Work & Business
The Inventor of the Bundt Pan Who Built an International Cookware GiantJune 8, 2017
When Nordic Ware was founded in 1946, the Minneapolis-based kitchenware company was rooted in founders Henry David (“Dave”) and Dorothy (Staugaard) Dalquist’s Nordic heritage, manufacturing specialty Scandinavian cookware like the Rosette iron, Krumkake iron, Platte Panne pan and the Ebelskiver pan.
Seventy-some years later, the family-owned company has grown to 350 employees and has a global reach.
“Given our heritage, we are pleased that our products can be found in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries as well,” said Susan Dalquist Brust, daughter of the founders and senior vice president and director of new product development for Nordic Ware.
Although the company has grown, it still remains true to its familial roots. While Brust is VP, her older brother David Dalquist is CEO, her niece is the executive vice president of sales and marketing and her nephew an engineer.
“Her positive-thinking, hard-working Scandinavian roots continue to serve her well!” Brust said.
Dorothy is Danish, her family moving to Iowa in the 1920s before she was born. Her husband Dave, who passed away in 2005, was mostly Swedish with some Norwegian ties. His great grandparents were farmers who settled in Minnesota.
During World War II, Dorothy and Dave met when he was stationed on a Navy pier in Chicago, and Dorothy moved to the city to get a job and live with relatives. After the two married, Dave was sent to the South Pacific on a destroyer and told himself that when he returned to the United States he would start his own metal company. With a background in engineering and metallurgy, Dave wanted to create items out of aluminum, as it was a light-weight metal that was a good heat conductor.
In the 1940s the couple moved to Minnesota and started Nordic Ware with just a few hundred dollars. The company’s first product was a metal steak platter, and then it started manufacturing Scandinavian wares like the Platte Panne pan.
In the 1950s, two German women approached Dave with a cast-iron “bund” pan with a hole in the middle and asked if he could create several pans like it in aluminum for them to sell and raise money for their synagogue. Taking cue from the original pan, Dave modified the shape and created new beautiful lightweight version, which now is known as the Bundt pan. Today, the bundt pan can be found in more than 70 million households around the world.
You can find Nordic Ware’s products at big-box stores like Walmart and Target, along with warehouse clubs, grocery stores, department stores and specialty cooking stores like Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma.
While Nordic Ware manufactures products for its own company, it also has developed items for other companies, like baking sheets and Bundt pans for Martha Stewart. Each year the company launches about 50 new products.
Over the decades the products have evolved from stove-top and oven bakeware to microwave tools. For instance, its microwave popcorn popper is a top seller in the United States and pops popcorn without oil. And the company’s microwave egg cooker can cook eggs soft- or hard-boiled. When microwaves first were invented, they didn’t have the turntable, so Nordic Ware manufactured a turntable to help people cook their food all the way through. As a result of that innovation, microwave companies started building turntables inside of microwaves.
While Nordic Ware creates kitchenware for the home, it also has a commercial line of utilitarian cookware that holds up well to much usage and is approved by the National Sanitation Foundation. And the company is getting more and more into cultural cooking as well; it just created a bubble waffle maker to represent cooking traditions in Hong Kong.
In 2005, the Smithsonian Institute approached Nordic Ware about collecting products the company created over the past 70 years to use for its first major food exhibit on how Americans ate and cooked after World War II. Now, in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, you can view an array of innovations that show how food consumption has evolved over the years. In 2015, Dorothy Dalquist traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Food History Gala and to see some Nordic Ware products (some from her own home) on display in the food exhibit.
“People are using our cookware for family gatherings and celebrations, and that is the most important to us,” Brust said. “Life happens at a table when people are together eating meals, passing their heritage down from one generation to the next.”