Innovators through history: Ruth Graves-Wakefield

Innovators through history: Ruth Graves-Wakefield

To mark the launch of the NZ Innovators Awards for 2012, we're celebrating a series of vaunted innovators and inventors throughout time.

Nestle tollhouse cookiesWhat: Chocolate chip cookies, to be precise – Toll House cookies – crispy yet chewy morsels with half-melted chocolate pieces. This dietician-turned-hotelier’s buttery invention may have been a slap in the face to her former profession, but was warmly received by families and fatties the world over.

When:  1930

Impact:  Toll House cookies made by Graves-Wakefield were a huge hit with travellers staying at her family's B&B (The Toll House Inn) in Massachusetts. Some timely ingenuity – chopping up a Nestle chocolate bar when bakers' chocolate had run out – allowed Ruthie to make her mark. Fans included practically every child alive and eventual US President John F. Kennedy.

Power, Fame and Money:  Ruth, just like our NZ Innovators Award nominees, wasn’t afraid of a little shameless self-promotion. After being swamped with complements for her cookies, which used Nestle milk chocolate, she contacted the company. They struck a deal – Ruth would allow her recipe on the back of all their sweet chocolate bars, and she would get a lifetime supply of chocolate. Win-win. Not only did reservations at the Toll House lodge skyrocket, but she wrote a popular cookbook Toll House Tried and True Recipes. Needless to say, she died with wallet and arteries well padded.

Legacy: Chocolate sales expanded. Milk sales expanded. Waistlines expanded. All thanks to Ruth Graves-Wakefield’s food-tech revolution.

NZ Innovators Awards 2012Want to cut a deal with a worldwide food giant, or just think you need a bit of presidential recognition? That’s the way the cookie crumbles at the NZ Innovators Awards. Entries open now.