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A Timeline History OF Frozen Food

Added 631 days ago. 14 May 2021

We owe a lot to the pioneers of frozen foods.

If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to provide our customers with over 300 delicious frozen ready meals delivered direct to their doors.

In this article, we’ll shine a light on the history of frozen food and the pioneering folk who revolutionised the food and farming industries, paving the way for the modern world as we know it. There's more to frozen food history than you'd think!

Frozen Food: The Beginning

When was frozen food invented?

In colder climates, freezing for preservation has been around for as long as animals have been hunted and food has been gathered. In any area that had sub-zero temperatures for even part of the year, freezing would have been used. Where temperatures were just above freezing, storage times could be prolonged and populations made use of natural caves and cool streams for this purpose.

In fact, evidence of man-made ice houses – used for refrigeration rather than freezing - in more temperate areas have been dated as early as 1780 BC, though they didn’t become popular in the UK until 1950, over 3700 years later!

First Steps

The first commercial freezing operation in the world was founded in 1861 at Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia. This freezing works became the New South Wales Fresh Food and Ice Company and trialled shipments of frozen meat to London by 1868.

However, the venture was not a success, thanks in part to the slow freezing process, meaning the frozen food was largely tasteless and leaked a large amount of water when defrosted.

Clarence Birdseye: The Captain of Cold

From 1912 to 1926, Clarence Birdseye worked alongside the Inuit in Newfoundland, Canada, as a fur trapper. During this time, Birdseye noticed something that would revolutionise the world of frozen food and give rise to a modern industry expected to be worth $156.4 billion by 2020.

The fish caught by the Inuit fishermen would freeze almost immediately when pulled from the water in the sub-zero winter conditions. Birdseye noted that the frozen fish retained its flavour and texture, even when it was defrosted months later.

Fast-forward to 1920 and Birdseye is experimenting with frozen peas. He found that by blanching peas immediately after picking and then fast-freezing them resulted in a frozen pea which was eye-catchingly green.

So it was that in 1929 Birdseye introduced his ‘fast freezing’ techniques to the American consumer and the frozen food industry was born.

1940-60s: The ready-meal revolution

During the 1940s, the volume of frozen foods available to consumers boomed. It wasn’t until the 1950s, though, that the first frozen ready meals hit the shelves in the United States.

By the 1960s, so-called convenience food was all the rage and frozen ready meals mirrored the changes taking place in society, as more and more women left the traditional housewife role and moved in to the workplace. Also known as the 'TV Dinner' these frozen products means that a full meal could be served in a fraction of the time. 

1970-80s: Home freezing and improved choice

In the 1970s, home freezers became far more affordable and widespread as a result, by 1980 half of people in the UK owner a freezer. This gave rise to improved choice in frozen foods (with oven chips and pizza hitting the market). What’s more, people could now enjoy a greater range of frozen desserts, with families no longer restricted to ice cream.

1990s and beyond

With frozen foods now a regular part of almost every family’s weekly diet, the focus shifted to the nutrition of frozen food.

Quality, nutrition and taste became the watch-words of the frozen food industry and since we established ourselves in 1991, we’ve learned a lot about making really good food.

Our award winning chefs, with a little expert help from our team of buyers who source the right ingredients, dietitian and nutritionist, we are dedicated to creating delicious dishes to help you get the most out of life. So, whatever your appetite and your dietary requirements may be, you can trust us to get it right.
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