History of Rich Products' Work with Soy Proteins
by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi
A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Rich Products Corporation, founded in 1944
by Robert E. Rich, developed one of the world's earliest and most popular
commercial food products to use isolated soy protein as a significant
ingredient--Rich's Whip Topping, launched in April 1945. This was also one
of the first soy-based whipped toppings, and the first non-dairy frozen
whip topping. The isolated soy protein in this product, produced at Rich's
own plant in Buffalo, New York, was probably the first non-enzyme-modified
isolate to be used in a food in the United States. Rich Products also
introduced America's first commercial soy ice cream, Chil-Zert, in 1951,
and an early non-dairy creamer, Coffee Rich, in 1960. Bob Rich waged many legal battles at
great personal expense against dairy interests, which sought to outlaw or
severely restrict non-dairy products. His string of 42 court victories
played a pivotal early role in legitimizing non-dairy products and in the
subsequent impressive growth of this industry, which today depends so much
on soy proteins. Thus Bob Rich was a pioneer in three American industries
whose activities overlap: modern soy protein foods, non-dairy products,
and frozen foods.
Early Years to 1949. Bob Rich was born on 7 July 1913 in Buffalo, New York. He was one of five children of a local ice cream manufacturer, formerly a dairyman, who had switched to the ice cream business because he didn't like selling milk. During the summers Bob acquired a working knowledge of dairy plant operation at his father's ice cream plant. In 1935 he graduated from the University of Buffalo, where he was two-time captain of the football and wrestling teams. After graduation he used a $5,000 gift from his father to make the down payment on Wilber Farms Dairy, a small milk plant in Buffalo. He eventually developed it into one of the city's leading wholesale and retail operations. But he grew to dislike the dairy business just as his father had.
In 1942 Bob Rich, having established a reputation as a milk plant operator, was called to Washington as a consultant in the dairy section of the War Production Board. A year later he was hired by the War Food Administration (WFA) and sent to Detroit as milk order administrator for the state of Michigan.
One day in 1943 the chief purchasing agent of Detroit's Ford Hospital came into Rich's office in search of additional butter ration points. Rich explained that his job was concerned solely with the diversion of non-essential civilian milk supplies into the production of dry and condensed milk for the US armed forces and for Lend Lease. The purchasing agent replied that the Ford Hospital was not in need of milk. The entire supply of milk and cream was produced in Dearborn, Michigan, by Henry Ford's Carver Laboratory (named after Dr. George Washington Carver) - from soybeans!
Those last words sparked what was to become a lifelong interest for Bob Rich. He had never heard of soymilk before, but during the war he had seen the potential for dairy-like foods. After Ford's purchasing agent had told Rich more about soymilk and soy cream, he invited Rich to visit the Carver Laboratories at Henry Ford's Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. There Rich saw the continuous process, 3-vat system that Ford's researchers had developed from as early as 1940 for extracting protein from soybean flakes. The extraction equipment resembled a Rube Goldberg contraption. The protein was used as the basis for the soymilk they made for the Ford Hospital. During his visit, Bob Rich met Rex Diamond (chief chemist there), and Bob Smith. Diamond told Rich that if Rich was interested in using soy protein to make a soy cream, he could license the rights to Ford's patented continuous protein extraction process for $1 a year. Mr. Ford was very interested in promoting soymilk.
In a sense Henry Ford's career can be seen as a plot to eradicate large domestic animals. Having rendered the horse obsolete with his automobile, he now set out to eliminate the cow. Ford's unspoken antagonism toward cows struck a responsive chord in Bob Rich. Though neither the protein extraction nor the soymilk formulation operations were in operation during his visit, Rich was impressed by what he saw that day. The U.S. government prohibited sales of whipping cream during the war, so he began to dream of developing a "soy cream" that would whip (Quick Frozen Foods 1955; Owen 1983; Bob Rich 1985, personal communication).
For more than a year Rich keep thinking about his new idea. He did not realize at the time that others had had the same dream before him. In the early 1930s Ford researchers Robert Boyer and co-workers had developed America's first experimental whip toppings, as well as a coffee creamer, and most other dairy analogs from soymilk and soy proteins. In late 1944 or early 1945 Bob Smith (a former Ford researcher) and Herbert Marshall Taylor introduced Delsoy, a soymilk-based non-dairy whip topping. Made in Dearborn, it was sold mostly in Detroit to the restaurant trade. In the spring of 1945 it was introduced through retail stores in New York. Delsoy was America's earliest known commercial non-dairy whip topping. But it never became a very successful product. In part because it was not a frozen food, its distribution was limited to the Detroit area.
