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Tone Brothers' 100-Plus Years of Innovation, Steady Growth

March 10, 1994|From Associated Press

Important dates in the history of Tone Brothers Inc.:

* 1873--Brothers Jehiel and I.E. Tone begin a spice and coffee business in Des Moines.

* 1888--Tone pioneers individual packages for spices, which traditionally had been sold to grocers in barrels and scooped out for customers. A two-ounce sealed paper package of pure ground black pepper is sold for 10 cents.

* 1894--Tone develops ready-roasted, unground coffee for sale by grocers.

* 1897--Jay Tone Sr., a onetime high school dropout and the son of I.E. Tone, returns from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and begins a career in the family business. A laboratory is added to the plant. One of the first of more than 40 patents is issued to Jay Tone for a device to extract vanilla from vanilla beans. He later makes extracts from lemon and other fruits.

* 1918--Tone begins using tin cans for spices, replacing paperboard cartons.

* 1932--Tone expands sales to the neighboring states of Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.

* 1940s--Tone develops pressure-packed ground coffee containers and later sells the invention to Standard Brands.

* 1969--Tone is sold to Mid-Continent Bottlers Inc., Des Moines.

* 1978--Universal Foods of Milwaukee buys Mid-Continent.

* 1979--Tone is purchased by an investment group led by John Graham of Des Moines.

* 1982--Tone develops a way to process spices at subzero temperatures to preserve flavor. It switches to clear plastic containers so customers can see how much spice is left and develops a spice carousel and rack for convenient storage of spices by customers in the restaurant and food service trade.

* 1985--Tone introduces miniature spice containers for sale at supermarkets for 69 cents.

* 1989--Tone is purchased by Rykoff-Sexton Inc., a Los Angeles manufacturer and distributor of food products.

* 1991--Tone forms a joint venture with a company in Cochin, India, to harvest and process black pepper.

* 1992--Tone develops a computerized, automatic ordering system for customers.

* 1994--Tone begins move into new $20-million, 340,000-square-foot plant at Ankeny, also continues operations at nearby Des Moines plant. It hopes to increase employment from 430 to about 800 within five years.

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