There’s something comforting in knowing that a hot, golden waffle may be waiting in the nearest freezer, which means that Eggo waffles are the best thing to happen to toasters since sliced bread. How well do you know the beloved breakfast staple? We tracked down some interesting facts in honor of National Waffle Week.
1. THEIR INVENTORS WERE ORIGINALLY MAYONNAISE MOGULS.
To say the Eggo story has humble beginnings is a bit of an understatement. In 1932, Frank Dorsa of San Jose, California and his brothers Anthony and Sam joined forces on a culinary project in their parents’ basement. When they were finished, the Dorsa brothers had created a new brand of mayonnaise. Throughout the Depression, Eggo Mayonnaise boasted of its use of “100 percent fresh ranch eggs” and “triple refined vegetable oil,” which helped it sell quite well around the Dorsas’ San Jose home. A 1939 San Jose Evening News headline even read, “Local Mayonnaise is Highly Popular.”
2. WAFFLES CAME LATER.
After the Dorsas conquered the local mayonnaise game, they kept going. As Frank Dorsa’s obituary would later note, the brothers turned an infusion of $50 into the capital they needed to break into the waffle business. Before long, they were selling both mayonnaise and fresh waffle batter to hungry northern Californians. Eventually, though, they hit a snag: Shipping fresh batter and mayo restricted the area in which they could sell their wares. Undeterred, they created a powdered mix that cooks could reconstitute with a little milk.
3. THE EGGO LINE ONLY GOT BIGGER FROM THERE.
As the waffle and mayonnaise trade took off, the Dorsas expanded their sights. In 1938, they acquired the Garden City Potato Chip factory, and soon there were Eggo chips on the market. The Eggo line would eventually feature a dazzling variety of non-waffle foods, including noodles, salad dressings, and pretzels. Trade.mar.cx has a fun collection of old Eggo packaging.
4. BRANCHING INTO CHIPS HELPED MAKE THE EGGOS WE KNOW POSSIBLE.
The acquisition of the potato chip plant did more than just help Eggo expand into chips. It gave Frank Dorsa a chance to flex his muscles as an inventor. A trained machinist who had worked for a food machinery company, Dorsa used his mechanical know-how to invent a continuous potato peeler that would save employees from having to peel every fryer-bound potato by hand. This brand of ingenuity and automation would come in handy later when the Dorsas faced another issue.
5. CONSUMERS' MOVEMENT INTO FROZEN FOOD WAS A PROBLEM.
By the early 1950s, postwar Americans no longer wanted fresh waffle batter or even the Dorsas’ powdered Eggo mix. Frozen foods were the hot item, and if the Eggo brand wanted to stay relevant, it would need to create a market for frozen waffles. At that point, the Dorsas ran into an issue that’s familiar to anyone who has broken out the waffle iron on a weekend morning: Making each waffle is a fair amount of work that requires pouring batter and monitoring the cooking process. At first glance, waffles don’t seem like a food that would be easy to mass-produce.
6. FRANK DORSA'S SOLUTION WAS BRILLIANTLY QUIRKY.
The Dorsas had risen from their parents’ basement at the height of the Depression—they weren’t intimidated by the logistical hurdles of waffle-making. Frank sank his teeth into the problem, and by 1953, he had solved it with smart thinking and a little flair. With the help of a merry-go-round engine, Dorsa built a giant, rotating contraption equipped with a slew of waffle irons. The waffles cooked as the carousel rotated, and strategically placed employees could flip each waffle at just the right time. The machine enabled Eggo to crank out thousands of waffles an hour.
7. THEY ORIGINALLY HAD A DIFFERENT NAME.
The machine enabled Eggo to crank out thousands of waffles an hour, and American eaters were about to get a treat. When Dorsa’s creation hit grocers’ freezers in 1953, they weren’t called Eggo Waffles. Instead, they were known as Froffles, a combination of “frozen” and “waffles.” After spending two years winning over toasters and becoming a breakfast favorite on the West Coast, the name changed to Eggo waffles in 1955.
8. EGGO WAFFLES TOOK THE NATION BY STORM IN THE 1970S.
After years of delighting diners up and down the West Coast, Eggo waffles got their shot at the big time when Kellogg acquired the brand in the 1970s. Taking Eggo national proved to be a savvy move for Kellogg—the brand now controls over 60 percent of the $1.2 billion frozen waffle, pancake, and French toast category.
9. KELLOGG ALSO GAVE THE BRAND ITS CLASSIC SLOGAN.
Rolling Eggo out on a national basis required a good slogan, and luckily for Kellogg, ad agency Leo Burnett had just the thing. The company debuted its “Leggo My Eggo” campaign in 1972, and the messaging performed so well that it remained the key part of Eggo’s marketing for 36 years. Although Kellogg finally retired the pitch in 2008, nothing can keep a strong tagline from persisting—the company brought back “Leggo my Eggo” in late 2014.
10. EGGO FANS HAD A ROUGH TIME IN 2009 AND 2010.
In 2009, Kellogg faced what might have been history’s biggest waffle crisis. In September, the company’s Atlanta plant—one of four that makes Eggos—showed signs of Listeria infection, necessitating a recall of 4500 cases of waffles. Just as the plant was poised to reopen, heavy rains and floods hammered the area, further delaying production. Coupled with a temporary shutdown of the company’s waffle-making plant in Rossville, Tenn. for equipment repairs, the delay proved disastrous. Kellogg had to warn customers that Eggo shortages would persist into mid-2010. Thankfully for waffle lovers, Kellogg got the issues straightened out in 2010, and freezers could once again be filled with waffles.
11. DORSA NEVER PERFECTED PANCAKES.
When Eggo godfather Frank Dorsa passed away in 1996, his obituaries mentioned that he never abandoned his experimenting and inventions. He created a fryer that kept bacon from curling and a host of other innovations, but Dorsa’s son revealed the one goal that consistently eluded the great food thinker: A recipe for frozen pancakes. One can only imagine, then, that the inclusion of pancakes in the current Eggo product line would delight him.