Dr. Oetker Stories

100 Years of Frozen Foods

The preservation of food has been practiced by mankind for thousands of years. There are many methods of preservation, but none maintain the quality of the food like this groundbreaking idea: 100 years ago, Clarence Birdseye revolutionized the food industry with flash freezing.

100 Years of Frozen Foods

6.3.2023 History

In 1923, the American Clarence Birdseye developed a method for flash freezing food. The frozen food is just as nutritious and often even of better quality than fresh produce. Starting in the USA, frozen food is celebrating its triumphal march. Dr. Oetker has been involved in the frozen food business since 1960, making it one of the pioneers in Germany.

The preservation of food – a cultural achievement

Mankind has always been concerned with the question of how food can be protected from spoilage. For sedentary civilizations, the creation of secure food supplies is crucial for their survival. The first methods of preservation include air-drying, smoking and salting. But also methods such as fermentation or air exclusion by insertion in liquids or fats have been common practice in many cultures for thousands of years. The inhabitants of the cold climate zones have their own special ways of preserving foods, for example the Inuit. They have always used the harsh conditions of their habitat to flash freeze killed animals and fish on a natural basis.

Clarence Birdseye, in fron of frosted foods counter

In 1923, Clarence Birdseye developed a method for industrial food freezing in the USA. Photo: © AFFI

Frozen Beans 1930s

In addition to fish, vegetables are among the first frozen products. These beans were sold in the United States in the 1930s. Photo: © AFFI

Clarence Birdseye and his revolutionary idea

In 1923, the American Clarence Birdseye developed a method for flash freezing foods. As a biologist by training, he has travelled to some remote regions of the USA and Canada over the course of his career. Because of this he also witnesses the way of life of the Inuit. When ice fishing, he notices how quickly the caught fish freezes in the air due to the extremely low temperatures and how it has lost nothing of its quality after thawing. Birdseye is fascinated by this and immediately recognizes the value of flash freezing for human nutrition. The idea does not let him go and he develops his freezing process, which will revolutionize the food industry. The first frozen products are fish and vegetables. But the public still must be convinced of the idea. After several setbacks and bankruptcy, the first grocery stores are equipped with freezers in 1930. Customers can choose from over 20 articles. This is the breakthrough for the frozen food industry in the US.

A supermarket scene with the Dr. Oetker advertising icon "Frau Renate" in 1962

A supermarket scene with the Dr. Oetker advertising icon "Frau Renate" in 1962. Dr. Oetker also uses her to promote the advantages of frozen foods.

Dr. Oetker's beginnings in frozen foods

In Germany, it takes a little longer. In 1955, frozen food was presented to the public at the Anuga trade fair in Cologne. In 1957, numerous exhibitors with a frozen range were already represented at the trade fair, which took place every two years. Dr. Oetker is also closely monitoring developments and has decided to invest in the new market as well. In Germany, only 300 grams of frozen products per capita and year are consumed at this time. In the USA, it is already an average of 30 kilos. It is clear: the future belongs to frozen food! In 1960, Dr. Oetker takes over the frozen food division of AfU in Mannheim. It is renamed ANTA Tiefkühlkost GmbH and the headquarters relocates to Bielefeld. At the same time, a competitor goes bankrupt and thousands of freezers in Germany are no longer supplied. It is the opportunity for the young company.

Logo ANTA Frozen Foods

In 1960 the company ANTA was founded. This is how the history of frozen food begins at Dr. Oetker.

Great effort is invested in deep-freeze warehouses and the establishment of a sales organization. Maintaining the cold chain is particularly complex. A new vehicle fleet must be built up to ensure smooth delivery to retailers.

ANTA Frozen Foods truck

Maintaining the cold chain is very important for frozen foods. Special vehicles are therefore necessary for transport. In 1960, Dr. Oetker invests in building up its own truck fleet.

Dr. Oetker stand Anuga fair 1961

Dr. Oetker stand at the Anuga food fair in Cologne in 1961. The new ice cream division is obviously the star of the show.

The first frozen products from Dr. Oetker

ANTA's products are marketed under the names Dr. Oetker and Frosti. The first frozen assortment under the name Dr. Oetker is ice cream. With the popular ice cream powder from the 1950s, the brand with the Hellkopf can already boast initial experience in the ice cream business. Now, however, it's about ready-to-eat ice cream. The recipes are developed in cooperation with the famous Dr. Oetker test kitchen. In addition to containers for home consumption, varieties of popsicles are also offered.

Vegetables and fish are offered under the Frosti brand, the latter also in practical cooking bags. Ready-made menus are also tried. Here, those responsible are primarily focusing on the professional sector, such as employee catering or hospitals.

Dr. Oetker Tiefkühlmarkt – There is something for every taste

The frozen food division is developing extremely positively, so that it is soon decided to further expand the range. A new name and a new logo are also coming: Dr. Oetker Tiefkühlmarkt. Products are offered for every taste and every occasion. The range is expanded to include meat, cakes and dessert products.

A new era – The first frozen pizza in Germany

Without a doubt, frozen pizza is one of the most popular products in the frozen food sector today. It celebrated its premiere in the 1950s in the USA. In 1968, the manufacturer Romano Freddi launched a frozen pizza in Italy. Dr. Oetker quickly recognized the potential and sold this pizza with the name "alla Romana" under license from 1970 onwards. Topped with tomatoes, peppers, mortadella and a cheese mixture of mozzarella and provolone, the raw dough pizza is baked in the supplied aluminum plate for a full 30 minutes. It is an immediate success. The product range is constantly expanded and in 1981 a separate production facility is built exclusively for frozen pizza. Today, Dr. Oetker produces 2.3 million pizzas a day in Germany alone.

Dr. Oetker Frozen Pizza "Pizza alla Romana" 1970

In 1970, Dr. Oetker brought frozen pizza to Germany. The foundation for a fabulous success!