Ever cook or bake something only to have it not emerge from the pan in one piece? Imagine this same issue as it confronts a restaurant or commercial bakery, cooking or baking on a large scale. In Los Angeles in 1948, H. Wayne Hanson, the founder of Par-Way Tryson, had just this problem in mind when he invented an oil-based release coating for cooking surfaces. He owned a bakery and was looking for something to substitute for mineral oil, the release agent commonly used at the time. He had a friend who was performing experiments mixing different oils in order to create a blend that could be put on airplane wings to stop ice from forming on them. This gave Mr. Hanson the idea of mixing different oils for baking purposes. His original cake pan oil was a blend of soybean oil, mineral oil, and lecithin, a highly refined soybean oil product. The cake pan oil proved to work so well that eventually Mr. Hanson left the baking business and decided to devote himself to making oil-based products.
Around 1963, Vegalene, Par-Way’s signature product, was developed. Again, Mr. Hanson was looking for a substitute for something commonly used at the time, in this case butter and shortening for frying foods, such as eggs, in pans. If you have ever been in a hotel or restaurant kitchen you have probably seen the orange, red, and white aerosol spray cans which, as one writer put it, “are to professional chefs and bakers what Pam is to housewives—timesavers in a can.”
Kosher supervision has played a significant role in the history of the company. Vegalene was OU certified within a few years of its appearance on the market. One of Par-Way’s early marketing representatives, Marvin Chazin, successfully sought to expand the company’s business by selling the product to hospitals in the Los Angeles area. When he approached a hospital with a kosher kitchen he was asked if the product was kosher. Par-Way immediately pursued kosher supervision, and the multi-decade partnership between the OU and Par-Way was born.
Further products invented by Par-Way were a “trough grease” to line the sides of dough troughs or bins, produced using a thickening process similar to the one used to make margarine, and a cake grease for cake pans, containing wheat starch and also produced with the same process. Henceforth bakers would not need to apply oil to a pan and then dust with flour in separate steps.
Vegalene’s bottle evolved over the years. It was originally poured from a simple glass bottle. Later it was sold in a soft, squeezable bottle, and then a bottle with a trigger-sprayer. In the early 70’s, Par-Way began to sell it in the now-familiar aerosol can. Perhaps just after whipped cream, it was one of the first food products to be combined with aerosol technology. The company eventually held patents on many of the oil products themselves and also on different sprayers and related processes and equipment. At one time, the company also had a division called Spray Dynamics, now an independent company, which manufactured equipment to apply oil to surfaces and foods.
Although the company was founded in Los Angeles, its main plant, producing its aerosol products, is now in St. Clair, Missouri. It still maintains a secondary plant in Los Angeles, producing oil-based products in drums and pails.
Par-Way products have endless, sometimes surprising, applications. The products are used for anything that needs to pop out in one piece from a pan or mold, such as candy, and Vegalene was even once used to de-mold windshields for fighter jets!
According to Gary Sherman, Plant Manager for the City of Commerce Plant in California, “Our decision to go OU required us to focus on higher quality ingredients, which helped make ours a superior product. Our company is convinced that being OU Kosher and pareve has always been a benefit in increased sales and will continue to be an important part of our marketing.”
Par-Way Tryson has remained a relatively small company, perhaps best described as a family business, but it can forthrightly state that it invented all its products, which have had a transformative impact on many sectors of the food-processing industry.
Rabbi Menachem Adler is Orthodox Union rabbinic coordinator for Par-Way Tryson.