Instant Pot maker to merge with Illinois houseware giant

Instant Pot
Instant Pot creator Robert Wang's company is merging with U.S.-based Corelle Brands LLC. File photo

Last summer, Instant Pot creator Robert Wang told OBJ his goal was to “build a brand that will last more than 50-plus years.”

On Monday, the man behind the global cookware sensation pulled the trigger on a deal he hopes will ensure his invention reaches that ambitious target.

Wang’s Kanata-based company, Instant Brands, announced it is merging with Illinois-based Corelle Brands LLC, the firm behind such iconic houseware labels as Pyrex and CorningWare. Financial terms of the transaction, which is expected to close in the second quarter of 2019, were not disclosed. 

In a statement, Wang said the corporate marriage with Corelle and its parent company Cornell Capital will give Instant Brands the financial heft and international marketing know-how it needs to achieve its aim of making the Instant Pot a worldwide force in the cooking appliance industry.

“We are thrilled to partner with a global market leader in Corelle Brands as we look to embark on our next chapter of strategic growth and expansion,” he said.

“With an international footprint, integrated supply chain and unique sourcing, design, R&D and comprehensive marketing capabilities, Corelle Brands and Cornell Capital will be true partners in supporting our innovation and expanding product development pipeline. In addition, this combination will allow us to better service our retail customers to meet their evolving needs and capitalize on exciting new demographic and market opportunities.”

Instant Brands, which employs more than 60 people, will remained headquartered in Kanata. Corelle CEO Ken Wilkes will become chief executive of the combined company, while Wang will take on the role of chief innovation officer.

“As one of the fastest-growing small kitchen appliance brands in the world, Instant Brands has established itself as a leader in innovation and its high-quality products have become a staple in kitchens in North America, fundamentally changing how consumers think about cooking,” Wilkes said in a news release.

“We are excited to work with Robert and the rest of the talented Instant Brands team in providing operational and marketing support and access to our global sales network to accelerate multi-channel and new product growth as part of the Corelle Brands family.”

Amazon favourite

Monday’s announcement is the latest chapter in the Instant Pot’s headline-grabbing ascent from a device that Wang, a former Nortel engineer, first started tinkering with a decade ago as a way to prepare a fast, healthy dinner for his family.

Manufactured in China, the cutting-edge appliance that combines the functions of a pressure cooker and a slow cooker has become the runaway leader in the electric multicooker category south of the border since it made its debut on Amazon in 2010. It’s been the No. 1 item on the Amazon Prime Day sales chart for three years running, moving 300,000 units on the e-commerce site in a span of just 19 hours last year.

“The problem that we are trying to solve is really to help people put dinner on the table,” Wang, who moved from China to Ottawa in 1994, told OBJ last September. “It’s a pretty common problem to everybody on Earth.”

More than 90 per cent of all Instant Pot sales last year were in the United States, where global market research firm NPD Group says the market for electric multicookers grew 79 per cent in 2017 to more than $300 million. Wang said the appliance is also rapidly gaining in popularity in Europe and South Africa, adding that Instant Brands was working on a “global expansion plan.”

Electric multicookers are still found in fewer than 15 per cent of U.S. households, while traditional slow cookers have a market penetration of more than 30 per cent, Wang said in the 2018 interview. The engineer-turned-entrepreneur added he was determined to close that gap.

“My plan is to build a brand which will last more than 50-plus years. Why? Because Crock-Pot has been around for 47 years,” he said, referring to the world’s No. 1 brand of slow cookers. “We’ve got to be able to do better because we solved the problem much better than they did.”