James Lewis Kraft


Here is the story of a Canadian-American entrepreneur and inventor whose life was wonderfully touched and changed by Jesus!

   I was born on December 11, 1874, on a farm near Stevensville, Ontario, Canada. I was the second of eleven children brought up with the religious teachings of my Mennonite parents. At the age of eighteen, I took a job at Ferguson's grocery store in Fort Erie, and later immigrated to Buffalo, New York, in 1902, and invested in a wholesaler, Shefford Cheese Company. I went to Chicago, Illinois, to look after the company branch, and while there, my partners removed me from the business.

   I was stranded in Chicago in 1903 with only US $65 in capital. I put my knowledge of merchandising to good use and obtained a horse (called Paddy) and wagon. Every day, I bought cheeses in the wholesale warehouse district of the city and resold them to small stores, saving the merchants the task of making the trip.

   After a very unsuccessful day, I had a conversation with Paddy. I remarked to my horse that I needed a business partner. Being raised in a faithful Christian family, I realized that I needed to reorganize my priorities. I needed to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) and then all that I needed, would be provided. So I decided to give 25% of my personal profits to the Lord in my offerings. Things turned around in a very big way for me. I made Jesus Christ my business partner. Later in life, I made this statement: “The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord.”

   Now it would be good to find yourself prospering because of your generosity. The Bible says that we can (Proverbs 3:9, 10). But our first reason to give must be to worship! The Bible says that “the tithe” was to be given so “that you may learn to fear the LORD (Numbers 14:23). Financial giving to the church shows that we honor God, and that we trust Him to meet all of our needs, spiritually and materially. Therefore, giving at church is not just a time when the offering plate is passed and we put in our two bits; it’s an act of worship.     When we received the offering in our church, we used a cornucopia, which was also called the horn of plenty. It represented a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce, flowers or nuts. We do this for two reasons: our abundance towards God and God’s abundance towards us. The Divine promise is that as you give with a cheerful heart “God is able to make all grace abound towards you, that you, always having sufficiency in all things, may have abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8). Don’t let the economy dictate how you honor God with your finances. Do I hear Paddy neighing in agreement in the background?

   The business began to prosper, and by 1909, several of my brothers joined the company as permanent employees: Charles H, John H, Fred and Norman. In that year the business was incorporated under the name of J.L. Kraft & Bros Co, with me as president. As head of the Kraft Cheese Corporation, I had given approximately 25% of my income to Christian causes for many years. "The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends, is the money I have given to the Lord."

   By 1914 J.L. Kraft & Bros. Company, which later became Kraft Foods Inc. opened its first cheese manufacturing plant in Stockton, Illinois. We developed a process, patented in 1916, for pasteurizing cheese so that it would resist spoiling and could be shipped long distances. The company grew quickly and expanded into Canada in 1919. Kraft saw a large increase in business during World War I, when the United States government provided cheese in tins to their armed forces.

   Kraft served as the company's president from 1909 until his death in 1953. Over the years, we introduced many innovative products and used progressive marketing techniques to make his company one of North America's leading food producers. The company introduced Miracle Whip in 1933 at the Century of Progress World's Fair.

   Kraft was an amateur jewelry maker. He also supported the North Shore Baptist Church in Chicago and was a strong proponent of religious education for young people.

   J. L. Kraft and his wife Pauline, had one daughter, Edith (c1916-2012).

God gifted me with creativity as an inventor of processed cheese

   I patented pasteurized cheese that had a much longer shelf life than ordinary cheese, though connoisseurs complained that I had literally "killed the cheese," and makers of what is now called "natural cheese" (unpasteurized) demanded that Kraft be forced to sell its product as "embalmed cheese". Instead, federal regulations eventually required me and other makers of altered cheese products to market such foodstuffs as "processed cheese". While I controlled the company, we introduced Velveeta in 1928, Miracle Whip in 1933, macaroni and cheese in 1937, Parkay margarine in 1940, sliced processed cheese in 1950, and Cheez Whiz in 1952.

   "After we are gone", I wrote in a company newsletter, "there will be Kraft salesmen trekking the veldt of Africa, braving the snows of Siberia and battling the superstitions of Mongolia, all earnestly striving to increase sales, which by that time will be far in excess of a hundred million. This will be done for the glory of God.”

We honored God through our tithing

   How much do you give in offerings to your church? I know that’s a loaded question. Here’s why I am asking. Recently a report titled “The State of Church Giving” was released. The report used data from mainline churches across the United States and it noted that financial giving was at its lowest point in forty-one years. Church members were giving about 2.38 percent of their income.

   I understand and you do too that times are tough financially. In fact, the bad economic situation across our country and even around our world may get worse. But poverty is not an excuse for not giving. In the first century when the apostle Paul wanted to motivate the relatively well-off Corinthians to give generously, he pointed to the very poor Macedonians. He wrote that the Macedonians’ “great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality (2 Corinthians 8:2).” In other words, troubles plus poverty, plus joy in the Lord resulted in gracious, generous giving. It is our joy in the Lord that overcomes troubles and poverty when it comes to our offerings to the Lord (see also Mark 12:41-44).

James Lewis Kraft Hearing His Voice Testimony

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