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|Formerly||Birdseye Seafood, Inc.|
|Fate||Acquired by Postum Cereal Company in 1929, other owners then|
|Headquarters||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
Feltham, Middlesex, England
Mentone, Victoria, Australia
|Owner||Conagra Brands (US, 2018–pres)|
Nomad Foods (Europe)
The former Birds Eye Company Ltd., originally named "Birdseye Seafood, Inc." had been established in the United States by Clarence Birdseye in 1922 to market frozen fish, being then acquired by the Postum Cereal Company in 1929. The company was then owned by other firms such as Dean Foods and Pinnacle Foods, which was eventually taken over by Conagra Brands in 2018. Since then, Conagra has been managing rights to the Birds Eye brand in the U.S.
History and production
In the early 1900s, during his travels through what is now Northern Canada, Clarence Birdseye of Montclair, New Jersey, saw the Inuit use ice, wind, and temperature to instantly freeze freshly-caught fish. His curiosity piqued, and Clarence wondered if this method, called flash freezing, could also be applied to other foods. This 1920s hunting trip to Canada inspired Birdseye's food preserving method.
Birdseye conducted experiments and received patents for the development of greatly improved methods to freeze fish for commercial production. In 1922, he formed "Birdseye Seafood, Inc.", to freeze fish fillets with chilled air at −45 °F (−43 °C). In 1924, he developed an entirely new process for commercially viable quick-freezing: packing fish in cartons, then freezing the contents between two refrigerated surfaces under pressure. Birdseye created the "General Seafood Corporation", to promote this method. In 1929, Birdseye sold his company and patents for $22 million to Goldman Sachs and the Postum Cereal Company, which eventually established a new business, General Foods, and which founded the "Birds Eye Frozen Food Company". Birdseye continued to work with the company, further developing frozen food technology.
After being acquired by the Philip Morris Companies, General Foods then merged into Kraft Foods Inc. in 1990. Birds Eye was sold to Dean Foods in 1993 and was independently owned by Birds Eye Foods of Rochester, New York until it was purchased by Pinnacle Foods in 2009. In March 2010, Pinnacle announced it would be closing the Rochester headquarters and moving operations to New Jersey. Pinnacle Foods was then acquired by Conagra Brands in June 2018, with Birds Eye becoming part of its brand portfolio.
Birds Eye also operated a factory in Grimsby, founded 1929, mass producing a range of fish and vegetable based frozen foods, moving to Unilever's Ladysmith Road site for the mass production of fish fingers in 1955, this factory closed 2005, with the loss of 650 jobs. The fish finger became the company's staple product, was developed in 1955 at its factory in Great Yarmouth, by H A J Scott, and test marketed in the south of England before mass production began. One of the company's main UK pea processing sites is in Gipsyville, Hull; the company formerly operated a large pea processing factory in the same area, opened 1967, closed 2007.
On 9 February 2006, Unilever announced it was looking to sell the UK 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 employed 3,500 staff across Europe with 1,800 located in the UK.
The Birds Eye brand in Australia and New Zealand 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. In 2015, Birds Eye was awarded by Reader's Digest as ‘"Australia’s Most Trusted Frozen Food Brand". Birds Eye products are produced at the company's processing facilities in Devonport, Ulverstone, Tasmania, and Bathurst, New South Wales, as well as from imported ingredients. Some seafood items are processed overseas and the completed product imported.
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 (which had been split off from pretzel manufacturer Snyder's of Hanover in Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1950)
- Tim's Cascade Snacks
Captain Birdseye (United Kingdom)
In the United Kingdom, Captain Birdseye was an advertising mascot of the brand, from the 1960s to late 1990s. Appearing in numerous television and billboard commercials since 1967, he was played by the actor John Hewer between then and 1998 e.g. in 1986 advert for Birdsye Fish Fingers. After the retirement of the original actor, the brand was relaunched with a younger man with designer stubble (played by Thomas Pescod), but was less popular, and the character was dropped from Birdeye's advertising. A 2014 redesign of the brand's packaging includes artwork resembling the original Captain Bird's Eye.
Other British advertising
Child actress Patsy Kensit appeared in an early 1970s advert for frozen peas. This featured a jingle including the slogan "Sweet as the moment when the pod went 'pop'" but as years went on they reverted to a jingle "Come Home To Birds Eye Country" – a series of adverts from the late 1960s to in or around the late 1980s to early 1990s.
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!". The series was the brainchild of advertising art director Vernon Howe and was mentioned in several of his obituaries.
Advertising campaigns of the 1980s included one for 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 site workers heading home in a minibus and singing about what they were hoping their wives 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 it's chips".
2013 European 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.
- Ma, T. (2014). Professional Marketing and Advertising Essays and Assignments. 5. p. 3425.
- "The story of Birds Eye begins with our founder, Clarence Birdseye". Retrieved 26 July 2021.
- "New Jersey's Pinnacle Foods buys Birds Eye". NJ.com. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- "Birds Eye plans to close N.Y. headquarters after acquisition by N.J.-based Pinnacle Foods" NJ.com, March 2010
- Cold comfort: ConAgra buys Birds Eye maker for $10.9 billion by Paul La Monica on CNN, 27 June 2018
- "Birds Eye: a timeline and history". The Daily Telegraph. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
- "600 jobs to go at Birds Eye plant". BBC News. 7 October 2004. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
- "From pod to pack: The journey of a humble Birds Eye pea", Hull Daily Mail, 16 August 2015, archived from the original on 22 August 2015, retrieved 16 August 2015
- Barkham, Patrick (12 January 2007), "'Buccaneers' blamed for Birds Eye closure", The Guardian
- "Birds Eye brands sold for £1.1bn" BBC News, 28 August 2006
- Our brands on Simplot website (1 Aug 2021)
- "Reader's Digest Awards Australia's Most Trusted Frozen Food Brand". B&T. 5 August 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
- Birds Eye Foods: Brands Archived 12 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- "The Snyder of Berlin Story – Timeline". Snyder of Berlin. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- "Captain Birdseye actor John Hewer dies". The Daily Telegraph. 19 March 2008. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
- "Birds Eye unveils new logo and packaging". Packaging News. 19 August 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
- "UK television adverts 1955-1985". headington.org.uk. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- Welch, Nick (5 December 2003). "Vernon Howe". The Independent. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
- "Vernon Howe". Telegraph.co.uk. 8 December 2003. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- Steakhouse Grills Advert at Do you Remember. Retrieved 17 July 2014
- "Horsemeat scandal: Birds Eye withdraws UK ready meals". BBC News. 22 February 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
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