Is it true that Johnson & Johnson once owned a sausage casing company?
, Chief Historian: Yes! Devro, which makes sausage casing, was one of the most unusual operating companies ever to fall under the Johnson & Johnson umbrella.
Johnson & Johnson initially created Devro (an acronym for Development and Research Organization) in 1961 because of the promise it held for healthcare purposes. Research conducted at Ethicon, Inc. in the 1950s suggested that collagen—the main ingredient in sausage casing today—could be a good ingredient for making synthetic absorbable sutures.
The seemingly odd notion of a healthcare company manufacturing a food product actually fit together as naturally as hot dogs and mustard for one key reason: a long tradition of innovation.
Johnson & Johnson had already been pioneering the creation of sutures from various materials, like silk and catgut, since the late 19th century. So as it sought to make absorbable sutures out of collagen, the company realized it also had a unique opportunity to innovate in another way—by creating the first edible sausage casing not made from animal intestines.
Indeed, a 1973 advertisement billed Devro as a “problem solver to the food industry.” Another ad touted Devro as “figuring out a better way to make sausages after 3,000 years of trying."
In 1991, after Johnson & Johnson had decided not to pursue the idea of collagen-derived sutures, Devro's management bought the company out from Johnson & Johnson.
Today, Devro is a world leader in sausage casing—and no doubt responsible for many of the delicious meats that will hit grills across America this barbecue season.