After resigning from WFA in Oct. 1944, Rich returned to Buffalo and engaged chemists to help him transform his "soy whipping cream" idea into reality. For several months Rich and Dr. Alexander Schwarcman (vice president and research director of Spencer Kellogg & Sons, from whom Rich purchased shortening) did intense work, testing every known type of emulsifier. Eventually they found that only one (propylene glycol monostearate), supplied by only one company, would do the job. This was the final step in developing a commercially acceptable soy whipping cream.
With the product ready to go into large scale production, Rich wrote the general consul of the Ford Motor Co. requesting rights to its patented method of continuous protein extraction - a request he had been led to believe in 1944 would be granted as a matter of routine. No response. When Rich went to talk with Ford's in-house counsel, he backed off on the company's offer saying, "Don't you realize that we're selling lots of Fordson tractors to American farmers who raise cows?" Rich's rebuttal that Ford was also selling lots of tractors to American soybean farmers didn't work.
So Rich went back to Buffalo and, with the help of one of the nation's leading dairy engineers, developed a batch protein extraction process, which eventually extracted a significantly higher percentage of isolated soy protein from soy flakes - which Rich obtained from the Glidden Co. In Rich's protein extraction process, the soy flakes were first mixed with water in 300-gallon stainless steel tanks. The pH of the flakes was raised to 9.6 to extract the protein, then lowered to near the isoelectric point (pH 4.6) to precipitate the protein. After the supernatant liquid (soy whey) was removed, the isolate curd was neutralized to pH 6.9 then centrifuged with a dairy clarifier (with the discs removed) to lower the moisture content. The wet isolate was run through cooling tubes into stainless steel settling tanks. The original "soy cream" formulation called for (in order of predominance), water, 27% soy oil shortening, corn syrup, 1.5% isolated soy protein (slurried with the water), flavoring, coloring, salt, and the stabilizer they ad developed (propylene glycol monostearate). In the all-stainless-steel processing room, the "soy cream" was pasteurized at 185°F, homogenized at 3,500 pounds pressure, then cooled to 35°F. When the product was satisfactory, Bob Rich decided to call it Whip Topping.
In November 1944, after he was satisfied that he had a good protein extraction system and a good "soy cream" formulation, Bob Rich founded and incorporated Rich Products Corporation in Buffalo, New York, to manufacture his non-dairy whipped cream. He converted his dairy's three car garage into the production plant. Joe Robida was production manager. Whip Topping hit the market in April 1945, shortly after Delsoy was introduced. It was sold as a thick liquid in a 1/2 pint container the shape of a truncated cone - the same shape as Delsoy's container. Both companies chose the same unique container because the machine to fill it was less expensive and Pure Pak refused to give a license for use of their carton to any competitor of dairy products.
Rich's Whip Topping had a number of advantages over whipped cream - aside from the fact that whipping cream was completely unavailable during the war: (1) It stood up longer after being whipped, retaining stiffness and overrun better without drooping or weeping; (2) it sold for about 25% less than heavy cream; (3) because it could be frozen (which heavy dairy cream could not, if it was to be later whipped), it stayed fresh longer; (4) it could be re-whipped even several days after it had been whipped initially; (5) one volume of the liquid whipped up to 3.0 volumes of topping in 45 seconds, versus only 1.86 volumes for regular dairy whipping cream. Thus Whip Topping gave 61% more yield by volume; (6) dairy cream could be easily over-whipped, resulting in a kind of buttery substance. This was not a problem with Whip Topping; (7) it was a kosher and pareve product from 1946 on; (8) it was advertised as being almost twice as nourishing as heavy cream and (believe it or not) non-fattening!
Whip topping was a war baby. Initially it was sold only as a retail product. Rich distributed it to the customers on his milk routes, billing it variously as "the Miracle Cream from the Soybean" and "Gold from the Soil." During the early months it was not a fabulous success. Its developers were not chemists and the soy proteins were made by a relatively primitive process, so the product's quality left much to be desired. Sales during the first year (9 months) were $28,000.
