The history of Kraft goes back to 1903, when, with $65 in capital, a rented wagon and a horse named Paddy, J.L. Kraft started purchasing cheese at Chicago’s Water Street wholesale market and reselling it to local merchants. Within a short time, four of J.L. Kraft’s brothers joined him in the business, and, in 1909, they incorporated as J.L. Kraft & Bros. Co. In 1914, J.L. Kraft and his brothers purchased their first cheese factory in Stockton, Illinois. In 1915, they began producing processed cheese in 3-1/2 and 7-3/4 ounce tins. J.L. Kraft’s method of producing processed cheese was so revolutionary, in 1916 he obtained a patent for it and in 1917 the company started supplying cheese in tins to the U.S. Government for the armed forces in World War I.
J.L. Kraft followed up on his success with processed cheese in tins by introducing or acquiring many additional products, including processed cheese in loaves, Velveeta Process Cheese, Philadephia Cream Cheese, Miracle Whip Salad Dressing and Kraft Dinner Macaroni and Cheese. He used innovative advertising to promote his products and was a pioneer in the sponsorship of television and radio shows. Kraft Music Hall on radio and Kraft Television Theatre helped prove the effectiveness of advertising on the then-new media. The company’s “hands” commercials, showing a pair of hands preparing recipes using Kraft products, became a symbol of the company’s advertising success. Aggressive sales merchandising techniques contributed further to the company’s growing market share in an increasingly diverse line of products.
The success of J.L. Kraft and his company was noted by Thomas McInnerney, founder of National Dairy Products Corporation. In 1930, Kraft-Phenix Cheese Corporation (as it was then called) was acquired by National Dairy Products Corporation. Kraft continued to operate as an independent subsidiary of National Dairy Products Corporation for many years, but eventually was absorbed into the operating structure of the parent company, which changed its name to Kraftco Corporation in 1969 and again to Kraft, Inc. in 1976. © 2007 Kraft