Saturday, March 22, 2008

Another Example of Unintended Innovation: The Microplane

I've owned a couple Microplane graters for the last couple years. It's been such a great tool to have in the kitchen. The way it shaves paper thin slivers of Parmiggiano Reggiano over fresh tomato & basil sauce is the perfect finishing touch. You can hear the protein crystals crunching as they are being sliced. I just assumed this device came from the mind of some foodie who was fed up with scraping their knuckles on old skool graters. As with a lot of innovation, this of course didn't happen that way. Innovation from outside the domain strikes again (VectorMagic and Gagetek are two companies that have done this that I've blogged about in the past).

Lorraine Lee was making an Armenian orange cake. Her husband had just invented a new wood planning tool, so instead of reaching for her frustrating old grater she used his new invention. The zest from the orange "fell like snowflakes." That's how a woodworking tool from Microplane evolved into a fine kitchen accessory. Another Apple-on-Newton's-head type of story.

Microplane has evidently learned from their success in transcending their bailiwick. They have taken the same razor thin technology that was successful in the woodshop and kitchen and moved it to the spa. That's right, you can now have smooth soles thanks to Microplane. I'm not sure that the jump from zesting lemons to shaving down the bottoms of your feet is a tasteful tagline, but it makes me wonder what their next market will be.

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