How Cheese Made James L. Kraft Rich and Famous

On this day, December 11 in the year 1874, the man who invented a method of preserving cheese was born in Ontario, Canada. His name was James Lewis Kraft, the founder of Kraft Foods, a major producer of cheese and salad dressings.

James Kraft
James Kraft Credit: ilctr.org

James Kraft was the son of a farmer of German origin. At the age of 18, he started working for a grocery store. Later, he invested in a cheese company in Buffalo, New York. When he was sent to Chicago as a representative of the company, he learned that he was stripped of his shares in the business. Not to be embittered, he used his pocket money of $65 to buy a horse and a wagon and began his own cheese trading business. With hard work, he was able to grow his business and soon his brothers came to Chicago to join him in a new partnership called JL Kraft Bros Co.

In 1909, James Kraft invented pasteurized cheese that enabled it to have longer shelf life. He continued to experiment to make cheese more palatable even after a longer period of time. Soon, he was distributing packaged cheeses in tin cans with the brand names Kraft and Elkhorn to all cities and towns of the United States. During World War I, the business grew enormously due to large orders from the government. In the succeeding years, growth was achieved with the purchased of cheese companies in Canada and Australia as well as building plants in European markets. The company also became one of the largest advertisers in print and later on radio. In the 1930s, Kraft Foods diversified into other processed foods such as salad dressing, macaroni, and margarine.

James Kraft died of complications due to surgery in 1953 at the age of 78. He had a daughter with his wife Pauline.

In 2015, Kraft Foods merged with Heinz Foods to form Kraft Heinz. In 2019, Kraft Heinz had revenues of over $26.2 billion ranking 122 on the Fortune 500 list.

References
http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2006/11/illinois_hall_o_7.html
http://www.hbs.edu/leadership/20th-century-leaders/Pages/details.aspx?profile=james_l_kraft
http://www.nndb.com/people/021/000165523/

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