In the summer of 1945 an unexpected breakthrough occurred. Rich had been invited to make a sales presentation to the Henry Pape Co., a refrigerated foods distributor on Long Island, New York. He packed some samples in dry ice and newspaper and set out on the overnight train from Buffalo. The next morning, while facing the sales manager and 18 salesmen, Rich took out his samples then discovered to his horror that they had frozen solid. He had inadvertently packed them in too much dry ice. He began to perspire, for he knew well that cow's cream would not whip after freezing. He cracked a few jokes to stall as long as he could, then borrowed a knife and hacked nervously at his frozen "soy cream" until he could fit the pieces into a mixing bowl. Then he held his breath. It whipped to perfection!
No one was more surprised than Bob Rich. But he had the presence of mind to realize that he had done more than escape from a potentially embarrassing situation. He had invented the world's first frozen non-dairy whipped cream. This meant that his market was no longer confined to Buffalo. Now he could sell Whip Topping nationwide. Quite by accident Rich Products Corp. had entered the frozen food business. Three months later the company was freezing all its products. The modern frozen food industry, which often dates its origins from 1929 when Clarence Birdseye froze his epochal fish, was still quite young in 1945, and Rich Products later came to be regarded as one of its pioneers (Frozen Food Age 1977; Owen 1983).
In January 1946, to get national distribution for his frozen whip topping, Rich Products ran a quarter page ad in Quick Frozen Foods--the company's first ad for the product. From among the 134 frozen food distributors who responded, Rich Products appointed its first 100 distributors. America's housewives took to Whip Topping. Sales snowballed. The plant at 1149 Niagara St. began to operate 24 hours a day. Also in January 1946 Rich Products entered the foodservice business, when they sold their first case of Whip Topping to Ohio State University. To use Whip Topping, a chef would chop the frozen product into pieces with a cleaver (one was provided free of charge with each case!), then whip it. Later, Rich Products added sugar to the formulation, which made the product thaw and pour.
Over the years institutional and bulk sales of Rich's Whip Topping increased. From 1945 on Rich had taken his whip topping to food trade shows and dietitian's shows, attending up to 30 a year. The pioneering product was well received. A good part of Rich's success from 1946 on was in the South; there the problem of dairy whipped cream's turning sour or rancid in the warmer climate restricted its usage, the people were more accustomed to the use and flavor of soy since soy margarine was widely used in frying, and southern frozen food distributors were very aggressive.
Then on 20 November 1946 disaster struck. With no advance notification, the U.S. government lifted all restrictions on the sale of cream and other dairy products, months before the earliest predicted date for such a move. With regular whipping cream now available, retailers and distributors canceled all orders for Whip Topping. For Rich Products, it was a nightmare, and for a while it looked like the young company might perish. But Bob Rich, his sales staff, and his advertising agency worked for days around the clock on a new marketing strategy to overcome the product's ersatz wartime image and to play up the its many unique attributes.
In December 1946 Soybean Digest ran a nice article on Rich Products and Whip Topping - written before the surprise notification). The firm had just spent $60,000 constructing a new, modern plant, which was working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week producing 1 million half pint containers of Whip Topping a month.
A huge national campaign was launched but recovery came only slowly; not until late 1948 had sales reached their first-year level. At that time Whip Topping was introduced in a pressurized all-metal container, which replaced its former heavy wax paper cartons--half pints for the retail trade and quarts for institutions and bakeries. Previously it had been necessary to partially thaw the product, then whip the topping by hand or in an electric mixer. Now the topping emerged from the container nicely whipped, under 90 pounds pressure from nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.
As Whip Topping gained popularity, the dairy industry began to take notice. The first lawsuit against the non-dairy product was in 1949 in California. The charge was that Whip Topping was an imitation dairy product, and hence illegal. Rich Products' defense was that their product was not an imitation (which implies inferiority to the real product) but a replacement. Likewise the Model T Ford was clearly a replacement for the horse and buggy, not an imitation. As we have seen above, Whip Topping had many definite advantages over its dairy counterpart. Rich Products won the case. Then in 1951 the product was seized again. In the interim, the dairy industry had gotten the state food laws changed and, as Bob Rich recalled, "done everything but mention Rich Products' name." Rich Products won the 1952 trial, and judge Bernard Shawman notified the state's attorney general that if he should attack Rich Products at any time in the future, Mr. Rich would have an excellent chance for indemnity against the state. That was the last lawsuit ever brought against Whip Topping.
The 1950s. By the early 1950s, as Whip Topping began to become popular, other companies began to use Rich's brand name. Although it was a registered trademark, listed on the Supplemental Register, it sounded almost like a generic term. Rich's attorney's protected the term, suggesting that those with trademark infringements call their products something else, such as "whipped topping." But eventually Rich formally renamed his product "Rich's Whip Topping" to give it better trademark protection.
