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Your Grandmother's Salad Shooter is Manufactured by a Badass Defense Contractor


And, in an even weirder twist, they make her private-label adult diapers, too.


It wouldn't be the world's biggest stretch to assume most human-type people with a television -- or an elderly/infirm family member -- are familiar with the Presto Salad Shooter:

The Presto Pizzazz Pizza Oven:

And the Presto Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Maker:

Presto (NPK) happens to be a publicly-traded company whose products (NPK also turns out waffle makers, electric griddle fry pans, electric tea kettles, deep fryers, bacon cookers, knife sharpeners, shoe polishers, and coffee makers, among other, similar items) can be found at retailers like Walmart (WMT), Costco (COST), and Target (TGT). A quick look at its most recent 10-Q turns up some relatively dry data in a comparison between Q3 2010 results and 2009:

On a consolidated basis, sales decreased by $2,845,000 (2%), gross profit decreased by $4,581,000 (16%), selling and general expense decreased by $163,000 (4%), and other income decreased by $179,000 (24%). Earnings before the provision for income taxes decreased by $4,597,000 (18%), as did net earnings by $3,492,000 (21%). Details concerning these changes can be found in the comments by segment below.

Okay, let's check out the "comments by segment," shall we?

Housewares/Small Appliance net sales increased by $1,147,000 from $36,065,000 to $37,212,000, or 3%, primarily as a result of an increase in unit shipments. Defense net sales decreased by $5,366,000 from $61,566,000 to $56,200,000, or 9%, primarily reflecting a decrease in unit shipments and a less favorable product mix. Absorbent Products net sales increased by $1,374,000 from $18,761,000 to $20,135,000, or 7%, which primarily reflected an increase in shipments.

So, sales of popcorn poppers was up slightly, defense sales were --hang on, hang on. Defense sales? Hmmm, maybe military PXs carry Salad Shooters?

Actually, no. While one may be able to find a Salad Shooter or two on the occasional Army base, National Presto Industries, through a subsidiary company called AMTEC, happens to supply the Department of Defense with a variety of weapons systems that are symbols of good old American badassery:

The MK 59 MOD 0 Firing Device, which is used by US Navy Special Forces and explosive ordnance disposal personnel.

High Explosive, High Velocity .40mm tactical ammunition, used in various applications -- including the autocannons on Lockheed Martin (LMT) AC-130s.

And, in years past, National Presto made aerial bombs, .105mm Howitzer rounds, and aircraft parts for the US Air Force.

The company has been around since 1905, when it was founded in Eau Claire Wisconsin as a manufacturer of industrial canners. In 1939, Presto (then called the National Pressure Cooking Co) brought the first consumer saucepan-style pressure cooker to the market. Then, during World War II, the company converted the majority of its production facilities to assist in the war effort and began producing ordnance for the Army.

In the early 1990s, National Presto shut down its defense operations, only to run into slowing retail sales and sharply increasing competition. Then, just months before the September 11 attacks, NPK entered the defense market once again, with the acquisition of AMTEC.

In short order, National Presto expanded into the murky world of adult diapers, primarily manufacturing private-label "incontinence products."

Who knew that the company behind the salad shooter makes roughly double its income from household products on Pentagon contracts and generic Depends?

If this isn't news to you, perhaps you might be interested to know that the company behind Roto-Rooter, "the nation's leading provider of plumbing and drain cleaning services" is also "the nation's largest provider of end-of-life hospice care."

Stay tuned -- they report earnings February 16.

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