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Thirty years around the world with frozen foods: 1959-1989.

Thirty Years Around the World With Frozen Foods: 1959-1989

The fascinating year-by-year saga of the global frozen foods industry as reported on the pages of the trade's chronicler of record: Quick Frozen Foods International.

Thirty years ago QUICK FROZEN FOODS INTERNATIONAL was launched as a companion to the 21-year-old American publication, Quick Frozen Foods. The concept was made possible through a series of fortuitous circumstances.

First, the publisher of the American magazine, E. W. Williams, had periodically visited Europe ever since the close of World War II and had written lengthy country-by-country reports on frozen food progress there.

Second, since the United States was the most advanced country in frozen foods at the time, the leading processors, distributors, importers, refrigerated warehousemen and government organizations of the world subscribed to the New York-headquartered publication to stay abreast of the lates developments.

Third, E. W. Williams also published a directory of frozen food processors, warehousers and transporters, as well as a second directory of frozen food distributors. In these directories he included all foreign companies that responded to his requests for information. This was the genesis of the original subscription list for QUICK FROZEN FOODS INTERNATIONAL, which has grown from less than 3,000 circulation with the first June 1959 issue to almost 15,000 today, with readership in more than 100 countries.

Because most of the important frozen food information at that time originated in the United States, and because the publisher and editors were assembling that news for their American audience, they were in a position to sift out those aspects of it that were of greatest interest abroad. This intelligence was almost immediately supplemented by correspondents in the United Kingdom, France, West Germany, Japan, Spain, and Italy, and even the pre-Glasnost U.S.S.R. proved cooperative.

Further exclusive data was generated through regular globe-trotting journeys by E. W. Williams and traveling correspondents like Sam Silverman, Ernest Barker and Nat Friedson. Experts on frozen foods, they would combine business with pleasure when taking junkets of thousands of miles, reporting on what they found along the way. In the 1960s, QFFI's German-born business manager Margot Lucas made trips to West Germany to participate in promotional panels on the virtues of frozen food products. With this magazine's second issue, important frozen food news was presented in French and German language columns. Trade shows around the world which featured the display of frozen products were listed.

At first, the bulk of the advertisers in the publication were American frozen food and equipment firms trying to sell to the rest of the world. As other nations began to develop their own industries, their advertising predominated in an ever-growing base as companies associated with freezing became an important part of international trade.

On his eighth trip to Europe in 1962, Publisher E. W. Williams was chided by a friend for believing that frozen foods would ever have a strong acceptance in Europe. He gave the following answer:

"Let us suppose that we were sitting together in a cafe some 15 years ago and I handed you a glass of Coca-Cola with the request that you taste it and tell me if it would ever be popular in Europe. You would have laughed in my face. Yet Coca-Cola is probably more foreign to European tastes than many products which have become popular since in the frozen food field -- and will become popular in the future.

"If a product is good to begin with, is reasonably priced and adequately promoted, it can be sold anywhere. Now that large firms with plenty of capital and the will and knowledge to promote and advertise are active in Europe, I have no doubt that the next five years will see a remarkable expansion in consumer acceptance, new products and distribution."

Third Stage of Development

Williams felt that Europe had then entered the third stage of frozen food development. The first, beginning in 1946 and running to 1954, was when Unilever's Birds Eye introduced frozen foods into the United Kingdom "and virtually held an umbrella over the industry during the squalls of its infancy." The second stage was when other major firms like Findus became prominent: "The stage of real growth in cabinets and plants -- the period when consumers really became conscious of the quick freezing as a new method of food preservation."

The third, which was just unfolding in 1962, was the age of the supermarket and self-service store, with their inevitable big frozen food departments, concurrently with the increase of refrigerators and home freezers in the household.

The publisher's particular emphasis was on the supermarket. Referring to its appearance in Europe, he said: "The advantages which the European super have offered up to now are only those of variety and convenience. Its greatest power -- low prices -- has not yet been felt. When it is, then supermarket will sweep every country and I would venture to predict that in ten years a good 60-70% of all foodstuffs will be sold through such stores." He also predicted they would change the entire European lifestyle.

