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Robert E. Rich, founder and chairman of Rich Products Corporation, passed away on February 15, 2006, at age 92

A frozen food pioneer whose invention of the first nondairy whipped topping in 1945 launched Rich Products, a company that today employs 7,000 people internationally and realizes sales of more than $2.5 billion.

A life-long Buffalo resident, Rich began his business career in his family's ice cream business, and briefly also operated his own daily business after graduating from the University of Buffalo. Ten years later, he came up with a soybean-based whipped topping that proved more stable, lasted longer and cost less than dairy cream, and could also be frozen for more than a year. In 1951, Rich Products rolled out America's first commercial soy-based ice cream, followed in 1960 by Coffee Rich, one of the first non-dairy coffee creamers.

Unlike many food manufacturers, Rich historically led the company to make foodservice, rather than retail, its primary market focus. He has long been recognized as a pioneer of the frozen food industry and in 1990 was one of the first four inductees into the National Frozen Food Industry Hall of Fame. Rich's son, Robert Rich, Jr., serves as president of Rich Products.

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