A new product, called “TV Dinners” was introduced by C.A. Swanson & Sons in 1953. This changed the prepackaged meal industry forever. Every year on September 10, we commemorate the “TV Dinner” on National TV Dinner Day.
In 1962, Swanson stopped using the name “TV Dinner” however, in the United States, the term remains synonymous with any prepackaged dinner that is purchased frozen from a store and heated at home.
The first Swanson TV Dinner consisted of a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cornbread dressing, peas and sweet potatoes. The original tray was made of aluminum and each food item had it’s own compartment. The dinner had to be heated in the oven and took about 25 minutes to cook. Today most frozen food trays are made of microwaveable safe material.
The original product sold for 98 cents and the production estimate for the first year was 5,000 dinners. To their surprise, Swanson far exceeded that amount and in the first year, sold more than 10 million of them.
- 1960 – Swanson added desserts to a new four-compartment tray.
- 1964 – Night Hawk name originated from the Night Hawk steak houses
that operated in Austin, Texas from 1939 through 1994. The original
“diners” were open all night catering to the late-night crowd. The
restaurants produced the first frozen Night Hawk “TV dinner” in 1964.
- 1969 – The first TV breakfasts were marketed. Great Starts Breakfasts and breakfast sandwiches followed later.
- 1973 – The first Swanson Hungry-Man dinners were marketed; these were larger portions of its regular dinner products.
- 1986 – The first microwave oven-safe trays were marketed.
- 1986 – The original Swanson TV Dinner tray was inducted, by the Smithsonian Institute, into the Museum of American History.
Much has changed since the original TV Dinner and they also remain a popular choice for a fast and convenient meal and fun to eat in front of the TV!
What is your favorite frozen meal?