GetzToday is National Whipped Cream Day, and the sweet treat has its origins right here in Illinois. The cold has returned again, and hot drinks topped with whipped cream are a great way to keep warm. While the day falls on the birthday of the late Aaron “Bunny” Lapin, who founded “Reddi-wip”, true credit for one of the most popular dessert toppings goes to Charles Getz, who was a graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign during the Great Depression.

Getz discovered that milk infused with pressurized carbon dioxide began to foam. At the time, Getz was conducting research on food preservation, but he quickly understood the potential of his discovery. Working in collaboration with Chemistry professor George Frederick Smith, Getz experimented with the foaming milk and determined that nitrous oxide was ideal for the process, as carbon dioxide created a bitter taste. From this process, portable whipped cream as we put on our desserts today was born.

Afterward, Getz patented the method, which George Frederick Smith, with help from his brothers, Allyne H. Smith and Clarence Smith, used to develop a product called Instantwhip, the first aerosol whipped cream, in 1933. The product proved successful in restaurants, ice cream shops, and soda fountains. Building off their success, the Smith brothers decided to found a larger business.  

In 1934, Smith used Instantwhip whipped cream to launch the company Instantwhip Foods with his brothers in Ohio. They initially sold the whipped cream in cans that could be returned and refilled. They mostly sold their products to restaurants or ice-cream parlors. The company still exists today and sells many other products, including coffee creamer and yogurt under the name of Instantwhip Foods.

In 1948, Reddi-Wip would be founded by Aaron “Bunny” Lapin, who patented the specific spray nozzle and sold their product directly to consumers. Many attribute the invention of aerosol whipped cream to Lapin, even though Getz and Smith discovered the process in the 1930s. As you put whipped cream on your hot chocolate this cold January day, you can thank Charles Getz and his research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.