer.

Corelle, which is based in Rosemont, Ill., was known as World Kitchen when it was spun off from Corning Inc. in 1998 and acquired by KKR & Co. The private equity firm Cornell Capital bought it in 2017. It has 21 offices on three continents.

“The merger brings together two closely held companies whose brands have been staples of home cooking. … Instant Pots and competing products flew off the shelves of J.C. Penney Co., Walmart Inc., Kohl’s Corp. and other retailers during the holiday season,” Jeff Sutherland and Aviel Brown write for Bloomberg.

“This partnership creates a leading housewares company with compelling opportunities for further growth by leveraging Corelle Brands’ best-in-class platform and the proven leadership team's decades of experience in building market-leading brands,” Henry Cornell, founder and senior partner of Cornell Capital, says in a statement.

Ken Wong, a faculty member at the Smith School of Business at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., tells the CBC’s Pete Evans that Corelle’s sales and marketing expertise should help Wong’s creation thrive going forward. 

“If you're an inventor looking for a … hit, you’re not going to do much better than the Instant Pot,” he says. “But the problem is that one product and one success doesn’t make you a company.”

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