Even if you didn’t grow up in 60s or 70s America, you’ll still know exactly what a TV dinner is. We refer to them as frozen dinners today, but the concept of the TV dinner was a global one, the legacy of which has continued right through to present-day – statistics show that 128.81 million Americans consumed frozen (TV) dinners in 2018.
Have you ever wondered how this pop culture came about? Well, here are a few interesting facts:
The Term ‘TV Dinner’ is Trademarked
Just like Hoover, Xerox, and Band-Aid, the term ‘TV Dinner’ is a trademarked term that became generic over the years to represent any store-bought frozen dinner. The term originally belonged to the brand, Swanson & Company, and the concept apparently came about when in November 1953, due to a surplus of frozen turkeys (having overestimated the demand for Thanksgiving), they decided to sell off the surplus turkeys as a ready-made frozen meal.
Why ‘TV Dinners’?
There are conflicting theories about this, some claim it was because the meals were geared towards eating them in front of the television (another great 1950s invention) while some say it’s because the packaging resembled a TV set – either way, the name stuck, even though Swanson dropped the name in 1962.
How Successful Were They?
When Swanson decided to launch the TV dinners, they estimated the first year’s production to be approximately 5,000 units – in truth, they sold more than 10 million in just that first year. In 1960 Swanson added desserts such as apple cobbler and brownies to the mix, and in 1973 they upsized their portions offering a ‘Hungry-Man’ dinner.
They’re Quite Challenging to Formulate
Not only do all the flavours need to work together, but they all need to require the same amount of microwave time to be palatable – interestingly enough, microwavable TV dinners only came about in 1986, because it was only then that a microwave-safe plastic dish was invented.
Frozen food technology is constantly evolving and the focus these days is to try and produce legitimately healthy frozen dinners – early offerings contained high levels of fat and sodium to boost flavour that was essentially lost during the freezing process. And to a large extent, the Americans have mastered this, they now offer organic frozen dinners without preservatives, using only real ingredients that offer the best nutritional value.
Frozen dinners have their place in history – and possibly the future, if travels to Mars etc. are to be believed – but for now, we are blessed with an abundance of great quality meat, fruit and vegetables in this country. And if you’re in the retail business then you’ll know that the best quality meat Cape Town and Johannesburg have to offer can be found at N1 – one of the country’s leading wholesale meat suppliers!