Now Second to None

Today, Europe has a highly developed and very modern frozen food industry in every respect, including processing, freezing, storage, transport, retailing, catering, packaging and marketing. Some nations are less developed than others, but that is to be expected, since not every country progresses at the same rate. Australia, South Africa and Japan have particularly well developed retail industries, and many of those nations that are referred to as "underdeveloped" are important in frozen processing even if their consumer business is slow in developing.

It requires no prophet to predict that frozen foods are the wave of the future. There are a variety of other methods of food preservation, both old and new, and all of them have their place -- but they also have their limitations. Sighting up to the turn of the century and beyond, no direct threat to the continued expansion of frozen products exists.

Let the Saga Begin

And now, for the next several issues, Quick Frozen Foods International will provide its readers with a digest of the most important stories that have been reported by the magazine during the past three decades. From Birds Eye headquarters in London 30 years ago, to the current worldwide political debate over food irradiation, to the April 1989 article about General Foods refrigerated foods failure in the New York, this magazine has indeed been the industry's publication of record. So, let the history begin:

1959 June

* The first issue of QUICK FROZEN FOODS INTERNATIONAL had 48 pages and a standardized cover design that has remained its trademark, unchanged through 30 years. There was only one advertisement in the entire magazine from outside the United States and that was from Birds Eye Foods Ltd., then headquartered in London. * The largest group of advertisers in QFFI were poultry exporters. In 1958, some $37.8 million in frozen poultry had been shipped abroad from the United States. The products were not only of good quality but could be landed thousands of miles away and sold at prices lower than available in almost any country in the world at that time. * Sweden had the highest per capita consumption of frozen foods in Europe, marketing 17,000 tons or 5 pounds annually for each person. There were 4,000 supermarkets in Sweden; half of the homes had refrigerators; 200,000 home freezers and it was estimated that up to 400,000 families rented space in a locker plant to store foods. Forty companies were freezing foods at the beginning of 1959 and one company. Findus, had between 70-80% of the total market. The best-selling vegetable was spinach. * In the United Kingdom, there were 70 companies freezing a diverse line of frozen products with about $95 million invested in plants. Some 40,000 tons of fruits and vegetables were frozen annually and about the same tonnage of fish. One company, Birds Eye, had 75-80% of the business. * There were 16,000 frozen food cabinets scattered among 157,000 West German retail establishments with 200 different product and product sizes offered to the public. Per capita consumption was under one pound annually. * Switzerland had three primary frozen food packers, one of which was Migros, a chain of retail stores whose management were pioneers in that country. Migros was producing eight varieties of frozen dinners in a three-compartmented aluminum tray. They also maintained a full-time employee in the United States to buy frozen products for their stores, as well as the proper equipment to go with it. * The Birds Eye Division of General Foods in the United States announced that they were shipping close to 10,000 pounds of frozen food to Russia to exhibit at the American National Exhibition in Moscow. Demonstrators would show Russian housewives how to prepare frozen food products and their convenience advantages. * Frozen production in Norway was 24,000 tons in 1958, some 80% of which was exported. Fish fillets and fish blocks were the major products. The major companies were Frionor and Findus, who between them accounted for 95% of the market. There were between 40 to 50 plants with freezing capacity. The people only owned 13,000 home freezers, though another 187,000 rented lockers. * Frozen food consumption in Finland averaged two pounds per capita per year, half fruits and vegetables and half fish. There were 80 plants capable of freezing but only about a half-dozen companies offering products on the consumer market. The largest low-temperature warehouse had only 250,000 cubic feet of space and there were roughly 2,500 retail frozen food cabinets in the country. Development was hindered by the size of the reparations paid Russia. * Holland had 10,000 frozen food retail cabinets and production of frozen products amounted to 6,500 tons annually. Retail sales accounted for 45% of the sales and catering and bulk for the rest. Spinach, endive, beans and fish made up the bulk of the production but the nation was also actively producing French fried potatoes, frozen dinners, fish sticks and other prepared products. There were large imports of poultry from the U.S. and major exports of its products to many nations. * Australia was experiencing a boom in frozen food development. Sales of retail cabinets had tripled, heavy customer promotion was underway by a number of firms, ingenious new equipment for the production, storage and display of frozen products were being devised and the freezing of shrimp was just getting started. Some 7.7 million pounds of frozen lobster tails had been exported the previous year. Australia had many prominent packers of frozen products freezing 157 different items. * Japan had 838 frozen food processing plants producing 8,300 tons a day, mostly fish and seafood. Despite this, retail frozen foods were conspicuous by their absence, the biggest item was frozen fish which represented roughly 10% of the volume. * Containerized shipments of frozen foods was being run by Isbrandsen Co., Inc., New York out of New York City to Bermuda using liquid nitrogen at -320 [degrees] F as a refrigerant on a weekly schedule. Test shipments to Moscow and Finland arrived in good condition.


