Daily Star

Freeze a jolly good fellow..


★ IN perishing weather, Clarence Birdseye made a chance discovery that would transform the way we shop, eat and store food. Now 100 years later, we are celebratin­g the birth of flash freezing.

IT was 1924, and the businessma­n and inventor who would later give his name to fish fingers mascot Captain Birdseye was on a hunting trip in Newfoundla­nd.

While fishing on the frozen Canadian island – at the time an independen­t dominion within the British Empire – Birdseye found that his fish froze instantly on the ice

But crucially, it wasn’t until later when he came to eat his catch that he realised the significan­ce of his discovery

His frozen fish, once cooked, was as firm and fresh as if it had just been caught

The age of flash freezing food – or simply freezing as we call it today – was then born.

Birdseye set about inventing machinery that would replicate the super-fast process he had witnessed out on the Newfoundla­nd ice, creating his revolution­ary double belt freezer. It used cold brine to chill a pair of stainless steel belts to rapidly freeze the fish and remains the basis of technology still in use a century on – keeping our frozen teatime favourites fresh and tasty.

To mark the milestone, Birds Eye – the freezer aisle giant which still uses the inventor’s name after he sold his business and patents in 1929 – has created, below, a 19in-high birthday cake. It’s made from 60 chicken dippers, 90 fish fingers, 40 fish cakes, 20 fish burgers, 11 chicken burgers and 16 potato waffles.

But Birdseye, who died in 1956, at the age of 69, was not the first to freeze food. Prior to his discovery, freezing food involved packing it in ice, which meant it took hours rather than minutes.

And as ice crystals had time to form – expanding and breaking the cell walls of the food being frozen – it caused loss of texture, nutrients, colour and flavour.

Anyone who has forgotten to put away their frozen shopping in good time – or found their food defrosted after a freezer breakdown – may have

experience­d munching on mushy morsels just like our forebears did before Birdseye’s speedy freezing method.

For boffin Professor Steve Burt, left inset, an expert in marketing and retail at the University of Stirling, Birdseye’s discovery became such a success because it created the ultimate convenienc­e food for busy families.

He said: “If you think about what it takes to fire up a plate of fish and chips - the smell, the smoke and the time and effort it takes. What frozen food has one is allow us to put food on plates quickly that would take a lot of time and skill to prepare.

"We forget sometimes that food use to go into pantries – today we have all grown up with refrigerat­ors and increasing­ly freezers.

"For fish fingers – to get a piece of fish, the breadcrumb­s, to cover the fish in breadcrumb­s – if someone can give you this to simply cook and serve, it’s the time-saving factor.”

Due to the cost-of-living crisis, shoppers have been reassessin­g their grub, with frozen food filling up more baskets.

Your Daily Star has revealed that frozen food sales jumped by 15.6% in 2023 – a £1.13billion year-on-year rise, according to the British Frozen Food Federation.

Prof Burt says: “It’s much more common these days that the traditiona­l cook or homemaker is no longer waiting for everyone to come home to cook a meal.

“Kids themselves are time pressured – food that is quick and convenient can help. Children want to eat quickly because they have clubs or events or they might want to disappear to their bedroom to play computer games or watch TV. The time around cooking a meal from scratch is becoming less and less.”

The ability to store vital provisions and make them last came into its own on the Home Front when food was sparse during World War Two rationing.

Prof Burt adds: “There were certainly shortages.

“The war undoubtedl­y stimulated the use of this technology as there was huge pressure not to waste anything.”

Amid major conflict in Europe once more – following Russian despot Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – a fresh food crisis has hit again.

And since seven in 10 of us do not regularly eat the recommende­d five portions of fruit and veg a day, flash freezing locking in nutrients is good news for our bodies as well as wallets.

 ?? ?? ■ ICE LEGEND: Clarence Birdseye
■ ICE LEGEND: Clarence Birdseye
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 ?? ?? ■ CATCHING ON: Changing face of Captain Birdseye in the ads. Charlotte CarterDunn, who became Captain Charlotte, with, left, John Hewer; centre, Thomas Pescod; and, right, Riccardo Acerbi
■ CATCHING ON: Changing face of Captain Birdseye in the ads. Charlotte CarterDunn, who became Captain Charlotte, with, left, John Hewer; centre, Thomas Pescod; and, right, Riccardo Acerbi

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