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5 Tasty Accidents That Changed The World

Some of the best designs happen by accident, especially in the kitchen.  These edible accidents do have a few things in common, which we will review towards the end of the article.  For now, let’s look at five tasty accidents.



John Pemberton

John Pemberton was a Confederate soldier, who was wounded in a battle.  During his recovery, Pemberton became addicted to morphine.  He suffered from withdrawal, which caused splitting headaches.  Pemberton was also an Atlanta pharmacist, so he began working on ways to cure his headaches.

Initially, Pemberton began working with coca wines to help cure his headaches.  In 1886, lawmakers passed temperance legislation, which forced Pemberton to experiment with non-alcoholic concoctions.  Pemberton eventually created Coca-Cola as a non-alcoholic cure for his headaches.  The recipe is still a closely guarded secret today.

The curious pharmacist tasted his non-alcoholic concoction.  To his delight, it tasted great.  But, he still suffered from headaches.  In less than 10 years, Pemberton was bottling his sodas and selling them to the public.




In 1905, Frank Epperson was 11 years old.  He was mixing powdered soda and water to make soda pop. According to Epperson, he accidentally left the mixing bucket outside on a very cold night.  During the night the soda pop mixture froze solid, with his wooden stir spoon frozen in it.

The curious boy tasted the frozen concoction.  To his delight, it tasted great.

Ironically, Epperson waited almost 20 years before doing anything with discovery.  In 1923, Epperson started to sell his “Epperson Icicles” at an amusement park.  These frozen treats were a hit.

In 1924, Epperson obtained a patent.  He renamed the “Epperson Icicles” to “Popsicles” a little later.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Toll House Cookies

Toll House Cookies

In 1930, Ruth Wakefield accidentally created chocolate chip cookies at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.  As the story goes, Ruth had ran out of baking chocolate when she was making a batch of her chocolate cookies.  As any scrappy baker would do, Ruth broke a bar of semi-sweet chocolate into little pieces and mixed the dough.

To Ruth’s surprise, the chocolate did not melt to make her chocolate cookies. The small chunks of semi-sweet chocolate were baked into the cookies.

The curious baker tasted them.  To her delight, the cookies tasted great.  Ruth started selling Toll House chocolate-chip cookies immediately.

Potato Chips

English: A pile of potato chips. These are Utz...

Potato Chips

In 1853, George Crum was working as a cook at a café in Saratoga Springs, New York.  A disgruntled customer sent back his French Fries, complaining they were too thick.  The customer requested a new batch of French Fries.  George made a new batch, slicing the potatoes thinner.  The customer sent them back.

So, George sliced them even thinner.  The customer sent them back, again.

Angry, George Crum cut the potato paper-thin, frying it to a crisp.  George added some salt, sending them out to the customer.  George’s customer still complained.  He could not use his fork to eat these new French fries, but he wanted another order of the potato chips.

According to the story, George tried the second batch of potato chips.  He called them “The Saratoga Chip”.  Customers loved them.

Ice Cream Cone

Ice Cream Cones

In 1904, the World’s Fair was in St. Louis.  It was a very hot day.  Ice cream was served in bowls.  The ice cream vendor could not clean the bowls fast enough to keep up the demand of his customers.  Meanwhile, Ernest Hamwi was trying to sell some pastries with very little success.

Ernest decides to use his pastries as a make-shift ice cream bowl.  He shapes the pastries into cones and deep fries them.  Ernest puts the ice cream inside the cone.  The ice cream cones were a huge hit.

Lessons for Designers

For me, I see several lessons for designers:

  • Some of the best designs happen by accident.  All of these examples were not specifically designed for their original purpose.
  • The customer knows it when they see it.  The “Saratoga Chip” shows a customer complaining because he cannot use a fork, but he orders more potato chips.
  • Mashing up different things leads to magic.  Toll House cookies and ice cream cones illustrate how you can use different things in new combinations to create something new.

So, I want you to get some inspiration when you reach for your next snack.  Remember potato chips, Cokes, chocolate chip cookies, ice cream cones, or Popsicles were all tasty accidents that changed the world.

Who is hungry?

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