Processed Foods with Statistical Quality Control

By design, countless food products look and taste exactly the same. Nobody opens a name-brand candy bar and wonders if it will taste different than any other bar they may have chosen. Each can of Coca Cola, Pepsi, or Guinness Beer tastes exactly the same as any other.

All major food companies can thank Guinness brewer William Gosset who developed modern statistics. Many articles note that Gosset wasn’t an academic because he worked for a brewery. However, he was a highly educated mathematician.

His techniques are in use to this day in countless fields.

Regulators decide whether to approve new drugs. People base their professional careers on favorable figures using his statistical analytical tools. Governments calculate the value of human life, balanced against new regulations, using tools developed by the brewer. Insurance companies set rates, civil engineers design master plans, investors gamble trillions, and even spacecraft rely on his techniques.

Due to rules of secrecy at Guinness, Gosset published his work under the Nom De Plume student. Granted, his obvious creativity did not extend to name-picking. In any event, the student’s t-distribution, statistical significance, and Monte Carlo method are all his work. Some argue the entire field of quality control comes from his work. However, by the time he was born the American Manufacturing System was producing high-quality standardized parts.

In any event, the idea that food can be processed to a high degree of sameness, something that permeates store shelves to this day, is certainly his.