By 1946, Rich Products had obtained kosher and pareve certification for Whip Topping from the prestigious Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. By about 1946-47 kosher Jewish catering services in New York City (and soon thereafter housewives) had discovered that Rich's Whip Topping (which they purchased from Henry Pape Co.) was remarkably similar to real whipped cream in texture and flavor, and could be used to make a completely new type of non-dairy frozen desserts. These were America's first such desserts based on isolated soy proteins. Soon an estimated 5-10% of Rich's sales of whip topping to the foodservice market were being used by other companies to make non-dairy kosher ice creams.
Rich's followed this lead and in about 1951 unveiled Chil-Zert, the world's first isolate-based commercial non-dairy frozen dessert having a registered trademark. Although Chil-Zert was well made (with 2-3% soy protein, soy oil, and corn syrup) and tasted good, like many pioneering products it ran into problems. First, it was transported and stored by frozen food distributors who couldn't keep it cold enough. (Ice cream distributors, who operated at 20 degrees below zero, wouldn't touch Chil-Zert.) No emulsifying system could be found to prevent it from softening then becoming icy when refrozen. Second, the FDA impounded the product from Arrow Frozen Foods in New Orleans, claiming that it was an imitation ice cream and thus misbranded. The case was to be tried in federal court in Syracuse, New York. But Rich Products did not even go to the trial to contend the charge, for distribution problems had already forced them in 1952 to discontinue Chil-Zert. David Rich, son of the company's founder, enjoyed Chil-Zert as a boy. He recalled that when he first tasted vanilla Tofutti in the 1980s, it distinctly reminded him of Chil-Zert.
On 15 Nov. 1955 Rex Diamond (the Henry Ford researcher that Rich had met on his visit to the Carver Labs) went to work for Bob Rich in Buffalo. Rich hired Diamond after the American Maize Products Co., where Diamond was formerly employed, dropped their plans to make a powdered non-dairy topping. Diamond was put in charge of the laboratory and development and research of Rich Products. From that time until at least 1959 he was the only chemist employed by the company. On 25 Nov. 1955, as part of a business agreement, Diamond sold, assigned, and transferred all rights, titles, and interests to all of his patents (3 issued and 1 applied for) to Bob Rich in return for $5,000.
In May 1956 Rich Products added a completely new formulation of Whip Topping to its line. Named Rich's Whip Topping - The Diamond Process," it contained no protein and was made by a process developed and patented by Diamond. Diamond eventually became vice president of Rich Products. In the new formulation, soy oil was replaced by coconut oil, which had a better flavor. A key new ingredient in the non-protein whip topping was methyl ethyl cellulose, developed by Dow Chemical.
Rich's new non-protein Whip Topping came in two forms: a base (containing 46% fat) and a regular strength. It was initially sold only to foodservice institutions (which comprised about 20% of total sales); the original soy protein formulation continued to be sold (largely in a pressurized container) to the retail trade, which accounted for 80% of total sales. Rich Products continued to produce its own soy isolates. Good quality powdered isolates would not be available commercially in America until about 1959.
The new formulation had numerous advantages over its predecessor. Its flavor was better and its shelf life at 40°F was extended to 6 months, from 3-4 weeks. It could be whipped to a stiffness never before attained by any cream or filled cream (containing added vegetable fat). It whipped up to 4 times its liquid volume, giving more than double the yield of dairy whipping cream. It retained overrun, freshness, flavor, and a "decorator's edge" for more than 48 hours at temperatures as high as 80°F. The base had a unique advantage over dairy whipping cream. It could be reconstituted or extended with either the usual water or nonfat milk, or with fruit juices to give special effects such as an orange icing or filling.
Now Rich began to introduce the new Whip Topping in various sizes. In 1952 came Sundi-whip in an 8-ounce pressurized can for soda fountains and over-the-counter trade. In about 1953 appeared Rich's Green Label Whip Topping, which was developed for bakery and institutional use.
Prior to mid-1955 Whip Topping had been Rich's only product. At that time they launched Rich's Frozen Chocolate Eclairs, which had Whip Topping as the filling. The eclairs quickly became enormously successful, and were called "the hottest thing to hit the frozen food industry in the last five years."
In February 1955 Quick Frozen Foods published an excellent 27-page, tenth anniversary story of Rich Products' first decade, upon which we have drawn heavily.
