The VITA-MIX CORPORATION, based in Olmsted Township, Ohio, since 1948, has been a privately-owned company operated by the Barnard family since 1921. The company manufactures high-performance blending equipment for consumer use as well as for the restaurant and hospitality industries.
William Grover “Papa” Barnard founded the company. He was born on September 3, 1887, in Adrian, Illinois. He married Claire Catherine Charpentier in 1909. According to the company’s history, he was a mayor, undertaker, and railroad station agent, among other things. By 1917, Barnard and Claire had two sons. In 1918, Claire gave birth to their third child, and shortly after, the Spanish flu took both mother and child. In 1921, he married his second wife Mary Jane Johnston. He lost everything he had worked to achieve in the same year due to a steep economic decline.
In 1921, Barnard founded the Barnard Sales Company and began traveling the country selling the Polly Can Opener, showing consumers a safer way of accessing canned food nutrition. He emphasized that the value of safely providing a variety of foods to your family outweighed the 25-cent price tag.
Barnard’s attendance at the Great Lakes Exposition in 1936 and 1937 in Cleveland prompted the family’s move from Illinois to Ohio. By the late 1930s, the family had made promoting healthy eating their life’s work. The company was serving customers through a mail-order health food and vitamin business called the Natural Foods Institute.
In the late 1930s, Barnard saw a blender demonstration; he was fascinated with its capability to incorporate whole foods into the diet in a new way and eventually developed his high-quality blending machine. Barnard’s son William (Bill) G. Barnard, Jr., who married Ruth Pellet in 1934, took his father-in-law Frank’s advice. He added the name “Vita,” Latin for “life,” to “mix” to name his new “liquefying machine,” which was being sold at the family’s first brick and mortar health food store at 807 Saint Clair Ave. NE in Cleveland. By March 1939, ads for the $13.95 “Vitamix” ran in the company’s Eat to Live Journal of Health.
In 1942, Ruth and Bill purchased a 10-acre property in Olmsted Township, moving the business onto the property in 1948. In 1955, Barnard retired, Bill and Ruth took over management responsibilities, and they incorporated the business. Bill and Ruth's six children played a role in the company over the years, making it a true family affair.
In 1949, Barnard's son, Bill, convinced his father to demonstrate the blender on WEWS, the first television station in Ohio and the 16th overall in the U.S. The live demo went well, and shortly after, Barnard approached RAY CULLEY, the owner of CINECRAFT PRODUCTIONS, a Cleveland-based SPONSORED FILM STUDIO. Barnard worked with Ray to produce “Home Miracles for 1950,” a filmed 30-minute black and white Vitamix demonstration that Barnard offered to WEWS and other TV stations. The pitch ended with Barnard saying, "Take down the number that is going to be flashed on the screen or send your order in to this station with your check for $29.95 plus local tax and 5 cents for the COD charge. We'll mail you the blender Parcel Post. You'll have it within ten days." That filmed demonstration made by Cinecraft is now considered the first TV “infomercial.”
The Hagley Library has digitized a number of the infomercials and TV commercials Cinecraft made for Barnard, including: "Eat Your Way to Health,” “Health: Yours for the Asking,“ “Healthy Living is Fun,” “How to Eat Better for Less,” “Kitchen Time-Savers,” "Wheel O' Life," and “Table Talk.”
Bill and Ruth’s son, William “Grover” Barnard III, joined the company in 1962 and became president and then eventually the CEO. He shifted the company’s focus to concentrate on Vitamix, discontinuing the health food division. In 1966, the company name changed to The Vita-Mix Corporation. Launched in 1970, the Vitamix 3600 was one of the first blenders to incorporate patented blade reversal and impact engineering to make hot soup, blend and freeze ice cream, grind grain, and knead bread dough.
In 1999, John Barnard took over as president and CEO, followed by his daughter, Jodi Berg, Ph.D., in 2009, making her the fourth generation of the Barnard family to hold the title. In 2021, the company employed more than 900 people, most at its Northeast Ohio headquarters and manufacturing facilities. U.S. Magazine stated, “Vitamix products are the blenders of choice for celebrities including Meghan Markle, Kourtney Kardashian, Miranda Kerr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Richie, Lucy Hale, Zac Efron, and Penelope Cruz." Vitamix products are now available for purchase in over 130 countries.