AT FIRST GLANCE, salt-and-pepper shakers seem as bland as the food they season. The ubiquitous tools may be utilitarian, but that doesn't mean they lack innovation. Few know that better than William Bounds, a company that made its name with the Shake N' Twist, the first combination saltshaker and pepper mill, which debuted in 1963. The company later released an acrylic version that showed how much salt and pepper were left, a move that executive vice president Sharon Bounds still refers to as "huge." Its current mills—which crush, rather than grind—feature extended cranks to make the process easier.
For the chef more concerned with fun than form, there are salt- and pepper-dispensing robots and rocket ships. "We're all about functional products," says Vicki Kung, who designs retro-futuristic housewares with her husband under the name Museum of Robots. "But we grew up in a space-race Jetsons kind of world, and we wanted to bring that sense of fun to the home."
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.