* Tariff reductions in Europe on imports of frozen foods from the dollar countries were announced. The United Kingdom cut duties on frozen vegetables and tongues as well as refrigerators; West Germany cut tariffs 10% on fruits and vegetables; Norway permits the importation of fish duty and license free. The opening wedge was the wide need and acceptance of U.S. frozen poultry. * Record catch of shrimp in the United States prompted moves to set quotas on the amount of shrimp that can be imported from abroad. * Sam Silverman, former president of Modern Maid Breading, USA, acted as QUICK FROZEN FOODS INTERNATIONAL representative, interviewed G. Duttweiler, president of Migros, Switzerland on the entry of that retail food chain into processing its own vegetables, fruits and dinners in frozen form and setting up an entire chain of delivery for them. * Special report from USSR indicated that 30% of their entire catch of fish was marketed frozen, most of it frozen aboard processing ships. * Electrical power companies in the United Kingdom were at the forefront of those spending substantial sums of money to promote frozen food and home freezer sales. * Polythylene bags for marketing retail frozen vegetables in IQF form were introduced in Australia by International Canners, a firm which froze almost half the total production of such products in Australia. * Major expansion of frozen vegetable packing in New Zealand was occurring with four major packers. Some 75% of the production was in peas and there is heavy export as well as domestic consumption. * The Danish Cooperative Wholesale Society had become an aggressive leader in the production, buying and selling of frozen foods in Denmark. Special emphasis was on vegetables, fruits and fish. The company had four frozen food warehouses with another four planned.

1960 January

* The first Continental Conference on Frozen Foods held in Verona, Italy October 6 to 12th, 1959. There were 90 delegates from 13 nations. The meeting was organized by a division of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. Nations represented at the convention were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. Promotion campaigns to educate the public to frozen foods were outlined for Italy, France and West Germany. Reports on all phases of frozen foods were read and there was a display of a variety of such products on display from the commissary of the U.S. Armed Forces in Verona. * Special German and French language sections were made a permanent part of the magazine. * Sales of frozen foods in the United Kingdom came to [pounds] 150 million for the previous year, sold out of 64,000 cabinets. Birds Eye, Smedley and Eskimo Foods cut prices, announcing that production line economies had made this possible.


* Frozen poultry exports to Europe from the United States climbed 330% the first eight months of 1960 as compared to the same period the previous year. Some 63.1 million pounds were shipped the first eight months of 1960 as compared to 18.1 million pounds for the same period the previous year. * U.S. Navy perfects "rationdense" frozen foods to conserve space on its submarines. This created the turkey roll and turkey roast, which were to become big items in retail frozen food market. All edible flesh, no bones, skin, fat or gristle. * Retail sales of frozen foods were very slow in developing in Japan due to few working wives, a pattern of daily purchase, limited cabinets in the store and traditions of food preparation which did not lend themselves to frozen products. * Frozen poultry from China to Hong Kong at low prices killed sales of American imports. * India was exporting 15 million pounds a year of shrimp and frogs legs to the United States. * QFFI appointed Ernest F. Barker, a permanent European editor for the magazine, residing in Monaco. * The first boil-in-bag entrees called "Flavor-Seal" introduced in the United Kingdom by Frood of J. Lyons & Co., London. These included braised steak and vegetables, stewed steak with onions, spring lamb stew and tripe and onions.


