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|Headquarters||Brighton, Monroe County, New York, USA|
History and production
The brand and its underlying business is held by different owners in various territories:
Unilever announced in August 2006 that the business was sold to UK-based private equity group Permira. The company's staple product, the Fish Finger, was developed in its old factory in Great Yarmouth, by a Mr H A J Scott. Frozen vegetables were produced from 1946 using the new fast-freezing process, which are now produced with beefburgers and potato waffles in Lowestoft, employing 700 people.
The location of the factory was essential to the "one-hour to frozen" promise formerly made on Birds Eye peas, although commercial decisions have led to this claim being quietly dropped as the time has risen to two and a half hours. There is also a fish products factory in Hull employing 600 people.
Birds Eye closed a factory in Grimsby in 2005, with the loss of 650 jobs, that had been making fish fingers since 1929. The Grimsby factory on Ladysmith Road was hit by fire, suspected to be set by six local youths on 12 September 2007. The fire was so severe that local residents had to be evacuated.
In February 2013 it was announced the company will be investigating hydroponically grown vegetables to create a year-round steady supply.
As part of General Foods, it merged with Kraft Foods and Philip Morris USA in what became the Altria Group. Birds Eye was sold to Dean Foods in 1993 and was independently owned by Birds Eye Foods of Rochester, New York until purchased by Pinnacle Foods in 2009.
In March 2010, Pinnacle announced it would be closing the Rochester headquarters and moving operations to New Jersey.
Australia and New Zealand
The Birds Eye brand is owned by Simplot Australia Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the J.R. Simplot Company. Simplot purchased Birds Eye and many of Australia's leading food brands from Pacific Dunlop's Pacific Brands in the mid-1990s. Today, Birds Eye is Australia's leading frozen brand with a line of innovative frozen vegetables, potatoes, and seafood. Birds Eye products are produced at the company's processing facilities in Devonport and Ulverstone, Tasmania, and Bathurst, New South Wales, as well as from imported ingredients. Some seafood items are processed overseas and the completed product imported.
Unilever review, sale to Permira
After a tough trading period and a review of its business to focus on high growth/high margin markets, it was announced on 9 February 2006 that Unilever was looking to sell the Birds Eye brand, as well as the European version - Iglo (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and Portugal). These brands were worth £836M in sales, with profits of £115M a year, and employ 3,500 staff across Europe with 1,800 located in the UK. Heinz and Findus have also cut down on their frozen food production.
Unilever will retain the Iglo brand in Italy, where frozen food is still popular. In the UK, Unilever has said that frozen food is less popular than chilled food products, and has concerns over health and E numbers (European Union codes for additives) after it sternly told TV viewers, "We don't play with your food."
Birds Eye has acquired many well-established brands, some of which are distributed regionally and not nationally. The following brands are owned and distributed by Birds Eye:
- Comstock Wilderness
- Snyder of Berlin, potato chip maker based near Berlin, Pennsylvania (not related to pretzel manufacturer Snyder's of Hanover in Hanover, Pennsylvania)
- Tim's Cascade Snacks
Captain Birdseye (United Kingdom)
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In the United Kingdom, Captain Birdseye is the advertising mascot of the brand. Appearing in numerous television and billboard commercials since 1967, he was played by actor John Hewer between then and 1998. He is depicted as a clean living, older sailor with a white beard, dressed in merchant navy uniform and with a seafaring accent. This character was so successful that when the company's brand was relaunched with a younger man with designer stubble (played by Thomas Pescod), the project floundered and the older description of the character was brought back into the promotions. In 1993, Captain Birds Eye was voted[by whom?] as the most recognised captain after Captain Cook in a poll.
The Captain Birdseye mascot is a reference to the brand's extensive and well-known range of frozen seafood products, including Fish Fingers. Because the Birds Eye brand is marketed to families, many of the advertising campaigns feature Captain Birdseye as having a "crew" composed mostly of children in the preteen to teenage age groups, encouraging brand loyalty from children and emphasising the convenience of serving the company's products to their parents. A 2005 advertising campaign in the UK features Captain Birdseye informing consumers that Birds Eye readymade meals contain no artificial flavourings or preservatives, with an emphasis that they are healthy to children.
Birds Eye are also noted for other fondly remembered advertisements, such as one in the 1970s for frozen peas that featured the child actress Patsy Kensit, who would put her forefinger in her mouth to produce a popping sound. This would be followed by a jingle including the slogan "Sweet as the moment when the pod went 'pop'".
1980s campaigns included one for Birds Eye Potato Waffles that had a jingle including the words Waffley versatile. A popular advertisement for Birds Eye Steakhouse Grills featured a scene of hungry building workers heading home in a crew bus and singing about what they were hoping their partners would serve with their steak burgers. The song to the tune of Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) included the tag line "we hope its chips".
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, June Whitfield appeared in a series of television advertisements for Birds Eye products, featuring the concluding voice-over line: ".. it can make a dishonest woman of you!". One example, for Chicken Pie, may be found at YouTube. The series was the brainchild of legendary advertising art director Vernon Howe and was worthy of mention in several of his obituaries.,
From 2010 to 2014, all the Birds Eye foods featured, a talking puppet polar bear named Clarence (voiced by Willem Dafoe). In the UK, from 2014 onwards, the ads became far more nondescript, featuring low shots of various people engaging in small talk while the camera focuses on the food.
2013 meat adulteration scandal
In 2013, DNA tests revealed that horsemeat was present in Birds Eye chili con carne that was sold in Belgium and was produced and supplied by a Belgian group named Frigilunch. As a result Birds Eye withdrew all other products produced by the same supplier in the UK and Ireland.
- Birds Eye UK website
- Birds Eye Ireland website
- Iglo Pan-European site
- Birds Eye Australia & New Zealand website
- US Birds Eye website
- "Birds Eye plans to close N.Y. headquarters after acquisition by N.J.-based Pinnacle Foods" NJ.com, March 2010
- "Birds Eye brands sold for £1.1bn" BBC news, 28 August 2006
- Birds Eye Foods: Brands
- Steakhouse Grills Advert at Do you Remember. Retrieved 17 July 2014
- TV Adverts of the 1970s
- Birdseye TV Commercial – Dishonest Woman, YouTube
- Vernon Howe obituary, The Independent
- Vernon Howe obituary, The Telegraph
- "Horsemeat scandal: Birds Eye withdraws UK ready meals". BBC News. 22 February 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.