Rewind: When Birds Eye's Ads Took Frozen Peas From Gray to Green

It Was as 'Sweet as the Moment as the Pod Went Pop'

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The same year that Advertising Age published its first issue in 1930, Clarence Birdseye, a Brooklyn-born inventor and all-around risk-taker, had just begun peddling his first batch of quick-frozen veggies to Americans.

It sounds a bit like one of those "I walked 10 miles in the snow to get to school" tales. But as it happened, Mr. Birdseye had just $7, some ice and brine to begin experimenting with freezing techniques. His first challenge: fish fillets.

Soon, he'd created a new commercial method of packing and freezing foods. Mr. Birdseye sold his patents to Goldman Sachs and Postum Co. (which later became General Foods) for $22 million. The Birds Eye brand has changed hands many times over the years but today is owned by Pinnacle Foods. Its agency is BBDO.

The business of marketing frozen vegetables and fish was a difficult one, largely because large scale freezing of food hadn't been done before. As has documented, "Temperature control had to be maintained from factory to point-of -purchase, so the foods went to retailers in refrigerated boxcars, and Birds Eye leased retailers specially designed freezer display cases." Consumers quickly adapted to the ease and time-saving qualities of cooking frozen food for the dinner table. According to PBS, "By the late 1940s, American consumers were buying freezers for their homes. … Food companies soon launched more elaborate offerings: frozen hors d'oeuvres, entrées and pizza."

In the 1950s, the brand introduced its popular slogan, "Sweet as the moment when the pod went POP" to underscore the freshness and quick-freezing of its peas.

The company marked a milestone in 1969, when its peas showed up green when it aired the first color TV commercial to run in the U.K.

In the following years, Birds Eye's in-color campaign carried not just one of the most memorable taglines but also introduced to the world adorable U.K. child star Patsy Kensit. Her first ad for the brand was at the age 4, in which she famously used her finger to make a popping sound with her mouth. Ms. Kensit went on to become a musician and actress, and appeared in "The Great Gatsby" with Mia Farrow.

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