Chances are you’ve coveted—or at least heard of—a Vitamix blender, even if the last time you made a milkshake was while watching an after-school special. So how did a basic appliance achieve luxury status? It all started with a kitchen-product salesman by the name of William Grover Barnard. During the Great Depression, he began to travel the country to sell his wares, demonstrating them at fairs around America and perfecting his pitchman skills. A few years later, in the thirties, William became seriously interested in whole-food nutrition and health while tending to a sick friend (yes, he was way ahead of his time), and, soon enough, he changed the name of his business to The Natural Food Institute and fell for a new product: the blender. By 1937, he’d created one of his own, dubbed the Vitamix. What set it apart? Multiple speed settings and an extra-powerful motor that could even grind wheat into flour.
This blender technology wasn’t the only instance of the company being on the cutting edge—in 1949, William’s son Bill convinced him to buy airtime on a local television station, and the resulting broadcast was the first infomercial to ever air on TV. The family business kept growing and pushing the limits of their powerful appliance, and in 1969, they introduced the 3600 model, which was the first blender able to knead bread dough, make hot soup, and even churn ice cream (because even health nuts have a sweet tooth).
Barnard’s grandsons used their engineering prowess to up the durability and performance of the blender and introduced the commercial line you see in smoothie shops around the world. The blenders aren’t cheap—they start in the $400 range—but the company offers a ten-year full warranty and maintains that less than 1% of Vitamixes have been returned for service issues. (“It’s the best warranty you’ll probably never need,” they explain.)
Plus, just look to the legions of devoted fans for proof the tool is worth the investment. Parents proclaim that even the most finicky of young eaters can’t tell there’s broccoli in that smoothie, and pros love it too: During the first season of Top Chef in 2005, chef Michael Symon brought along his Vitamix in a suitcase. For John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods, that’s aspirational. In 2014, he told The New York Times: “I don’t travel with the Vitamix because you’ll never get it through security because it’s got those blades. Trust me, I’ve tried it.”