Ever since President Ronald Reagan and Congress proclaimed March 6, 1984, as “Frozen Food Day,” Americans have unofficially celebrated their favorite frozen treats on March 6 each year.
So how will you celebrate Frozen Food Day? If you’re like many Americans, a frozen pizza may be in your dinner plans.
For centuries, though, most food was eaten fresh within just a few dozen miles of where it was grown or raised.
Exactly how did frozen food come about? Improvements in technology, transportation and communication over the years revolutionized agriculture.
Wishing his family could eat fresh food all year, Clarence Birdseye observed that the people of the Arctic preserved fish and meats in barrels of sea water, which were quickly frozen by the frigid Arctic temperatures. In 1923, Birdseye invested $7 in an electric fan, buckets of brine and a lot of ice.
With a bit of trial and error, he eventually invented a method for flash-freezing food products in convenient packages without altering their taste. Flash-frozen vegetables, fruits and meats were first sold to the public in 1930 under the name Birds Eye Frosted Foods®.
Although pizzerias existed in America as early as 1890, pizza wasn’t popular until after World War II, when soldiers returning from Italy craved the pizza pie they’d eaten overseas. When home freezers became commonplace after the war, some pizzerias started selling unbaked frozen pies.
The problem, though, was that the pizza dough was soggy and the toppings lacked flavor. Pizza chefs trying to make a good frozen pie faced two problems: ice crystals and interrupted chemical processes.
No one knows for sure who came up with the first frozen pizza. In the 1950s, Celentano Brothers became the first brand of frozen pizza to be marketed nationally. Many claim that the first big name in the business, though, was Totino.
In 1951, Rose and Jim Totino opened one of the first pizzerias in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When their business boomed, they decided to try manufacturing frozen pizzas. By the late 1960s, Totino’s had become the best-selling frozen pizza in the country.
Even as recently as the 1980s, though, frozen pizzas were a distant second to fresh, hot pizzas delivered from the local pizzeria. Food scientists eventually developed new types of dough and processes that changed everything.
Modern “rising crust” frozen pizzas debuted in the 1990s, and the frozen pizza industry saw sales go from $1 billion per year in 1995 to more than $5 billion per year today.
Interesting pizza facts:
- Today, Americans eat more than 2 billion slices of frozen pizza each year.
- More than 350 million tons of frozen pizzas are sold every year.
- The average American family eats pizza at home 30 times a year, or more than once every two weeks.
- Americans eat about 3 billion pizzas each year, which equals about 350 slices per second!
- Pepperoni is America's favorite pizza topping.