How do you compete in a food processor battlefield dominated by industry giants? One would think that sending a bigger, more powerful, tricked out model would be the most strategic move. Certainly, sending a little one — a tiny, scaled down version of a food processor — will be like dispatching a pitiful machine to be chopped, sliced, and diced by its bigger counterparts. But in the 1980s, Sunbeam did exactly that. They launched the Little Oskar, a food processor much smaller than existing food processor models. Although it did not exactly turn into David to the industry’s Goliath, as they remained standing, little did the whole world know that the Oskar will make its own, lasting mark.
A History Maker: Pioneering the Mini Food Processor Industry
The Little Oskar made its debut in Australia in 1983 and took the American market by storm a couple of years later. It may be simplistic to describe the Little Oskar as little but that was exactly its appeal. At about 10.5” high, 4.5” wide, and 6.5” deep, it was half the size of the regular food processors which made it compact enough to fit smaller kitchens and convenient to clean and store. Plus it came at a fraction of the price of the bulky models. It was the first of its kind, pioneering a new era for food processors.
In just a few months since the Oskar was launched in the American market, many companies have followed suit. They recognized that there really is a market for smaller food processors. An article in the LA Times written by Minnie Bernardino in 1986, titled “Small Food Processors Are All After Oskar,” named some of the models that first stepped forward to compete with Oskar — Emmie, Herbie, Shortcut and High Performance. Since then, mini food processors have not left the market. Today, there are many great choices of mini food processors in the market although some claim that the Oskar remains undefeated.
If you’re looking to own more modern models, you may want to check out Cuisinart CH-4DC Elite Collection 4-Cup Chopper/Grinder, which comes highly recommended by many. Other choices for smaller capacity food processors are the Black & Decker HC306 1-1/2-Cup One-Touch Electric Chopper, the Hamilton Beach 58149 Blender and Chopper, and the Ninja Master Prep Professional.
Now, let’s go back to the Little Oskar’s story.
A Marketing Success
The mini food processor’s claim to fame can be attributed to a smart marketing move by its creator, Sunbeam, which advertised the Oskar as “a friendly processor that doesn’t require you to go to gourmet cooking school.” Paired with a national TV ad featuring an attractive woman who transitioned from laborious to carefree chopping because of the Oskar, it captured the heart of consumers who were intimidated with larger types or were dissatisfied in owning one. The Little Oskar was perfectly positioned to occupy a unique niche in the food processor market.
It was such a marketing success that demands for it far exceeded Sunbeam’s projection, leaving the company swamped, not only with hundreds nor thousands but with hundreds of thousands of orders at one point according to an article in the New York Times. Although the target of the marketing strategy was people who have never bought a food processor, purchases came both from first time food processor users and existing owners who wanted an alternative for small scale chopping needs.
Small but Terrible: Beyond the Marketing Hype
Undoubtedly, the initial fame of the Oskar was the result of genius marketing. But did it ever prove its worth or was it all just hype? Did it live up to its name or was it a disappointment? After all, Oskar was an acronym for Outstanding Superior Kitchen All-Rounder, implying excellent performance and versatility. In the 1980s, only time could tell how Little Oskar turned out to be. Now, since time has decades passed, what does it tell us?
Most people have owned their units for ten, twenty, and even thirty years! Indeed, it has stood the test of chopping, grinding, and pureeing time. That’s more than what can be said of some of today’s gadgets, which would cost more than what the Oskar cost then, even with inflation taken into consideration. Do you have one of these antiques in your kitchen? Let us know below what you think about the Little Oskar Food Processor.