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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The 70s -- Changing demographics

Americans hunger for more spice and flavor, and begin experimenting with Vietnamese and Chinese food. Chef Alice Waters at Chez Panisse fuels a food revolution by cooking with natural, seasonal ingredients, an almost forgotten concept because of the packaged-food boom. As Americans spend more time in front of the TV, they begin to pack on the pounds, so industry responds with "lite" products. USDA develops the first standard nutrition label, and health and disease prevention begins to appear on the consumer radar. Tracking consumer purchase behavior becomes commonplace, and the computer technology revolution begins. Nearly 11 million Americans live alone, a 54 percent increase from 1960. Birth rates drop by 22 percent, and the divorce rate increases 20 percent during the decade.

Barcode1970
Orville Redenbacher introduces his Gourmet Popping corn.

1971
Rival trademarks Crock-Pot.

Starbucks founded at Pike Place Market in Seattle by Howard Schultz.

1973
Nathaniel Weyth receives patent for PET beverage bottles. This is the first safe plastic strong enough to hold carbonated beverages without bursting. DuPont will create the first commercial soda bottle two years later.

Nestle acquires Stouffer's. Nestle also debuts Friskies Mighty Dog, the first single-serve canned dog food.

1974
Millerlite beerPepsi-Cola is first consumer product manufactured, distributed and sold in the former Soviet Union.

On June 26, at a Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio, a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit is run through a hand-made laser scanner – the first use of supermarket scanners. By the end of the year, 1,000 food & beverage companies are registered and have assigned codes.

Miller rolls out Miller Lite, the first major-label light beer (Rheingold and Meister Brau had tried it earlier).

1976
FDA bans Red No. 2 color in food.

Fortified cereal products and fiber-added products hit the shelves.

Beech Nut becomes the first baby food company to remove added salt, in addition to added refined sugar, beginning the "natural" baby food movement.

1978
Coca-Cola, the only packaged drink allowed in the country, introduced to China.

1979
Green Giant merges with the Pillsbury Co.

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