Wednesday, 25 August 2021

K-Tel's Burger Matic, 1976

I have just catalogued this K-Tel Burger Matic, which was kindly donated to MoDiP by a friend of mine.

Image ref: AIBDC : 008700
Image credit: Katherine Pell

It works by making up to 8 burgers quickly and easily: a reusable polyethylene (HDPE) plastic disc is placed in the acrylic (PMMA) tube, followed by the burger mixture with another disc put in on top of that. The plunger is then inserted to press the food into a uniform burger shape before the whole process is repeated, stacking one burger on top of another. Advertised as being convenient and easy to clean with ‘no more mess’ and ‘no more fuss’, it dates to 1976.

Image ref: The K-Tel Patti-Chef advert.
Image credit:

Released as the Patti-Chef in 1960s America, the invention came to the UK a decade later as the Burger Matic at a time when pre-processed foods were not as widely available as they are today. It cost £1.99 from high street stores like Woolworths and the Co-op and possessed the magical marketing slogan on its box: ‘As advertised on TV’.

Image ref: Philip Kives with some K-Tel products.
Image credit:

K-Tel was founded by Philip Kives (1929 – 2016), a Canadian door-to-door salesman and department store product demonstrator. In 1962 he invested his own money in purchasing some teflon-coated frying pans and paid for an accompanying television advertisement that he wrote and directed himself. With his fast-talking patter and marketing skills, the infomercial was an immediate success and Kives went on to establish his company K-Tel (the ‘K’ stood for Kives, the ‘Tel’ being an abbreviation of television), and acquired more products to sell. Such innovations included the Miracle Brush (over 28 million had been sold by the late 1960s), the Veg-O-Matic (invented by Samuel J. Popeil in 1960) and the Patti-Chef/Burger Matic.

Image ref: AIBDC : 004662. The Veg-O-Matic was one of K-Tel’s early product lines.
Image credit: MoDiP

In 1965, K-Tel Records was launched selling compilation albums from all musical genres. Whilst this may sound dated now, it was a way in which people could discover new songs and listen to their favourite tracks without having to acquire all of the pop chart singles separately or purchase individual artist’s albums. Even Dave Grohl recently paid homage to the K-Tel ‘Block Buster’ LP which was the first record he had ever owned and at MoDiP we have the 1976 ‘Disco Rocket’ album in the collection, including classics like Donna Summer’s ‘Love to Love You Baby’.

Image ref: AIBDC : 001370. Even the LP sleeve was used to advertise other K-Tel products.
Image credit: Katherine Pell 

By 1981 K-Tel’s sales had reached a peak at $178 million but a series of bad business investments followed, resulting in bankruptcy and many years of legal battles for Kives to get his company back. He did and it is still operating today although Philip Kives sadly died in 2016 at the age of 87. In its day, K-Tel sold a huge variety of household wares designed to save time, space and trouble, the majority involving the plastics material in some way. The adverts have been widely referenced in US popular culture, being parodied in comedy performances for television programmes like Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, as well as in several films. Kives was at the forefront of direct marketing television, coining the catchphrases, ‘As seen on TV’ and ‘But wait, there’s more!’ now so widely familiar to us all.
Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

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