Birds Eye History

    Clarence Birdseye invents the fast freezing food process.

    Clarence Birdseye invented the fast freezing process, that would one day become standard practice across the world.

    Clarence Birdseye invents the fast freezing food process.

    A long time ago, lived a man named Clarence Birdseye.

    Born in Brooklyn in 1886, he went to school in New Jersey and briefly attended college in Massachusetts before dropping out to join the US Agricultural department as an ‘assistant naturalist’.
    He was a naturally curious fellow, and when faced with nature that he hadn’t encountered before, often his first thoughts were, “what does it taste like” and “how do I cook it?”

    But it was when he was sent to Labrador in Newfoundland, circa 1917, that he was to conceive of an idea that would revolutionise food production, packaging and distribution for the next century.

    In fact, it would change the world.

    While out on the snow, he was shown how to survive in the harsh conditions by the local Inuits.
    In -40ºC weather, Birdseye learnt how to fish under very thick ice but what really intrigued him was what happened to the fish after they were caught.


    Clarence observed that once the fish were brought out of the water and placed on the ice, the combination of the temperature and exposure to the elements froze the fish almost instantly.

    The significance of this made itself apparent later when they came to eat the frozen fish.
    To his amazement, once thawed, they were as firm and fresh as if they had just been caught.

    But this wasn’t the first time that food had been frozen, so what was the difference?
    What made the Inuit’s method so much more effective?
    So much fresher and tastier?

    It was the speed of the freeze.

    Food had been frozen before, but because it took hours rather than minutes, ice crystals would have time to form, expanding and breaking the cell walls of the food being frozen, affecting the taste and leaving it unattractive and unappetising once thawed.


    The Inuit's had been taking advantage of nature’s ability to ‘flash freeze’ their catch, which meant near-perfect preservation of the food.

    That’s when a big light bulb flashed on in Clarence Birdseye’s brain.

    He returned to New York and set about inventing and patenting his ‘Quick Freeze Machine’, which would replicate the fast freezing process he had witnessed out in Newfoundland.

    Step-by-step, he invented the processes that would one day become standard practice across the world.

    It was Clarence’s marvelous mind that pondered over packaging, innovated with ink, considered chemicals and battled with batch sizes in order to perfect the process.

    He then went to work creating the business that we would eventually come to know and love as Birds Eye.
    The Birdseye multiple plate freezer
    The key to Quick Freezing was the introduction of the multiple plate freezer, invented and patented by Clarence Birdseye.
    The Birdseye multiple plate freezer
    The key to Quick Freezing was the introduction of the multiple plate freezer, invented and patented by Clarence Birdseye

    This consisted of a series of hydraulically driven horizontal hollow plates through which refrigerant is passed
    The packs are put on trays, and compressed between the plates.

    This was patented in Aug 12th 1930(US patent nos. 1773079;1773080; and 1773081) by C. Birdseye
    He developed two patents, aimed at fish products.
    His first patent used calcium Chloride to chill (-40 C.) two metal plates between which the packs were placed
    His second patent utilised hollow plates which were cooled to –25C. using vaporising ammonia.
    It was this patent that created the basis for all multiple plate freezers
    It was this method that resulted in much smaller ice crystals forming on freezing resulting in retaining product integrity on thawing
    Smethursts a Grimsby fish company were amongst others experimenting with quick freezing using cold air blast tunnels, this company subsequently became part of Birds Eye, when Unilever purchased the brand.
    Introduction of frozen food to the UK
    Birds Eye launches its firsts beef burger
    Fish Finger Production begins
    Since their introduction, more than 15 billion fish fingers have been sold in the UK alone!
    Individual bulk freezing of peas was introduced
    This allowed subsequent packing to be planned in throughout the year. Flexible packaging lent itself to high speed packing.

    This also removed many of the labour constraints imposed by having to pack within the pea season
    Frozen distribution grows
    60 refrigerated vehicles were bought to transport frozen goods.
    Captain Birdseye arrives!
    Captain Birds Eye Becomes the Birds Eye advertising mascot. He was played by actor John Hewer until 1998 when he officially retired.

