Fredric Baur dreamed up the original Pringles can. Now he's buried in one.
In 1966, Baur came up with a clever way for Procter & Gamble to stack chips uniformly rather than tossing them in a bag. He was so proud of the achievement, he wanted to go to his grave with it. So when Baur died last month, his children buried the 89-year-old's ashes in one of his iconic cans.
"When my dad first raised the burial idea in the 1980s, I chuckled about it," Baur's eldest son Larry, 49, told TIME. Larry Baur quickly realized his father was serious. Family jokes circulated about the Pringles plan, but no one questioned the elder Baur's decision. So when Frederic Baur died after a battle with Alzheimer's, Larry and his siblings stopped at Walgreen's for a burial can of Pringles on their way to the funeral home. "My siblings and I briefly debated what flavor to use," Baur says, "but I said, 'Look, we need to use the original.'"
If there were a junk food hall of fame, the original Pringles can would stand proudly next to a Toblerone pyramid in the exhibit on ingenious packaging shapes. Baur's canister has become a treasured symbol of snack culture around the globe, as recognizable as a Hershey bar or Coke can from Argentina to Zambia.
"It's all about the inherent beauty and power of uniformity," says Eric Spitznagle, author of The Junk Food Companion. "Every chip looks the same, acts the same."
Not everyone liked the Pringles can when it first hit the market. "People resented it," says Phil Lempert, founder of supermarketguru.com. Uniform chips didn't jell with 1960s-era individualism, he says. "You gave up the fun of eating potato chips, looking for the big ones, the small ones, the ones shaped liked Elvis." Lempert said it took consumers years to appreciate Pringles' uniform size, shape and color. "The Pringles can was a revolution within the realm of snack food," says Baur.
Although Fredric Baur earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and served in the Navy as an aviation physiologist, the Pringles can proved his biggest hit. At one point Baur engineered a freeze-dried, just-add-milk ice-cream product called Coldsnap. Despite a product team that included a young Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft's CEO, the elder Baur achieved more success with his can than the cone.
Baur's Pringles can helped inspire a burst of innovation in supermarket product packaging. In the tradition of the culinary pioneers who transformed Toblerone into a pyramid, cheese into string and doughnut holes into round Munchkins, here are a few post-Baur supermarket design triumphs.
Design Innovation: Reimagined flat, drab soap dispensers as sleek, rounded objects of translucent elegance and refinement.
Design Innovation: Stuffed a mop into a box.
Design Innovation: Fixed the stuck-ketchup problem by following the lead of toothpaste and shampoo containers. In other words, Heinz finally turned the bottle upside down.
Design Innovation: Rebranded mints with an identifiable sound, a catchy name and a clear, pocket-fitting rectangular box. The same marketers who brought Nutella to the U.S. made these miniature pill-shaped breath fresheners the candy world's cutest icons.