Now This is What You Call "An Inventor"!

Cool Whip, Pop Rocks, and Tang were invented by the same person.
In the 1950s, Americans were looking for ways to spend less time in the kitchen. Generations of home cooks, the overwhelming majority of them women, had made food preparation the focus of their day; historians estimate that in 1900, an average household spent 58 hours per week on housework. But a few decades later, postwar innovations such as affordable appliances created more free time — and so did a new wave of commercially prepared and processed foods, an emerging industry fueled by scientists such as William A. Mitchell. While Mitchell’s name isn’t widely known today, his most popular inventions are major name brands, including Cool Whip, Pop Rocks, and Tang.

Growing up in Minnesota, Mitchell spent his teenage years as a farmhand and carpenter, working to fund his college tuition. It took a few years for the future inventor to venture into food production after graduation, chemistry degree in hand; he worked at Eastman Kodak creating chemical developers for color film, as well as at an agricultural lab. He then went to work at General Foods in 1941, contributing to the war effort by creating a tapioca substitute for soldier rations. (Overseas, GIs renamed the gelatin and starch blend “Mitchell’s Mud.”) The postwar years saw Mitchell churn out a few flops, like carbonated ice, as well as now-iconic hits. In 1956, his quest to create a self-carbonating soda led to the accidental invention of Pop Rocks. A year later, he developed Tang Flavor Crystals, which skyrocketed to popularity after NASA used the powder in space to remedy astronauts’ metallic-tasting water. And by the time he’d retired from General Foods in 1976, Mitchell had developed a quick-set gelatin, powdered egg whites, and a whipped cream alternative — the beloved Cool Whip that now dominates grocery store freezers.
Approximate number of inventions Mitchell patented during his career

Percent of the RDA for vitamin C in one serving of Tang
100 Year astronaut Buzz Aldrin publicly admitted that he hated Tang

Pop Rocks were briefly discontinued because of safety concerns stemming from a notorious urban legend.

Pop Rocks are known as a totally rad treat of the 1980s, but the candy’s first release in the 1970s was a dud. General Foods initially released the candy in 1975, hoping to capitalize on its innovative appeal. But soon after the confection hit stores, rumors began to spread that it was dangerous, even deadly — supposedly, the carbon dioxide that caused the miniature explosions could mix with carbonated soda and cause children’s stomachs to explode. General Foods and inventor William Mitchell tried to combat the unfounded stories with newspaper ads, a telephone hotline, and by sending letters to 50,000 school principals around the U.S. But amid persistent rumors and slumping sales, General Foods stopped marketing the candy and sold the brand to Kraft in 1985, who marketed it as “Action Candy” — though today’s sweet tooths can once again find the candy under its original name.

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Cool Whip dominates freezers?

Never used the stuff. If I want fake whip cream, I use the stuff in a can in the refrigerator section.

I sort of remember “Pop Rocks” being rebrand as “Space Dust” for a while unless that was a competition brand.

Yes, Cool Whip has about 65%. Reddi Whip has about 25%. 10% proprietary


Reddi Whip has many more uses outside of traditional Food and Beverage uses. If you get my drift.

If you don’t get my drift, then perhaps that is why it only has 25% of the market.


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Competition brand was “Cosmic Candy”.

Space Dust and Cosmic Candy story here:

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I can’t hear cool whip without thinking of that. I do it to my wife every time! Lol

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I am with Buzz on this. First time I tried Tang I almost got sick. I never drank dishwasher/washing machine liquid but I imagine tang being as equally as bad.

Tang & Chef Boyardee spaghetti was the go to menu items for my Boy Scout patrol on the 1960’s.

When we were older we would get bottles of Tango. It was Tang & vodka.