    First colour TV commercial featuring Birds Eye Peas
    Timeless icons like Patsy Kensit have fronted our ‘pop’ advert. Our first and the first colour advert in the UK went out in this year.
    A sign of the times
    By 1969 56% of all homes had refrigerators.
    Rapid growth of the supermarkets
    The way people purchased their food changed in the 70's. The 70's saw a massive rise in the amount of supermarkets in the UK.
    Nutritional information on packaging
    Birds Eye was amongst the first companies to introduce nutritional information on the packaging. This was before the legal requirement to do so.
    Potato Waffles production begins
    Only the best for the Captain's table

    Birds Eye put Captain Birdseye in all their fish advertising, with the strapline Only The Best For The Captain's Table

    The Captain® is famous!
    Captain Birds Eye was voted the most recognised sea captain after Captain Cook in a poll.
    Pollock fish fingers launched
    Alaskan Pollock fish fingers is launched to reduce pressure on cod
    Bake to Perfection is launched
    Clarence the bear
    Clarence the bear was introduced as a brand ambassador and appeared in Birds Eye tv adverts.
    The worlds most expensive fish finger sandwich
    The world's poshest and most expensive fish finger sandwich was created by Birds Eye to mark the Queen's 90th birthday.
    The worlds most expensive fish finger sandwich
    The world’s poshest and most expensive fish finger sandwich was created by Birds Eye head chef Peter Lack and also includes such delicacies as sweet caviar and creamy saffron mayonnaise and is valued at £187.

    Captain Birdseye returned

    Captain Birdseye returned to our TV advertising. He was seen on board his ship fighting off a giant Octopus!

    The Fish Finger Sandwich Awards is launched
    We launched the inaugural Fish Finger Sandwich Awards to celebrate the nation’s love for one of its most popular sarnies.
    The Fish Finger Sandwich Awards is launched

    We launched the inaugural Fish Finger Sandwich Awards to celebrate the nation’s love for one of its most popular sarnies.

    Coinciding with National Sandwich Day (3rd November), the launch of the Awards provided Brits with the opportunity to be awarded the title of King or Queen of fish finger sandwiches and see their winning recipe featured on select packs of Birds Eye fish fingers.

    Since Clarence Birdseye created the humble fish finger in 1955, it has become one of the nation’s best-loved and most-consumed teatime treats.

    To celebrate this love, Birds Eye is gave Brits the chance to achieve fish finger fame, with the frozen food giant looking for the most innovative and attention-grabbing fish finger sandwich creations.
    The Fish Finger Sandwich Awards has two categories – one for the general public and one for foodservice – with entries appraised on criteria including presentation and innovative use of ingredients.

    Following an entry period of six weeks, a panel of fish finger shortedlisted three sandwich creations from each category to go through to the Grand Final. The 2017 panel of judges consisted of:

    – Television personality, Gregg Wallace
    – Food Urchin culinary blogger, Danny Kingston
    – Daily Telegraph food writer, Xanthe Clay
    – Birds Eye head chef, Peter Lack

    The winning sandwich will be appearing on our Birds Eye fish finger packaging.

    The winners of the first competition were:

    The professional winning entry was by Chris Lanyon of Chapel Café

    The public winning entry was by Gabrielle Sander

    A new Captain is on the helm

    Riccardo Acerbo steps into the role as the nation’s most recognised brand icon.

    Read more

    The lauch of Chicken Shop

    Chicken Shop comes into our homes as the perfect ‘fakeaway’.

    Read more

    The launch of Green Cuisine

    The meat-free brand “Green Cuisine” is launched to cater for the ever-growing demand for meat-free alternatives.

    Read more

    Birds Eye's Pea Farming Collective

    Birds Eye’s Pea Farming Collective becomes the first farming group in the UK, and the first in frozen food GLOBALLY, to be awarded GOLD by the SAI Platform’s Farm Sustainability Assessment. Read more

    Green Cuisine at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

    Green Cuisine becomes the official plant-based supporter of Team GB at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Read more

    Chicken-Free dippers win Product of the Year

    Green Cuisine Chicken-Free dippers wins Product of the Year 2021.

    Read more

    Get on Board Fish Campaign launch

    Our Get on Board Fish campaign launches, celebrating the freshness, taste and sustainability of our fish. Read more

    Launch of Seeded Crust

    Seeded Crust Fish Fillets launch. 

    Read more

    Read more

    Launch of Birds Eye's biggest ever pea campaign

    Birds Eye launches its biggest ever pea campaign to highlight the importance of biodiversity. Read more