Flash freezing – A technique which revolutionized the food industry was introduced to the world by Clarence Birdseye. Birdseye was a field biologist and it was on a field trip in Labrador, Canada that his interest in freezing techniques was piqued.
Birdseye learnt from the Inuits(natives of arctic region) how freshly caught fish could be frozen instantly using ice, wind, and temperature. He found that the fish tasted delicious when it was thawed days and even weeks later. He also noticed that quick freezing resulted in small ice crystals being formed thereby keeping the cell membrane of the food intact. The conventional method of freezing was slow and caused large ice crystals to form which ruptured the cell membranes.
Birdseye joined the Clothel Refrigerating Company and worked on improving the fish freezing technique. In 1923, he set up his own company named Birdseye Seafoods Inc. and supplied fish fillets which were frozen using chilled air -43C. However within a year his company went bankrupt. Birdseye was determined to carry on his work and soon he patented another process in 1924. The fish was packed into wax cartons and quickly frozen under pressure. He even started a new company called General Seafood Corporation.
In 1925, Birdseye invented and patented a double belt freezer in which brine was used to chill a pair of stainless steel belts that carried the packaged fish so that it froze more quickly. He soon started flash-freezing other food items like vegetables, chicken, meat and fruits.
In 1927, Birdseye sold his company and its patents to Goldman Sachs and the Postum Company for $22 million. Later the company, under the name General Foods Corporation introduced the Birds Eye brand to the world.