Nuts About Inventing

I walked past the candy basket at Atlanta Tech Park earlier this week, ate an #AlmondJoy candy bar, and became curious about how the almond gets placed on the candy bar. I checked several candy bars and noticed that each bar had one almond and that each almond was orientated the same way and placed off-center on the bar. Clearly, nut placement wasn't random, so why place the nut off-center, and if you are going to place the nut off-center then why only place one nut and mess up the bar’s feng shui when there is room for two nuts?

I did some research and learned that Almond Joy was first marketed in 1946. I found US patent 2,566,712 that was filed in 1948 for the invention that places the nuts on the candy bar. The entrepreneur Louis H. Zeun says in his patent that before his invention the nuts were placed on the bars by hand. Imagine the challenge for the candy bar line workers. It reminded me of that old I Love Lucy episode when she was working on the candy line and things didn’t end so well.

Mr. Zeun’s “Machine For Depositing Nuts On Candy Bars” is really neat. It looks like a small Ferris wheel. One nut at a time is vacuumed from a nut hopper into a pocket, as he calls it. The pocket positions and holds the nut as the wheel rotates. At just the right time, as the candy bar passes under the wheel, a peg extends breaking the vacuum and pushing the nut into position on the candy bar. Very cool!

Almond Joy Invention

I wonder how the invention was initially received in the company. If you have ever worked in a big organization you know weird things can happen when a new disruptive breakthrough innovation is introduced. I wonder if the nut placing line workers were happy to be replaced by the machine or if some of the executives in charge at the time ganged-up on Zeun’s nut depositor invention with their ‘why-nots’ to try to stop its use. The cheese was definitely moved. And for Mr. Zeun, I wonder how the organization rewarded him for his invention. Now more than 70 years later, his invention was clearly strategic and instrumental in the marketing success of the Almond Joy candy bar. As an inventor, just think of getting a royalty of a tiny fraction of a penny for each nut placed on a candy bar. Isn’t that the kind of big dreams all of us entrepreneurs have for the success of our own ideas?

A final observation, if you look closely at Mr. Zeun’s patent drawing you will see he intended two nuts to be placed on the candy bar. So to my original question, I wonder who at corporate decided to cut the nuts placed on the candy bar from two to one, and can you really get true “almond joy” from just one off-centered nut? #MoreNutsPlease

Invention is everywhere if you look hard enough!

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