Vitamix Blender: The Company
Vitamix describes itself as an “American success story” that began in 1921 when William Grover Barnard began selling kitchen appliances. Barnard’s “Natural Food Institute” started selling its Vitamix blender in 1937. With son Bill Barnard, he invented the infomercial in 1949 to advertise their “Vita-Mix” blenders. In 1964, third generation company head Grover Barnard changed the company’s name to Vitamix.
Industrial Blender Technology
Building powerful, durable, versatile blenders became the focus of the Barnards’ attention in the late twentieth century. Ruth Barnard anonymously developed hundreds of recipes for foods prepared in blenders, including vegan “milks,” bread dough, and especially hot soup.
While any blender will whip up milkshakes, only Vitamix blenders are durable enough to puree hot soup. Pouring in hot soup stock will shrink or even melt the rubber gaskets in some blenders. Vitamix blenders can actually heat the soup.
Though the company grew to over 1000 employees, it remained “small,” employing members of the Barnard family and maintaining its base in Olmsted Falls (near Cleveland), Ohio. John Barnard is credited with supervising the development of bigger industrial-strength blenders used in restaurants around the world today.
In 2009, Jodi Berg, also known as Jodi Barnard, became president of the Vitamix Company. She currently serves as company president and author of the company’s home page.
How long have people been using their Vitamix blenders? I searched, but did not find a record of the oldest working one. That may be because these things last so long that most of the owners of really old ones don’t use the Internet.
At 83, Grandma Bonnie Peters is the oldest wanted-to-be-a-blogger-but-never-got-to-it I know. She bought a Vitamix 500 blender in 1985, has given it the care that a “Depression baby” expects something so expensive to need, and is still using it (occasionally) today. It was a key part of her secret process for making Allergy-Ease Veggie Burgers.
Parts of Steel
Vitamix parts wear like iron because they’re made of specially processed, tempered steel. The four blades stay sharp for years and can be replaced when they wear out. The motors are designed to run harder than other blender motors without overheating. The gaskets are patented to be “dependable not disposable.” The containers can be “self-cleaned.”
As a result Toni Jones’ test video for the Daily Mail demonstrated the Vitamix to be “a super blender that takes no prisoners,” edging ahead of competing products even when all the machines are new.
You can always upgrade to newer, fancier Vitamix blenders. The company will happily help you. However, what makes it worth the trouble even to buy replacement parts for an older blender is that Vitamix stands by the products they sell. If your grandmother bought this blender, you can use it. If Berg and her successors carry on the family tradition, your grandchildren will be using it too.
What Do Blender Buyers Want?
Vitamix blenders for home use have evolved in three distinct directions: classic, high-tech, and small.
Classic blenders have switches and dials you use to change motor speeds. They fit nicely between most of the kitchen counters and kitchen cupboards found in US kitchens. Vitamix’s faithful 500, 750 and the newer 5200 model are classic.
High-tech blenders contain computer chips; you can type in digits to follow preset recipes or adjust motor speeds digitally. Similar in size to the classic models, the “smart” Ascent models work with apps for iOS or Android.
Small blenders fit into small kitchens. Most blenders stand about 20 inches tall (50-55 cm), 8-10 inches wide, and 8-10 inches deep; containers (“bottles”) hold up to 64 ounces (almost 2L). “Personal” blenders like the Vitamix S30 are only about 6 inches wide; containers hold either 20 or 40 ounces (0.6 to 1.2L).