* Great upsurge in frozen foods noted by E. W. Williams, QFFI publisher on his swing through Europe. Was convinced that frozen foods had now become a permanent part of the European marketing scene. * France was probably the most underdeveloped frozen food country in Europe, there being probably not over 1,000 cabinets in the entire nation as compared to Holland with 10,000. Most of France had no frozen food distribution and the business is concentrated in a few large cities. * India had become the world's largest freezer of shrimp, outproducing the United States. * Birds Eye, London, had bought the Times Foods Products Co. and created a Tempo Brand to sell to frozen food distributors. Previously, Birds Eye had sold only directly to stores. * Denmark had begun producing a larger variety of frozen foods than any other country in Europe.


* Frozen foods people took a "Wait-and-See" attitude towards the impact of the two major European trading blocs, The Common Market and The European Free Trade Area on frozen food sales. * Swing towards aluminum cans for frozen orange concentrate definite in the United States. * Distribution of frozen single-serving juice concentrates to bars and cafes begun with promotion undertaken by Concentrazione Succhi of Italy. * Metal Box Company had developed a new cartoning system called "Diotite" which was being tested by Wrights a frozen food packer in Kettering, England. It consisted of blanks supplied flat to the packer which were coated with wax and which were formed, filled and sealed in the same equipment.

January 1961

* Dehydro-Freezing, a method of first removing water from and then freezing a product had been developed by Lamb-Weston in the United States. It reduced product weight by 50% of peas as well as some of its bulk. It had never previously been successfully tried on a product as delicate as peas. * Birds Eye had built what they believed to be the largest low-temperature warehouse in Europe at Lewestoft. It had a capacity of 4,000 tons of product. * 1960 frozen food sales in the United Kingdom came to $128 million, $28 million higher than the figure for 1959.


* U.S. Exported 150 million pounds of frozen poultry and poultry meat in 1960, 90 million pounds of it to Europe. This represented a 37% increase over the previous year. * Vending machines that keep meals frozen until one hour before meal time, then heat them for serving automatically were in use in some United States industrial plants.

PHOTO : The cover of the first issue of Quick Frozen Foods International, dated June, 1959.

PHOTO : Clarence Birdseye, the "father" of the freezing process that created the modern frozen

PHOTO : food industry, stands with his wife before the pillared mansion in Gloucester,

PHOTO : Massachusetts, USA, he built with the proceeds of his sale of his

breakthrough method to

PHOTO : the company that was to become General Foods.

PHOTO : Tore Lauritzson, president of Helsingborgs Fryshus, a leading warehouse in Sweden which

PHOTO : formed the basis of Frigoscandia's international refrigerated warehouse chain, was a loyal

PHOTO : follower of Quick Frozen Foods International.

PHOTO : The first products in boilable pouches in the United Kingdom were introduced by Frood with

PHOTO : the bags made by British Xylonite Company.

PHOTO : The first multi-deck open frozen food cabinet capable of maintaining proper holding

PHOTO : temperatures and not requiring a bottom bin was tested in the USA by the jewel Tea chain.

PHOTO : The unit called "The Continental Dual-Jet Freezer" because of a jet of air down the front

PHOTO : that restricted the loss of low-temperature air, swung the industry to similar types of

PHOTO : units with greatly increased display and volume.

PHOTO : Nippon Riezo pioneered frozen foods in Japan and this poster, which was one of their

PHOTO : promotion pieces, shows strawberries, peas, shrimp and kumquats in 1960.

PHOTO : Containerized shipments overseas of frozen foods using liquid nitrogen as a refrigerant

PHOTO : were pioneered by the Isbrantsen Co. in 1959.
COPYRIGHT 1989 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1989
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