1961… Plastic bags come to the boil… The creation of frozen boil in the bag meals were a further sign of the growing consumer shift towards convenience. The exact origins of the bag are unclear but TV presenter Lauren Laverne claims her father-in-law invented them.
1961… Rise of the machine… Sainsbury’s chalks up another first, as the first food retailer to computerise its distribution. Being at the cutting edge of distribution isn’t always a happy experience for Sainsbury’s as, 50 years later, an experiment in automation backfires.
1961… Chorleywood baking rises… The Chorleywood Process for making bread launches, slashing the time and money it takes to produce fluffy, longlasting loaves on an industrial scale. The concept takes off and today more than 80% of our bread is made this way.
1961… Milkmen bottle it… Milkmen’s worst nightmares come true when Robert Wiseman Dairies - inspired by developments in the US - starts selling milk packaged in Tetra Brick packs through supermarkets. As a result, doorstep deliveries begin their inevitable decline.
1961… ‘Green Revolution’ starts… Norman Borlaug, the ‘father of the Green Revolution’, begins work on developing high-yielding hybrid grain crops, which dramatically increase global agricultural production. More than a billion people are saved from starvation as a result.
1962… Get smashed… Although arguably not a culinary highlight, the freeze-drying technique developed by Canadian Edward Asselbergs to fortify food with protein in developing countries ultimately becomes a “high-tech alternative to making mash from scratch”. By simply pouring boiling water on to the dehydrated potato flakes and stirring, shoppers could tuck into a bowl of creamy mash in seconds. The biggest UK brand of instant mash was Cadbury-owned Smash, which was a major hit in the UK in the 1970s after a high-profile advertising campaign developed by agency Boase Massimi Pollitt featuring the ‘Smash Martians’. The catchphrase ‘For Mash Get Smash’ was born as the TV ads gained a cult following. Although instant mash may not have the profile it once had, enough Smash is produced each year to make 140 million servings. Available in original, cheddar and onion and buttery flavours, Smash was given a long-overdue makeover in 2008 by its current owner Premier Foods.
1962… Avocado for the masses… M&S and Sainsbury’s had a public spat three years ago over who introduced the then-exotic avocado to the masses first, but we’re plumping for Sainsbury’s as the first big retailer to stock the avocado pear. Let avocado war part two commence.
1963… The weight is over… Obese New York housewife Jean Nidetch was always on a diet but never lost any weight. To motivate herself she sets up a weekly meeting of dieting friends and Weight Watchers is born. Nidetch’s idea makes her a multi-millionaire.
1963… Ski starts landslide… The addition of sugar and real fruit by the Swiss Ski brand takes yoghurt from health food fad to soaraway supermarket success - aided, of course, by the advent of chilled distribution. Many think this is the biggest food innovation in UK history.
1964… RPM power shift… The abolishment of resale price maintenance (RPM) in Britain in the Resale Prices Act of 1964 proves a major turning point for British retail, with the balance of power shifting from the manufacturer to the multiple retailers.
1965… Plastic fantastic?… Swedish engineer Sten Thulin invents the plastic carrier bag, which soon usurps paper bags in grocery stores. Despite environmental concerns and attempts to restrict their use, today up to a trillion carrier bags are made worldwide.
1965… Asda is born… The Asquith brothers and Associated Dairies join forces to form Asda. The Asquiths are bought out in 1968 as Asda focuses on opening new stores and growing market share. It’s soon selling cars and clothing alongside its core grocery offer.
1968… ‘Superstore’ enters lexicon… Crawley (also home to The Grocer) becomes the location of the first ‘superstore’, as Tesco coins the phrase for its new West Sussex store. It now has almost 500. The first Tesco Extra (ie hyperstore) didn’t arrive till 1997.
1969… Microwaved marvel… Heston forerunner Prof Nicholas Kurti uses a microwave to showcase the Frozen Florida or ‘reverse Baked Alaska’ (hot on the inside, cold on the outside), inventing molecular gastronomy as he does so. Four decades on and it’s all the rage
1969…National chilled distribution… We have M&S to thank for this breakthrough. Spearheaded by Michael Sacher, brother in law of Marcus Sieff , he was so obsessed with his dream of fresh chilled food on a national scale, he even (briefly) launched chilled biscuits with fresh cream.
The Grocer's 150 defining moments: the 1860s
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The Grocer's 150 defining moments: the 1960's