Baby Carrots

Roberto A. Ferdman:

The baby carrot, like so many inventions before it, was birthed by necessity.

In the early 1980s, the carrot business was stagnant and wasteful. Growing seasons were long, and more than half of what farmers grew was ugly and unfit for grocery shelves. But in 1986, Yurosek, itching for a way to make use of all the misshapen carrots, tried something new. Instead of tossing them out, he carved them into something more palatable.

At first, Yurosek used a potato peeler, which didn’t quite work because the process was too laborious. But then he bought an industrial green-bean cutter. The machine cut the carrots into uniform 2-inch pieces, the standard baby carrot size that persists today.

When Mike Yurosek & Sons, Yurosek’s now-defunct California company, delivered his next batch to Vons, a local grocery chain, he included a bag of the new creation. He suspected he was on to something but hardly anticipated such an enthusiastic response.

“I said, ‘I’m sending you some carrots to see what you think,’ ” Yurosek recounted in a 2004 interview with USA Today. “Next day they called and said, ‘We only want those.’ “

The carrot savior

Vons wasn’t the only one impressed. Grocers, distributors, carrot buyers, and, most importantly, some of Yurosek’s most formidable competition took notice. In the years that followed, baby carrots ballooned into big business, nudging the biggest carrot producers in the country to join in and feed the frenzy.

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