World Kitchen, Inc.
- Existence: 2000 (date of establishment)
- Usage: 2018-
Corning Incorporated was founded in 1851 as the Bay State Glass Co. in Somerville, MA. It later moved to Brooklyn, NY, and was renamed the Brooklyn Flint Glass Works. In 1868, it relocated to Corning due to the transportation opportunities afforded by the Chemung Canal and was renamed the Corning Flint Glass Works by Amory Houghton, Jr.
Corning Glass Works’ first housewares product was Pyrex bakeware, which was first sold to consumers in 1915. Pyrex originated from Corning’s work in railroad signal glass; at the time, railroads needed signal lights on the tracks that were a uniform color and were resistant to heat expansion, cracking, and corrosion. Corning Glass Works patented a tempered borosilicate glass called Nonex, which was an immediate success.
Corning quickly began to search for other uses for Nonex. In 1913, Bessie Littleton, the wife of physics professor Jesse T. Littleton, who had recently been hired by Corning to study its new borosilicate glass and develop new applications for it, asked her husband to bring her some more durable material from work after an earthenware pan she was baking in shattered. Littleton brought home two sawed-off battery jars made of Nonex, which Bessie Littleton used to bake a cake in. The favorable results led Corning scientists to attempt to create a safer, lead-free formula for glass bakeware, which resulted in the creation of Pyrex.
While it required some work to convince customers that it was safe to bake in glass (reflected in its early advertising), Pyrex eventually became very successful. Pyrex bakeware appealed to homemakers, as it was durable, affordable, easy to clean, and attractive enough to serve out of.
CorningWare cookware and ovenware was introduced in 1958. CorningWare products were made out of Pyroceram, a new glass ceramic material introduced in 1957; it was conceived of as a material that could rival the quality of both china and earthenware while also withstanding the heat of stovetops, as Pyrex products could only be used in ovens. Pyroceram was known for being lightweight, hard, and strong, and could be taken directly from the freezer to the oven. This inspired many classic commercials touting CorningWare’s ability to go “from the freezer to the oven to the table.”
Introduced in 1970, Corelle dishes are made of three layers of laminated glass consisting of a thicker layer of opal glass sandwiched between two thinner exterior layers of clear glass, making the dishes lightweight yet resistant to breakage. The fact that Corelle dishes were sold in affordable sets made them attractive to middle-class consumers, as did their distinctive “ring” when flicked, which reminded people of the sound of fine china.
Corelle’s first line of dishes, called Livingware, came with a two-year warranty that guaranteed stores would keep each pattern in stock for two years after its discontinuation. Corning also later introduced a warranty on Corelle dishes that promised to replace any broken dish within two years of purchase.
Corning’s fourth prominent product line, Visions, was introduced in France in 1983 and the U.S. in 1985. It was a line of clear glass ceramic pots and pans that came in two colors: amber and cranberry. While Visions products were initially very popular, their popularity soon waned after it became apparent that the pots and pans were good for boiling, but not as good for frying, and were prone to sticking and uneven heating.
In the mid-1980s, Corning added another line of products called Crown Corning, which were upscale dishes and tableware intended to be sold in department stores; the Crown Corning line also imported items not made by Corning Incorporated.
In early 1997, Corning Incorporated exited the consumer housewares business in order to focus on its science and technology division, which included the research and development of photonics, optical fibers, and telecommunications technology.
The housewares division of the company, called Corning Consumer Products—which included the Corelle, CorningWare, Crown Corning, Revere Ware, Pyrex, and Visions lines—was sold by Corning Incorporated in April 1998 to Borden, Inc. (a division of the investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co.) for $975 million. The new company was renamed World Kitchen Inc. in January 2000, and incorporated other well-known housewares lines such as OXO and Ecko under its umbrella. World Kitchen was known as Corelle Brands from 2018 to 2021; it merged with Instant Pot in 2021 and is now known as Instant Brands.
Dyer, David and Gross, Daniel. The Generations of Corning: The Life and Times of a Global Corporation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
"Marketing Gives Corning a Boost," _The New York Times_, April 2, 1988.