The All-Time Frozen Food Hall of Fame
March 6, 2017
These 13 frozen foods have changed the way we eat
The All-Time Frozen Food Hall of Fame
We tend to not give frozen food much thought these days. Thanks to the availability of fresh ingredients and the stigma around processed foods, we aren’t buying nearly as much frozen food as we used to. But the development of frozen food revolutionized the way we eat, and these 13 products definitely belong in a frozen food hall of fame.
As we all know from Bagel Bites’ earworm jingle, “When pizza’s on a bagel, you can eat pizza any time.” And thanks to two (presumably very wealthy) inventors named Stanley Garczynski and Bob Mosher, Bagel Bites entered our hearts as kids and never let go.
Birds Eye Classic Mixed Vegetables
Clarence Birdseye is widely considered the founder of the modern frozen food industry (he developed the process for quick-freezing food), and today he’s the namesake of Birds Eye frozen foods. While Birdseye himself actually focused more on frozen fish than any other food product, Birds Eye’s Classic Mixed Vegetables – corn, carrots, peas, and green beans – are their flagship item, the one that showed consumers in the 1930s that high-quality vegetables could be found in the freezer section.
Even though we highly doubt anybody’s ever been fooled into thinking that DiGiorno pizza was actually delivery (don’t believe the commercials), this line of frozen pizzas has become nothing short of an icon since first being introduced back in 1995.
Invented in 1953 by brothers Tony, Sam, and Frank Dorsa, Eggo waffles (originally called “Froffles”) have become an indispensable part of the American breakfast landscape. “L’Eggo my Eggo!”
Gorton’s Fish Sticks
Gorton’s can trace its roots back to a Gloucester, Massachusetts, fishing business founded in 1849. The company entered the frozen fish business in the 1930s, and in 1953 it introduced what would become its flagship item: fish sticks. Made from wild-caught Alaskan pollock, these fish sticks introduced more kids to fish than probably any other food, and the company’s motto — “Trust the Gorton’s fisherman” — has been going strong since 1978.
Green Giant Frozen Peas
The Minnesota Valley Canning Company discovered a new variety of pea in 1925, the Prince of Wales pea, which was much larger than the standard pea but still tender and sweet. The company created a brand — Green Giant — around this unique, giant pea, and the rest is history. A bit of trivia: The brand’s mascot, the Jolly Green Giant, was created in 1935 by a young copywriter named Leo Burnett, who went on to become one of the most legendary advertising executives in history.
Invented in the 1970s by Paul and David Merage, who initially dubbed them “Chunk Stuffers,” Hot Pockets have been one of the most divisive frozen foods since they first went on the market in 1983. But love them or hate them, you have to admit that they’re absolutely legendary, and yes, some of them do taste pretty good.
Hungry-Man Salisbury Steak
In 1973, Swanson parent company Campbell’s had the brilliant idea to supersize the standard TV dinner and call the new brand “Hungry-Man” in an effort to market frozen dinners to, well, hungry men. Thanks in part to “Mean” Joe Greene’s star turn in its commercials, the brand took off and is still going strong today. Salisbury steak, that TV dinner staple, was one of its first offerings, and the brand made a splash by including two patties in each package.
Baker Harry Lender invented frozen bagels in 1954, and in the process brought bagels to the masses. The fact that the bagels were frozen was actually originally a secret — Lender was receiving orders from restaurants, hotels, and bakeries for 6,000 bagels to be delivered every Sunday morning, so he had them baked throughout the week and defrosted on Saturday night so they’d stay fresh. Once the secret got out, supermarkets took notice, and to this day millions of Americans associate the word “bagel” with Lender’s.
Ore-Ida Tater Tots
Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese
Stouffer’s can trace its roots to a 1914 dairy stand, which went on to become a popular lunch chain and eventually evolved into the frozen foods company it is today after introducing its first frozen item in 1946. No Stouffer’s item is more iconic than its macaroni and cheese, which is available in both individual and family-sized portions and remains one of the tastiest mass-market frozen foods you can buy.
Swanson Turkey Dinner
This is the one that started it all: the original “TV dinner,” Swanson’s turkey with corn bread dressing, peas, and sweet potatoes. (Today the turkey is served with gravy, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, and apple-cranberry dessert.) This was actually the first compartmentalized frozen dinner — executive Gerry Thomas got the idea after seeing the tray on an airplane. The company actually trademarked the term “TV dinner,” even though it’s been out of official use for decades. 10 million of these were sold in 1954, the second year it was on the market, and its influence on the way Americans eat can’t be overstated.
Totino’s Pizza Rolls
Totino’s Pizza Rolls were developed back in 1951, long before pizza was as popular across the country as it is today. These little bites of cheese and sauce are craved by millions of kids annually… and by plenty of adults too, even though they might be reluctant to admit it.