The 1960s. In 1963 Rich Products introduced Coffee Rich, a frozen liquid coffee whitener. It was test marketed in Baltimore. Rich deliberately used the generic disclaimer "coffee whitener" rather than "non-dairy creamer" to avoid as much as possible stepping on the toes of dairy interests. Coffee Rich was the second such liquid product to be sold in America; Presto Food Products in Kansas City, Missouri, had introduced a non-dairy coffee creamer named Mocha Mix (containing soy protein) in 1950, although Rich was not aware of it. But Rich's product was the first frozen liquid non-dairy creamer. The original Coffee Rich used coconut oil and contained no protein, being based on the 1953 patent formulation. The lack of protein gave the product a long shelf life when sold refrigerated in dairy cases, as was planned. But the product started settling out, so the company switched to using sodium caseinate as a protein source, then in about 1963 began using soy protein (typically about 0.75% by weight) as the main protein source. In the mid-1970s soy oil replaced half of the coconut oil, then later in the 1970s all of it.
The dairy industry spent a small fortune trying to keep Coffee Rich off the market. Its fight against Whip Topping had been short lived largely because heavy whipping cream (of which little was sold and lots spoiled) was not a big money maker for milk dealers and dairies. But cream was the "bread and butter" of the dairy industry, and it girded to fight in state after state to the bitter end. In some states dairy interests claimed Coffee Rich was an "imitation cream" and hence against the state law; in others they claimed it was mislabeled because the words "imitation cream" did not appear on the label. The first lawsuit was in Louisiana in 1961. Rich Products won in a one-day trial. The defense was exactly the same as it had been for Whip Topping. Coffee Rich was a replacement, not an imitation. Angered by this defeat and hoping to break Rich by exhausting his financial resources on court cases, dairy interests had Coffee Rich seized in Virginia, Michigan, and Washington. But the former college wrestling and football star wasn't easily downed. He parried by persuading the Carnation Company (which sold Coffee Mate, a powdered caseinate-based coffee whitener) to split all forthcoming legal fees. Two or three years later General Foods joined the non-dairy defense fund. Their Birdseye Division sold Dream Whip, a powdered whip topping, and later the famous non-dairy Cool Whip. Now all legal fees were split three ways. Dick Borne of RGB Labs says they were sharing expenses too before the association was formed, and the General Mills came in after.
At about this time (in 1968) the group finally established the National Association for Advanced Foods, to defend the rights of non-dairy products and to be sure that no small companies went off half-cocked and lost precedent setting lawsuits. Ellis Arnall was the Association's first director; they charged annual dues plus assessments and took in new members. The many trials continued to be fought in the name of Rich Products Corp., since it had prestige. In the 1960s a small company selling Instant Blend, a non-dairy creamer or topping, after deciding to defend itself, lost its lawsuit 7-0 in the Massachusetts supreme court. They were kindly permitted to continuing selling the product as long as it was distinctively colored--blue! The dairy industry gloated. A year later Rich Products deliberately sold Coffee Rich in Massachusetts so that it would be seized. Their case also went to the state supreme court, but this time Rich's team of seasoned attorneys won. . . 7-0!
By 1966 some 15 consecutive court decisions had ruled in Rich's favor, though five of these went as far as the state supreme court. By 1974 the number of cases and victories for Coffee Rich had grown to 40. That year the Kansas Supreme Court declared Coffee Rich "a new and distinct food" and the milk lobby gave up. Rich Products' success in these suits led to the creation of a new food product category: Coffee whitener.
Coffee Rich was the company's third product to contain a significant amount of soy protein. But Rich did not especially promote the fact that his products contained soy on the labels or in advertising, though he often discussed it with reporters. The company initially bought its isolated soy protein isolates for Coffee Rich from one or more of the big manufacturers (Central Soya, ADM, or Glidden) In the mid-1960s a powdered Coffee Rich was developed.
In about 1965 Rich Products stopped using soy protein in its retail Whip Topping and switched over to the non-protein formulation adopted for institutional use in 1953. At about that time, company stopped making isolated soy proteins.
By 1967 Bob Rich had built Wilber Farms Dairy into the largest solely owned, independent milk company in America. That year he decide to sell it and get out of the dairy business. Rich Products (whose plant was now 140,000 square feet) was doing well enough with non-dairy products to support him amply.
In 1969 Bob Rich's oldest son, Robert Rich, Jr., started to work at the company's Buffalo headquarters as sales manager. After graduating from Williams College in 1963, he had run the Rich Products plant in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada. After setting up the company's first marketing department in Buffalo, he embarked on a bold program of acquisitions, based on the observation the Rich Products then had more frozen food distributors than any other frozen food packer in the USA. Company sales in 1969 were $33 million. The first acquisition, that year, was the Elmtree Baking Co. in Appleton, Wisconsin. Sales began to rise by leaps and bounds.
