Freezing can keep foods fresh. Freezing foods slow down decomposition by turning residual moisture into ice, inhibiting the growth of most bacterial species. They are convenient, easy-to-prepare, nutritious, delicious, and they make our busy life-styles seem a bit easier. Frozen foods seem as if they were recently invented, but in fact, they have existed for a long time, much longer than you think.
The modern frozen food industry was born over 80 years ago, in 1930. The first to harness the power of freezing foods beyond the winter months were the Chinese, who used ice cellars as early as 1000 B.C.. The Greeks and Romans stored compressed snow in insulated cellars, and the Egyptians and Indians discovered that rapid evaporation through the porous walls of clay vessels produced ice crystals in the water inside the vessels. But it was Clarence Birdseye and his American company that finally made frozen foods a practical reality in 1930.
Clarence Frank Birdseye II (December 9, 1886 – October 7, 1956) was an American inventor, entrepreneur, and naturalist, and is considered to be the founder of the modern frozen food industry. Clarence Birdseye was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 9, 1886, the sixth of nine children of Clarence Frank Birdseye I and Ada Jane Underwood. Birdseye’s interest in freezing food began in 1912. As a young engineer in Labrador, he was taught by the Inuit how to ice fish under very thick ice. In -40°C weather, he discovered that the fish he caught froze almost instantly, and, when thawed, tasted fresh. He recognized immediately that the frozen seafood sold in New York was of lower quality than the frozen fish of Labrador, and saw that applying this knowledge would be lucrative. In 1922 Birdseye conducted fish-freezing experiments at the Clothel Refrigerating Company, and then established his own company, Birdseye Seafoods Inc., to freeze fish fillets with chilled air
at -45°F (-43°C). But the road to consumer acceptance of these products was a long and rocky one. In 1924 his company went bankrupt for lack of consumer interest in the product. That same year he developed an entirely new process for commercially viable quick-freezing: packing fish in cartons, then freezing the contents between two refrigerated surfaces under pressure. Birdseye created a new company, General Seafood Corporation, to promote this method. In 1925, his General Seafood Corporation moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts. There it employed Birdseye’s newest invention, the double belt freezer, in which cold brine chilled a pair of stainless steel belts carrying packaged fish, freezing the fish quickly. His invention was subsequently issued as US Patent #1,773,079, marking the beginning of today’s frozen foods industry. Birdseye took out patents on other machinery, which cooled even more quickly, so that only small ice crystals could form and cell membranes were not damaged. In 1927, he began to extend the process beyond fish to quick-freezing of meat, poultry, fruit, and vegetables. In 1929, Birdseye sold his company and patents for $22 million to Goldman Sachs and the Postum Company, which eventually became General Foods Corporation, and which founded the Birds Eye Frozen Food Company. Birdseye continued to work with the company, further developing frozen food technology. In 1930, the company began sales experiments in 18 retail stores around Springfield, Massachusetts, to test consumer acceptance of quick-frozen foods. The initial product line featured 26 items, including 18 cuts of frozen meat, spinach and peas, a variety of fruits and berries, blue point oysters, and fish fillets. Consumers liked the new products and today this is considered the birth of retail frozen foods. The “Birds Eye” name remains a leading frozen-food brand.
The Would War II break out. When Japan overran southeast Asia, it captured a large portion of the world’s tin resources and the U.S. government placed stringent controls on canners in an effort to conserve this vital wartime metal. This opened the door for frozens, which used less crucial materials such as paperboard, waxed paper and cellophane. In the 1950s, a milestone industry step was taken with the introduction of the TV dinner. This development not only capitalized on the growing American fascination with television, but introduced the convenience of the complete meal in a quick and easy to prepare frozen form.
Today, frozen foods have remained a convenient staple, adapting its packaging and products to better accommodate new developments. But convenience is not the only benefit frozen foods have to offer. Health conscious people have discovered the nutritional advantages of frozen vegetables and fruits to be easy-to-use key components to a healthy family menu. Ice cream, loved by people, is also a kind of frozen food. Thanks to the tenacity and innovation of the frozen food industry, make us feel that life is so beautiful!