Alfred Bird (1811-1878), a Birmingham pharmacist, did not invent egg-free custard powder to make a fortune (though he did), or because dietitians disapproved of eggs. He did it so he could enjoy eating pudding with his wife.
MRS Alfred Bird’s favourite dessert was baked custard, made by beating together sugar, milk, and eggs. Unfortunately, Mrs Bird could not tolerate eggs.
So in 1837, using cornflour, vanilla and natural colouring from his Chemist’s shop in Bull Street, Birmingham, Alfred concocted an egg-free custard for his wife.
It was so believable that the Birds mistakenly served it up to their guests.
Emboldened by its enthusiastic reception, Alfred began mass-marketing his custard in 1843, and the British public now gets through 235 million pints of it every year.
As Mrs Bird was also sensitive to yeast, Alfred came up with an equally ingenious form of baking soda. It gave such superior results in yeast-free bread and cakes that the War Department became an early customer, and most modern baking powders are essentially the same.
And it was all done by an obscure pharmacist with no thought of profit to anyone but his wife.