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The science of quick freezing originated in the late 1920s when a curious field naturalist, named Clarence Birdseye, took a mere observation and turned it into one of the most significant innovations in the food industry.While Birdseye worked as a field naturalist in the Arctic during the twenties, he noticed that freshly caught fish, when placed onto the ice and exposed to the area's icy wind and

The science of quick freezing originated in the late 1920s when a curious field naturalist, named Clarence Birdseye, took a mere observation and turned it into one of the most significant innovations in the food industry.

While Birdseye worked as a field naturalist in the Arctic during the twenties, he noticed that freshly caught fish, when placed onto the ice and exposed to the area's icy wind and frigid temperatures, froze solid almost immediately. And, when thawed and eaten, the same fish still possessed its fresh characteristics. Inspired, Birdseye introduced the first line of frozen foods at a retail store in Springfield, Mass., on March 6, 1930.

The 1930s

After the introduction of frozen foods, the category took a while to catch on with consumers and retailers alike.

1934 - Retailers are introduced to a new version of the low-temperature display case and leasing agreements. In the midst of the Depression, many retailers could not afford freezer equipment until Birds Eye commissioned American Radiator Corp. to design an inexpensive case which Birds Eye then leased to retailers for $7.50 per month or $10.00 for a larger model.

1936 - Frozen orange juice concentrate is introduced by California Consumers Corp. However, insufficient packaging prevents this product from making an impact until 10 years later.

1937 - Lloyd J. Harriss test-markets frozen pies, later introducing them to a handful of outlets, including Marshall Field department stores, in 1939. His company was then formed bearing his name -- Lloyd J. Harriss Pie Co.

1938 - Birds Eye is selling most of its product to institutional customers like steamship lines and railroad dining services. However, many restaurants oppose frozens and some even post a notice on menus informing customers that no frozen foods are served at their establishments.

Late 1930s - Bob White Frosted Foods Corp. develops a frozen foods home delivery program but World War II and subsequent gasoline rationing put the brakes on the company's home delivery plans.

The 1940s

World War II brings about a change in consumer purchasing habits. A shortage in tinplate for cans provides the perfect opportunity for frozen foods to take a firm hold on the retail market. Large quantities of frozen foods are also shipped to military personnel during this time, further heightening the importance of this new category. Frozen applesauce is one of the big sellers during the war.

1942 - Government pricing mandates create difficulties for packers and manufacturers. A freeze is placed on retail prices despite already-established trade prices between packers and growers. In response, the National Association of Frozen Food Packers (NAFFP) is formed.

Post War Issues - After the war, the frozen food industry begins to spiral downward as consumers return to purchasing items that are no longer being rationed -- frozen foods were merely a temporary, affordable substitute, not a desired purchase. However, the upcoming re-introduction of orange juice concentrate will change the perceptions of consumers.

1945 - Frozen meat pies are introduced by Frozen Farm Products. And, Rich Products launches the first vegetable-based whipped topping.

1946 - Frozen orange juice concentrate is re-introduced to the marketplace. Several packagers attempt to sell the frozen juice to consumers, but the first truly successful endeavor is made by Snow Crop.

The first frozen french fried potato was also introduced in the west by J.R. Simplot Co. Others attempt to produce such items, but it isn't until 1947 that french fried potatoes are first accepted into the commercial market.

1948 - Safeway Foods launches its own line of private labels. American Stores in Philadelphia follows suit in 1949, among others - Penn Fruit Co., Philadelphia; Jewel Food Stores, Melrose Park, Ill.; and First National Stores, Somerville, Mass. The most significant impact however, is felt when A&P announces the launch of its own line of store brands.

1948 - 1949 - Snow Crop sponsors Sid Caesar's weekly Show of Shows, the first frozen food advertisement to appear on television. Minute Maid responds with a 5-day a week radio campaign starring singer Bing Crosby.

1949 - Anthony J. Pizza Food Products Corp. enters the prepared frozen business with John's Original frozen pizzas.

The 1950s

With a renewed interest in frozens, manufacturers bring consumers a multitude of new items, including prepared foods, an innovation that changes the industry forever.

1952 - The first frozen fish sticks are produced by General Foods and sold under the Birds Eye label. Other manufacturers follow suit but many compromise quality for decreased prices, a move which nearly eliminates fish sticks altogether. Tappan introduces the first home model of the microwave oven at a price of $1,295. In the late 50s and early 60s, the microwave oven became less expensive, allowing more and more consumers to purchase the innovation.

