For nearly six decades after Fred Waring perfected the Miracle Mixer, the world's first commercial kitchen blender, the kitchen appliance went relatively unchanged. Blenders stayed white, the number of buttons was the main variable, and they were powered by small electric motors -- cheap, poorly made small appliances that tended to burn out after a few years of heavy use. But over the last few years, the blender has mutated into a sexy, must-have category killer as America's nesting instinct has taken hold. Demure white and eggshell exteriors have been replaced by vibrant reds and metallic finishes, while feeble motors have been swapped out for commercial-grade engines capable of revving to 30,000 rotations per minute. Finally, the blender has come of age. Consumers are responding to the change. In 2003, the blender was the fastest-growing kitchen appliance segment, racking up $479.21 million in sales, up 12.5% from the previous year, according to HFN, an industry trade publication. That's more than twice as large as the next fastest-growing segment, coffee makers, which grew 5.3%. Retailers like Target, Wal-Mart and Kohl's are rushing to capitalize on the trend, expanding their blender offerings. As shelves fill up with the latest and greatest, we decided to take a look at the most interesting and unusual blenders on the market -- especially with a nice chunk of the summer slurping season that lies ahead.
A Pitcher of Beauty
By and large, pitcher design has been woefully neglected by blender makers more concerned with whether the "mix" button should come before or after "puree."