(p. B1) KANATA, Ontario — Truth be told, the headquarters of Instant Pot don’t look much like a church.
But inside this sterile, gray office building on the outskirts of Ottawa, behind a door marked only by a small metal sign, a new religion has been born.
Its deity is the Instant Pot, a line of electric multicookers that has become an internet phenomenon and inspired a legion of passionate foodies and home cooks. These devotees — they call themselves “Potheads” — use their Instant Pots for virtually every kitchen task imaginable: sautéing, pressure-cooking, steaming, even making yogurt and cheesecakes. Then, they evangelize on the internet, using social media to sing the gadget’s praises to the unconverted.
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(p. B5) I went to Kanata to get a peek behind the scenes of the Instant Pot phenomenon and meet its creator: Robert Wang, who invented the device and serves as chief executive of Double Insight, its parent company. What I found was a remarkable example of a new breed of 21st-century start-up — a homegrown hardware business with only around 50 employees that raised no venture capital funding, spent almost nothing on advertising, and achieved enormous size primarily through online word-of-mouth. It is also a testament to the enormous power of Amazon, and its ability to turn small businesses into major empires nearly overnight.
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In 2010, after several months of sluggish sales in and around Ontario, Mr. Wang listed the Instant Pot on Amazon, where a community of food writers eventually took notice. Vegetarians and paleo dieters, in particular, were drawn to the device’s pressure-cooking function, which shaved hours off the time needed to cook pots of beans or large cuts of meat.
Sensing viral potential, Instant Pot sent test units to about 200 influential chefs, cooking instructors and food bloggers. Reviews and recipes appeared online, and sales began to climb.
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Mr. Wang credits the device’s technological advances — most notably, a group of sensors that keep the cooker from overheating or exploding under pressure.
Instant Pot’s internet fandom also gives it a leg up. The food bloggers behind popular recipe sites like Nom Nom Paleo were early converts to electric pressure-cooking, and cookbook authors took note of the device’s cult appeal. Mr. Wang says that more than 1,500 Instant Pot cookbooks have been written, including several of Amazon’s current best-sellers.
Amazon has played a particularly large role in Instant Pot’s rise. Early on, Instant Pot joined the “Fulfillment by Amazon” program, in which Amazon handles the packing and shipping of a seller’s products in exchange for a cut of each item sold. Eventually, Instant Pot sent Amazon wholesale shipments directly from factories in China, and Amazon began promoting the machines in its major annual sales. At one point, more than 90 percent of Instant Pot’s sales came through Amazon.
“Without Amazon, we wouldn’t be here,” Mr. Wang said.
For the full story, see:
KEVIN ROOSE. “The Shift; Instant Pot’s Inner Sanctum.” The New York Times (Mon., December 18, 2017): B1 & B5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 17, 2017, and has the title “The Shift; Inside the Home of Instant Pot, the Kitchen Gadget That Spawned a Religion.”)