Pizza is a popular snack in many countries, sometimes even serving as a proper meal for families, couples, and struggling college students. It can be fancy enough for a sit-down dinner at a restaurant, with several toppings to choose from and plenty of sides such as garlic bread, dips, etc. There are now even gluten-free pizzas available so that everyone can enjoy this delicious culinary choice without any guilt or harm.
What’s more, many are also familiar with pizza as a frozen food item. We can purchase readymade frozen pizzas in stores and stash them in our deep freezers at home for emergencies. These will come in handy for movie nights, unexpected friends coming over, or just any day when you don’t feel like cooking. Some restaurants might also indulge in the convenience of frozen pizza.
However, most of us are taking frozen pizza for granted. We’re now so used to frozen items being easily available that we forget the history behind their existence. Since pizza is such a popular choice for many in the United States as well as out of it, let’s take a look at how frozen pizza was first created.
The Name Behind Frozen Items
The interesting history of pizza certainly makes for an interesting read, but the very name of the man who might have started the concept of frozen food is a memorable one. This individual was known as Clarence Birdseye, which was quite suitable considering his powers of observation.
Birdseye often wished that his family could have fresh food all the year round, instead of eating preserved or pickled and slated options in the winter. He notices that people in the Arctic regions were able to preserve their meats and fish inside barrels full of sea water. The water inside would be naturally frozen. Inspired by this innovation, Birdseye invested in several buckets of brine, an electric fan, and a load of ice.
After some trial and error, Birdseye finally struck upon a method that gave his flash-frozen products in very convenient packaging. The taste was also more or less the same if a trifle less than the fresh stuff.
From there on, it might seem like frozen pizza was one of the next logical steps. However, frozen pizza is actually quite a new phenomenon. Pizza itself became popular after World War II, as soldiers posted in Italy wanted the same pies that they’d had there.
After the war, home freezers also became more common, so pizzerias also offered unbaked pizza pies that could be frozen. However, this didn’t really start out very well. After baking at home, the frozen pizza dough usually became soggy, while the toppings had lost their flavor. This was usually due to the change in chemical composition and the ice crystals formed by freezing.
With the flash freezing process provided by Birdseye, though, these issues were soon solved. The process prevented the formation of ice crystals and locked in the flavor of the topping.
The First Frozen Pizza
It’s not clear just who came up with the first ever frozen pizza. The first brand of this item was probably the Celentano Brothers in the 1950s. However, the first major name in the frozen pizza business was most likely Totino’s.
Totino’s was started by Jim and Rose Totino, a couple who launched their first pizzeria in 1951. This was located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With the success of their business, they hot upon the idea of providing frozen pizza to their customers. By the end of the 1960s decade, Totino’s was synonymous with frozen pizza on a national level. It’s still a well-known name in the pizza industry today, with families stocking up on their goods for parties and dinners.
In August 1950, one Joseph Bucci filed a patent for his frozen pizza product. This was nothing more than a round of dough with tomato sauce, with cheese and other toppings being optional. The patent was granted in 1954, though frozen pizzas had already hit the stores months before Bucci applied for it.
However, frozen pizza was still not comparable to the freshly, piping hot pizzas that Americans love so much. Eventually, several experimentations and trials developed certain doughs and procedures to change the composition for a perfect frozen pizza.
Bucci’s offering was named Roma Pizza and was branded as a refrigerated option, not frozen. It made waves in New England, but the soggy dough issue did cause some problems. Since this made the product quite disgusting, Bucci came up with the idea of a quick-freezing dough. This was meant to even the texture of the final result, while also maintaining a decent overall temperature when the pizza was baked in any home oven.
From there on, the race for frozen pizza was evident throughout the country. There were ads for frozen pizza pies going for as low as 33 cents, while several frozen pizza entrepreneurs had articles written about their success. In 1954, frozen pizza was so successful that individual entrepreneurs were becoming millionaires from this invention.
We now have many types of frozen pizzas to choose from, all with their own unique taste and flavor. There are rising crust frozen pizzas, frozen pizzas for one, and family options as well. The sales of the frozen pizza industry went from around $1 billion a year back in 1995 to more than $5 billion a year in current times.
Surveys today show that Americans now consume a whopping 2 billion-plus frozen pizza slices every year. This adds up to around 350 million tons in total. An average family in the United States can be expected to have pizza at their home more than once a fortnight, which is around 30 times within one year. While the favorite topping remains pepperoni, there are several options now available on the market.
There are several types and styles of pizzas out there, and you can probably find frozen options for most of them. Totino’s might have cracked the frozen pizza code and made it possible to enjoy a fresh taste with this version. However, many pizza purists still feel that fresh pizza is simply unbeatable.
If you’re concerned about chemicals and preservatives in frozen pizza options, you won’t be wrong. This is why we might just want to keep the frozen pizza as a treat for emergencies and indulge in a fresh slice whenever possible. Still, frozen pizza is yet another modern convenience that makes our lives just a little easier each day. With so much going on in our lives, having some pizza bagels or a whole pie out of the box isn’t going to hurt once in a while.