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September 10 is a very special day. It is National TV Dinner day. The idea that changed how we eat forever. There are quite a few people who claim credit for inventing the TV dinner. Let’s start at the beginning.
The product was first seen in 1941 and created by Maxxon Food Systems. They were an airline food provider. They invented the Strato-Plates” aluminum trays divided into sections. This was a revolutionary idea. The guys do not get credit for the “TV Dinner” because they were only available on planes and never available to the general public.
In the late 1940’s a company by the name of FridgiDinners. They made dinners but were only sold to bars. So also, not available to the public
In 1949 a company named Frozen Dinners Inc, sold an impressive number of their three-compartment dinner trays, about 450,000. By 1954, they had sold over 2.5 million. They were just branded as frozen dinners.
After seeing the success of the Frozen Dinners, Inc Swanson, already a common household name at the time, made their own. They also had a slick advertising campaign behind theirs that focused around the growing popularity of TV’s. TV dinners were born. Swanson still to this day owns the name “TV Dinners.” They sold over 25 million their first year, at a cost of $.98 each (or $9 adjusted for inflation.)
This, officially, along with the boxed cake mix were the catalyst for America’s love of processed food. We can credit (or blame) our former selves for making this phenomenon happen. Our love of TV, our hectic work schedule, our desire for instant gratification all has transcended into our food, and thus into now what we think of as food. On this September 10, take a minute and reflect on what the processed food industry has given us and then strive to do better. Let’s get back to a day of less-processed, more whole foods and less chemicals in food.
Other interesting facts about TV Dinners:
- Rumor has it, Swanson got into the TV dinner space originally to off-load a bunch of turkeys that they had left over from the holiday season. They rebuff this notion, but the first TV dinner, was turkey, sweet potatoes, cornbread dressing and peas.
- It took 25 minutes in the oven to warm up a TV dinner.
- Microwavable TV Dinners did not come on the scene until 1986.
- Desserts were added in the 1980’s, Swanson introduced the breakfast version in 1969.