During a hunting trip, American explorer and scientist, Clarence Birdseye, notes the beneficial effects of quick freezing; fish caught on a previous trip and left in the ice remained in perfect condition.
In 1924, Clarence Birdseye patents the “Birdseye Plate Froster” and sets up the General Seafoods Corporation. In 1929, Birdseye’s company and patents are acquired by Postum Company and the Goldman-Sachs trading Corporation (later General Foods). They keep Birdseye’s name, but split into two words for use as a trade mark. Birdseye is paid $20 million USD for the patents and $2 million USD for the assets.
General Foods launches the Birds Eye brand. In the 1930’s the introduction of a new freezing technology leads to the creation of a significant new food industry in the USA. In 1938, Frosted Foods, a subsidiary of General Foods, are the majority shareholder running the Birds Eye Foods Ltd in the UK, along with Chivers & Sons
Unilever becomes the majority shareholder in the UK company, acquiring the rights to the Birds Eye brand throughout the world outside of the USA. Processing operations are acquired and built in Great Yarmouth. The first products are peas and herrings. A dutch sister company unsuccessfully tests products in Netherlands, France, Belgium & Sweden.
Birds Eye launch Fish Fingers “no bones, no waste, no smell, no fuss”, and the first ever Birds Eye TV ad, for ‘sliced green beans’. In 1952 a complete production unit for frozen foods is set up in Lowestoft. Birds Eye becomes 100% Unilever owned. In 1956 iglo launches in Belgium and subsequently throughout Continental Europe, quickly becoming the largest and best known frozen food brand. In the same year, Clarence Birdseye dies holding almost 300 patents under his name.
‘Captain Birds Eye’ is first introduced, and the first ever colour TV ad on UK TV for peas from Birds Eye Country. Birds Eye reaches 75% market share. The Findus brand launches in Italy in the early 1960s and becomes the undisputed leader in frozen food. It has 98% brand recognition and is one of the most recognised food brands in the country.
Large increase in home freezer ownership to almost 50% of households. This pea advertisement appeared in 1973 illustrating the company’s long standing commitment to natural foods. In 1979 Birds Eye was amongst the first companies to introduce nutritional information on the packaging - before the legal requirement to do so.
Birds Eye merges with Walls ice-cream, and launch Potato Waffles, Country Club vegetables, Steakhouse red meat products, and ‘Sweet Trolley’ desserts. Birds Eye profit margins shrink to 4%
Best Before dates are added to packaging, and launches include ‘Tasty Tatties’, ‘Hungry Joes’, and a range of meat free products.
Birds Eye becomes the biggest grocery brand in the UK. A cross-category range is launched under Captain Birds Eye, SteamFresh microwaveable vegetables are introduced, and the Birds Eye brand gets a make-over, losing the famous ‘albatross’ logo in favour of the now familiar red ‘eye’ logo.
Permira buys the Iglo and Birds Eye brands from Unilever, which retains Italian frozen food business under the Findus brand. The current company Birds Eye Iglo Group is formed.
The Birds Eye Omega-3 Fish Finger in the UK moves consumers away from their beloved but endangered cod finger
Companies are established in Turkey and Russia. The UK launches ‘Baked-to-Perfection’ one of the biggest food launches to date.
‘Forever Food’ the integrated corporate sustainability program is introduced. Iglo frozen poultry is launched across continental Europe. In October, Permira acquires the Findus brand in Italy from Unilever – the one-time Unilever frozen businesses are re-united
BEIG announces another year of record profits for 2010 and Q1 2011 as the best quarter ever. New ranges include the ‘Catch-fresh’ seafood range, and ‘Rice Fusions’. In June, Birds Eye Iglo Group changes name to become Iglo Group.