Robert Rich, the Whipped-Topping King

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Robert Rich, who built his Rich Foods business empire out of a non-dairy dessert topping, passed away this week. Wartime necessity was the mother of invention, and Rich went on from there.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, country music en Espanola, pero primero.

Raise a dessert for, to Robert Rich, who died this week at the age of 92. There was a time before universal air conditioning in the United States when whipped cream was a sometime treat that too quickly turned to glop. During World War II the War Food Administration actually banned whipping cream on the home front so that it could be turned into condensed milk for the troops.

Robert Rich was a dairy farmer who in 1945 created the first non-dairy whipped topping on the American market (unintelligible) the kind of milkish liquid that soybeans can be made to produce. So he worked with chemist and engineers on machinery to whip and freeze soymilk into Rich's whipped toppings. Rich Products is now the largest family owned food business in America, whipping up whipped toppings, coffee whitener, and frosted cakes with creamy swirls that have as many peaks as a gothic cathedral.

Whipped toppings and coffee whiteners are sometimes derided as phony foods, but once it was the only way to dress up an ice cream sundae in Marietta, Georgia in August.

Robert Rich put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces, and still does.

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