1953 - Swanson introduces the first TV dinner - a complete frozen meal consisting of turkey, mashed potatoes and peas. Throughout the 50s and even into the 60s, manufacturers continue to enhance and change TV dinners, offering consumers everything from traditional dinners with desserts to ethnic cuisine.

1955 - Penobscot Frozen Foods unveils its first entry into the frozens category -- baked stuffed potatoes with cheese flavor.

1956 - Mrs. Paul's comes out with a four-ounce package of frozen onion rings, the first major breaded side item.

1957 - Boil-in-bag pouches with prepared vegetables are launched by Seabrook Farms.

1958 - Poly bags are introduced to the market by Patterson Frozen Foods Co. as it sells private label frozen vegetables in the new packaging.

1959 - Frozen waffles are presented to the market by The Quaker Oats Company.

The 1960s

During the 60s, frozen foods take off in popularity. In 1969, astronauts returning from the moon eat frozen entrees and side dishes. And, fast food restaurants like McDonald's begin using frozen fish portions and meat patties.In the late 60s, US consumers become increasingly conscious about their weight, a nationwide diet-dilemma that encourages a new line of healthy frozen dinners from Weight Watchers.

1962 - Green Giant Co. promotes a new line of vegetables in butter seasoned sauce.

1967 - Birds Eye introduces Cool Whip to the freezer case.

1968 - Jeno's unveils assorted frozen pizza snacks.

1969 - Green Giant begins testing an assortment of heat-in-oven vegetable casseroles in 1969, later rolling out an upgraded line in 1975 under the Bake 'n Serve label.

The 1970s

During the 70s, the first computerized supermarket checkouts are installed and food packages begin carrying bar codes. Private labels were waning in the late 60s. In response, many retailers like Kroger, Loblaw and Bohack begin dropping their own label prepared frozen vegetable lines in the early part of the decade.

1972 - Egg Beaters, the first frozen, cholesterol-free egg substitute is launched.

1976 - Green Giant experiments with frozen vegetable casseroles that can be cooked in either a microwave or conventional oven.

1977 - Green Giant launches a line of Oriental vegetable combinations for use in stir fry meals. The company also extends its frozen Rice Originals offerings to include pilaf, white and wild, jubilee, medley and rice and broccoli.

The 1980s

In the 80s, frozen foods reach such high demand that many retailers are short on freezer space. Manufacturers continue to add new frozen items to the category and restaurants even get in on the action by selling fast-food products like hamburgers, french fries and milk shakes in grocery stores around the country.

1981 - Stouffer's unveils low-calorie Lean Cuisine frozen entrees.

1983 - Sharp Electronics reaches the 10 million mark in microwave ovens sold, and markets its first combination microwave-convection Over-the-Range model.

1984 - Curly Q french fries are launched by Rogers Walla Walla.

1986 - Microwave double poly-coated cook-in-box cartons arrive onto the scene, created by Seabrook Foods. Unlike wax-coated cartons, these new packages afforded lower moisture vapor transmission rates.

1987 - Green Giant begins national distribution of the first vegetables processed exclusively for the microwave oven.

1988 - The Frozen Vegetable Council adopts the mountain peak symbol to make the point that nutrients and taste are locked into vegetables by quick freezing.

The 1990s

With consumers increasingly on the go, manufacturers begin offering more frozen meals, especially for breakfast and dinner.

1990 - Pillsbury re-introduces Toaster Strudel. And, manufacturers like Tyson and Swanson move further into the market with frozen microwavable dinners for children.

1992 - Frozen Vegetable Council joins National Cancer Institute's 5 A Day Program, which had been geared almost exclusively toward fresh produce.

1995 - Record level of new frozen product introductions - 1,682 were launched in one year.

1996 - Pillsbury Co. introduces Create A Meal, launching the meal starter trend.

1997 - Kraft Foods introduces DiGiorno, the first rising-crust pizza.

1998 - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules that frozen fruits and vegetables are as high or higher in nutritional value as their fresh counterparts.

1999 - Nestle launches Skillet Sensations, the first complete meal in a bag, and follows that with Oven Sensations, in 2000.

2000 - A new breed of oven enters the market from four companies. The oven cooks as fast as a microwave, but delivers the crisped, well-browned results of a conventional oven. Three of the fastest are General Electric's Advantium, Maytag's Jenn-Air Accellis 5XP, and Thermador's CJ, which combines high-intensity convection heating and microwaves. They range in price from $1,300 to $5,200 for a twin oven setup.