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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.
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.
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Veg-O-Matic was one of K-Tel’s early product lines.
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was used to advertise other K-Tel products.
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.