Food Processing: A History

As we celebrate our birthday, we look back at the incredible changes that shaped the food and beverage industry since 1940.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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Russell Putman published the first iteration of our magazine in 1940, "to keep process production men abreast of the latest developments in new equipment, new machines and new products … and be filled with terse news facts in an easy-to-read style." Back then, America was recovering from the worse recession in history. But that didn't stop his entrepreneurial spirit.

Opportunity abounded. There was very little in the way of R&D, packaging technology and gleaming equipment to produce food quickly. Globalization of food wasn't on the radar, local was the mantra and mom spent most of her time in the kitchen, basic as it was. There was no Internet, no TV, not even supermarkets.

It wasn't long before the U.S. entered World War II, and the government suspended production of most food equipment. Instead, production turned to war machinery. But the technology created to help win the war spurred the largest and most successful addition to our economy – the processed food industry.

Colonel Putman is long gone but, since the 1970s, the Cappelletti family has published Food Processing, never missing an issue. To celebrate our 70th anniversary, we thought we'd bring you a timeline of some of the most interesting developments in the food industry since our founding. We hope you enjoy the read, and thank you for your participation in our success. We salute you!

A Historical Timeline of Food Processing

The 40s -- Feeding the troops


1940
Putman Publishing Co. creates Food Equipment Preview magazine.

FDA transferred from the Dept. of Agriculture to the Federal Security Agency, with Walter Campbell appointed as the first Commissioner of Food and Drugs.

1941
M&M's Plain Chocolate Candies introduced. Legend has it they are developed so soldiers can eat candy without getting their hands sticky.

Rex Whinfield and James Dickson in Manchester, England, develop polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE).

Borden's iconic Elsie the Cow eats one of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper's hats and cavorts with the Radio City Rockettes. In her heyday, she is besieged with fan mail.

1942
Maxwell House ad from 1940sGeneral Food Corp.'s Maxwell House instant coffee supplied to U.S. troops; sold to consumers in 1945.

1943
U.S. issues enrichment guidelines on adding iron, B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin to bread and other grain products to offset nutrient deficiencies.

1945
To encourage banana consumption, the United Fruit Co. creates colorful spokesfruit Chiquita Banana.

The first microwave oven weighs in at 670 lbs., stands 62 inches tall and measures nearly 2-feet deep and wide. It sells for more than $2,000, the equivalent of about $20,000 today. Raytheon builds prototype for reheating meals on airplanes.

1946
Cherry Burrell Corp. develops continuous pasteurization system. It produces 7,000 lbs of butter from cream to final package in two hours.

More than 400 million pounds of frozen vegetables begin to compete in grocery stores with canned veggies.

1947
Pillsbury Pie Crust Mix, Hot Roll Mix and Cake Mix debut to the delight of moms.

Reynolds Metals Co. uses surplus aluminum from World War II to make Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil.

Putman Publishing Co. changes name of Food Equipment Preview to Food Processing Preview.

1948
Made with real dairy cream, Reddi-Whip is the first major U.S. aerosol food product.

Nestle USA launches Nestea instant tea and Nestle Quik Chocolate Powder. Mascot and dog puppet Farfel sings "N-E-S-T-L-E-S Nestle's makes the very best…chocolate."

V-8 Vegetable Juice ad in 1940sCampbell Soup Co. introduces V-8 Cocktail Vegetable Juice.

Technology for making frozen concentrate orange juice is patented by members of the Florida Citrus Commission.

Cheetos brand cheese-flavored snack invented by the Frito Co.

1949
FDA publishes guidance to industry for the first time. "Procedures for the Appraisal of the Toxicity of Chemicals in Food"; becomes known as the "black book."

To celebrate the company's 80th birthday, Pillsbury holds the "Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest." The overwhelming response sparks the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.

Sara Lee Cheese Cake, named after the daughter of baker Charles Lubin, introduced.

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