After seeing how locals froze food in the winter while working as a fur trader in Labrador, Canada, New York businessman and inventor Clarence Birdseye returned to the U.S. and started experimenting with quick-freezing techniques for a variety of foods. He introduced his new line of products to the public for the first time in 1930 — and today his name may be found in every supermarket frozen-food section in America (though the brand is now spelled Birds Eye).
Consumer trends are ever-changing, and some have stood the test of time. Today, they favor fresh, locally sourced foods, the frozen food market is actually growing. According to a report released in February by the American Frozen Food Institute and the Food Marketing Institute, the category increased by 2.6% in dollars and 2.3% in units sold in 2018. The top three categories were soups/sides, appetizers/snack rolls, and breakfast foods.
Today, Birds Eye is joined by more than 60 other major frozen food brands in this country — counting frozen pizza but not including ice cream or other frozen desserts — with more being added all the time. And these companies are constantly adding new items to their product lines — a total of more than 700 a year, in some cases.
Click here for foods you couldn’t buy frozen 35 years ago.
The foods sold in frozen form reflect our changing dietary preferences. Putatively healthy items, featuring “superfoods” and low-calorie and/or low-carb choices; newly trendy food items that would have been unknown or marginal a few decades back (quinoa, açaí); familiar foods in new forms (cauliflower “rice”); selections reflecting increased consumer interest in the cuisines of Korea, India, the Middle East, and more — all these are now found increasingly in the frozen food aisles.
24/7 Wall St. has assembled a list of items that weren’t sold frozen until after the mid-1980s (and in some cases until the past several years), either because the technology didn’t exist or the foodstuff itself was unknown or there would have been limited consumer interest.
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