Well, fellow Potheads, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but it appears that our beloved Instant Pot, the do-it-all powerhouse of kitchen appliances, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this week. You might be looking over at your own cherished Instant Pot even now as it rests placidly on your counter, wondering how this perfect little machine could be anything but a gold mine—as early adopters of the Instant Pot lifestyle, we understand. But if you trace the road to today, its decline isn’t surprising at all.

Before you get too upset, you should know that the bankruptcy filing doesn’t necessarily mean that Instant Pots will be disappearing from shelves tomorrow. In a press release, its parent company, Instant Brands, framed the move as a “restructuring” and revealed that it has secured $132.5 million in funding to allow it to continue to function as it reconfigures itself. If your eyes have glazed over from reading corporate-speak let me paraphrase: All hope is (probably) not lost.

Still, it can seem baffling—at first—that such a popular appliance is failing. Home cooks have long loved how it cuts lengthy cooking project times in half. In 2017, the New York Times called it “the kitchen gadget that spawned a religion.” As the country was trapped inside in 2020 lockdowns, Instant Pot sales soared even more as interest in cooking and baking skyrocketed. As NPR reported, sales of “electronic multicooker devices” (a large chunk of which are Instant Pots) hit $758 million in 2020. But those numbers weren’t tenable. Sales in the category dropped by half by 2022, and in the first quarter of 2023, Instant Brands’ sales dropped 22 percent compared to last year. That dip marked the seventh consecutive quarter of declining sales for the company.

So what happened? Instant Brands is certainly not the only company to see a steep dropoff in sales post-pandemic, but it’s strange the company struggled so much when the product it sells works so well it’s practically perfect. As it turns out, that’s actually what’s at the heart of the issue. “Part of the problem for companies like Instant Brands,” Dr. Smrity P. Randhawa, a clinical accounting professor at the University of Southern California told the Times, “is that they produce durable products that do not need to be replaced regularly.” In other words, Instant Pot fans are so happy with their purchase that they never plan to buy more—and the company doesn’t sell more.

Private equity made things a lot worse. In 2019, Instant Brands was acquired by Cornell Capital and unceremoniously merged with Corelle Brands, a housewares company that includes Pyrex. An acquisition by a private equity firm brings certain expectations with it—namely: lots and lots of fast growth. But that’s not really how durable, high-quality products like the Instant Pot work. “Being extremely good has the benefit of high quality,” The Verge writes, , “but it means slow growth, smaller profits, and susceptibility to fluctuations in the market.”

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