Yesterday, back in 1953 Swanson’s Thanksgiving style (turkey) meal was introduced. Were TV dinners responsible for altering America’s evening meal eating habits?
History lesson: Back in 1953 C.A. Swanson, a poultry supplier out of Omaha, NE experienced an overstock of a reported 260 tons of unsold Thanksgiving turkey. That is a lot of turkey! Consequently, to avoid financial disaster, Swanson innovated a single serve meal cooked, sliced and packaged with corn bread stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, peas and butter in an oven safe aluminum tray similar to what had been used by the airlines dating back to 1944. The name TV came from the shape of the tray that was utilized. The entrée was placed in the largest compartment on one side, the vegetables in smaller compartments, similar to the front panel of a 1950’s TV – screen on the left, speakers and control panels on the right.
A great deal has changed since Swanson’s first introduced its TV dinner for 98 cents. For starters they sold 10 million dinners in their first year of production. They added a variety of main courses. My personal favorite was fried chicken. They dropped the term TV in 1962. They introduced breakfasts in 1969. They moved to microwaveable materials in 1986 which ready-made, refrigerated or frozen meals are now packaged.
My original query – were TV dinners responsible for altering America’s evening meal habits? Absolutely! They were the harbinger of what we now call convenience foods. We now label these types of meal solutions Grocerants, food items that are ready-to-eat (e.g., salad, sushi, etc.) or ready-to-heat (e.g., prepared entrée complete with sides). To comply with our busy lifestyles and obsession for technology (a.k.a. gizmos), Grocerant meals or components can now be found in Retail grocery delis, C-stores, drug stores (e.g., Walgreen’s), clothing stores (e.g., Macy’s) in addition to takeout food from restaurants.
What are you having for dinner tonight as you sit in front of your 65 inch HDTV watching reruns of a popular TV series from Netflix, working your social network platforms with your tablet in one hand, smartphone in the other?