The 1970s. In 1975 food sales from Rich Products and affiliates had topped $100 million a year. That year the company was awarded the National Frozen Foods Convention's first Grand Award, for "achievement in developing the frozen food industry ... and for his "pioneering work in researching and popularizing simulated frozen dairy products" (Quick Frozen Foods 1975).
In November 1978 Rich Products launched an exciting new product and a revolutionary new process. The product was Bettercreme, a non-dairy icing that whips and is used primarily on cakes. It contained an enzyme-modified isolated soy protein (made perhaps by A.E. Staley's Gunther Products).
The process was Freeze Flo, a dramatic processing breakthrough that was first used to make Bettercreme. Freeze Flo makes it possible to use a frozen food without thawing it. By eliminating the need to thaw, Freeze Flo quickly began to change the very concept of frozen foods. The process, invented by Marvin L. Kahn (who worked with a company Rich acquired), replaces free water in a product with water bound to fructose or other natural sugars in the product. Binding water in a product (such as a fresh or dried fruit) it does two things: (1) It eliminates a medium for bacteria to grow, so that spoilage is greatly retarded, and (2) it makes it impossible for ice crystals to form. Rich Products soon had high hopes that Freeze Flo might become the most revolutionary development in this field since Clarence Birdseye froze his first fish in 1929.
In 1978 Bob Rich Jr. became president of Rich Products. His father retired but remained chairman of the board and chief executive officer, and his brother, David, was/ head of the public relations department.
The 1980s. By the early 1980s Freeze Flo had already become very popular in Europe, some exciting medical applications were being investigated. By 1983 Rich Products was using the Freeze Flo process to make many of its "Fresh 'n Ready No Thaw Desserts," including Grand America (a dairy ice cream), Fresh 'n Frosty (a mellorine, resembling ice cream but with the butterfat replaced by soy oil), the fillings for chocolate eclairs, Bavarian cream puffs, creme pies, cakes, and cheesecakes--as well as Bettercreme. It was billing this "gentle freezing process" as "the most significant breakthrough in Frozen Foods in 50 years." Because of Freeze Flo, the ice cream and mellorine, both introduced in 1983, could rise in temperature to 5° above zero without defrosting; typical ice creams defrost at 20° below zero. But Freeze Flo is not used to make some other of Rich's products, such as frozen fish and meat balls (Rich Products 1983; Owen 1983).
In the late 1970s Rich hired Mike Billoni, a local sports reporter, to write a company history. It was to be titled 35 Years Below Zero and published in 1980 to commemorate the company's 35th anniversary. But so many exciting things began happening with Freeze Flo that Rich postponed publication and is now hoping that it will eventually be the first chapter in a longer work. The company also maintains a large scrapbook that goes back to the founding in 1944.
In 1985 Rich Products, still privately owned, was the world's largest maker of non-dairy products, with sales of $545 million a year. Roughly 75% of Rich Products' sales were to foodservice organizations, and 25% to retail consumers. Starting in 1972, I.D. magazine picked Rich Products for 12 out of 13 years as the outstanding frozen foodservice packer in America. The most popular retail products (in descending order of sales) were Coffee Rich, Rich's Frozen Chocolate Eclairs, and Rich's Donuts. A little of Rich's Whip Topping is sold retail in pressurized containers. Richwhip Topping, a beat-it-yourself liquid, sells well only in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
From the 1970s on, the only two of Rich's products contained a significant amount of soy protein: Coffee Rich and Bettercreme. Of the two, Coffee Rich used the larger amount in total annual tonnage. The company bought its isolated soy proteins from Ralston Purina. But as of 1985 Rich Products was seriously considering at least one product that would get the company much more actively involved with soy protein. It is still on the drawing boards, so details are not yet available.
There are two basic types of coffee whiteners or coffee creamers: Powdered and non-powdered. Coffee Rich is the only non-powdered coffee whitener that is distributed nationally. It has an estimated 90% of the branded, non-powdered market.
In 1985 Robert E. Rich Sr. recalled: "In the frozen food business, my heart has always been in the non-dairy segment of it. I always figured that was my baby. That's what put our company on the map. . . Its always interesting to recall the early days of the soybean business. I foresee a steady growth in that area" (personal communication).