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Birds Eye is an international brand of frozen foods such as seafood, meat and vegetables.

Birds Eye is considered to be one of the founders of the modern frozen food industry and is credited with inventing a fast freezing process that preserves the quality of food. Founded by General Foods, which in 1929 bought the rights to use a fast-freezing process patented by Clarence Birdseye.

History and production

The brand and its underlying business is held by different owners in various territories:

  • Europe - Formerly owned by Unilever, which announced in August 2006 that the business was sold to UKmarker-based private equity group Permira. The company's staple product, the Fish Finger, was developed in its old factory in Great Yarmouthmarker, by a Mr H A J Scott. Frozen vegetables were produced from 1946 using the new fast freezing process, which are now produced with beefburgers and potato waffles in Lowestoftmarker employing 700 people. The location of the factory was essential to the "one-hour to frozen" promise formerly made on Birds Eye peas, although commercial decisions have led to this claim being quietly dropped as the time has risen to two and a half hours. There is also a fish products factory in Hullmarker employing 600 people. Birds Eye closed a factory in Grimsbymarker in 2005, with the loss of 650 jobs, which had been making fish fingers since 1929. The Grimsby factory on Ladysmith Road has been hit by fire, suspected to be set by 6 local youths on Wednesday 12 September 2007. The fire was so severe that local residents had to be evacuated.
  • United States - As part of General Foods it merged with Kraft Foods and Philip Morris USA in what became the Altria Group. Birds Eye was sold to Dean Foods in 1993 and is now independently owned by Birds Eye Foods of Rochester, New Yorkmarker.
  • Australia & New Zealand - owned by Simplot Australia Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the J.R. Simplot Company. Simplot purchased Birds Eye and many of Australia's leading food brands from Pacific Dunlop's Pacific Brands in the mid 1990's. Today, Birds Eye is the Australia's leading frozen brand with a line of innovative frozen vegetables, potatoes, and seafood. Birds Eye products are produced at the company's processing facilities in Devonport, Tasmania, Ulverstone, Tasmania, and Bathurst, New South Wales, as well as from imported ingredients.

Fish sticks / fish fingers

Known in the United States as a "fish stick", where it has been suggested that in the 1920s they were invented in Massachusettsmarker to help fishermen find larger markets for their increasingly large catches of cod. In Britain, the same but differently named product the "fish finger", was developed in its old factory in Great Yarmouthmarker.

Although fish sticks have a modern advertising campaign aimed at children, two thirds of fish sticks are eaten by adults. The advent of the microwave method of cooking increased demand for frozen food.

Captain Birdseye advertising (United Kingdom)

In the United Kingdom, Captain Birdseye is the advertising mascot of the brand. Appearing in numerous television and billboard commercials since 1967, he was played by actor John Hewer between then and 1998. He is depicted as a clean living, older sailor with a white beard, dressed in naval uniform and with a seafaring accent. This character was so successful that when the company's brand was relaunched with a younger man with designer stubble (played by Thomas Pescod) the project floundered and the older description of the character was brought back into the promotions. In 1993 Captain Birds Eye was voted as the most recognised captain after Captain Cook in a poll.

The Captain Birdseye mascot is a reference to the brand's extensive and well-known range of frozen seafood products including Fish Fingers. Because the Birds Eye brand is marketed to families, many of the advertising campaigns feature Captain Birdseye as having a "crew" composed mostly of children in the preteen to teenage age groups, encouraging brand loyalty from children and emphasising the convenience of serving the company's products to their parents. A 2005 advertising campaign in the UKmarker features Captain Birdseye informing consumers that Birds Eye readymade meals contain no artificial flavourings or preservatives, with an emphasis that they are healthy to children.

Other Birds Eye advertising (United Kingdom)

Birds Eye are also noted for other fondly remembered advertisements, such as one in the 1970s for Frozen Peas that featured the child actress Patsy Kensit, who would put her forefinger in her mouth to produce a popping sound. This would be followed by a jingle including the slogan "Sweet as the moment when the pod went 'pop'".A 1980s campaign for Birds Eye Potato Waffles had a jingle that included the words Waffley versatile.

Monty Python made a public information film for Birds Eye frozen peas[154249] [154250].

In the late 1970s and early 1980s June Whitfield appeared in a series of television advertisements for Birds Eye products, featuring the concluding voice-over line: ".. it can make a dishonest woman of you!" . One example, for Chicken Pie, may be found at YouTube. The series was the brainchild of legendary advertising art director Vernon Howe and was worthy of mention in several of his obituaries.,

Since 2007, Suggs, the lead singer of English ska band Madness has been the face of all Birds Eye products. The slogan "Good Mood Food" and the Madness song "Our House" is used in all advertisements.

Other Birds Eye advertising (United States)

Birds Eye Foods launched a Spanish language microsite in April of 2009. The site features many of the same categories as its English counterpart, such as Recipes and Coupons. The site, also launched a "Flash Freeze" widget, which allows the users to use their camera or upload a picture directly and "Freeze" it.

Unilever review, sale to Permira

After a tough trading period and a review of its business to focus on high growth/high margin markets, it was announced on 9 February 2006 that Unilever was looking to sell the Birds Eye brand, as well as the European version - Iglo (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and Portugal). These brands were worth £836M in sales, with profits of £115M a year, and employ 3,500 staff across Europe with 1,800 located in the UK. Heinz and Findus have also cut down on their frozen food production.

Unilever will retain the Iglo brand in Italy, where frozen food is still popular. In the UK, Unilever has said that frozen food is less popular than chilled food products, and has concerns over health and E numbers (European Union codes for additives) after it sternly told TV viewers we don't play with your food

On 28 August 2006, it was confirmed that Unilever had agreed sale of the business, held since the late 1930s, to a private equity house Permira for £1.2bn.


See also

External links

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