National TV Dinner Day is observed annually on September 10th. In 1953, C.A. Swanson & Sons changed the prepackaged meal business forever. Introducing the TV Dinner revolutionized frozen food.
In 1962, Swanson stopped using the name TV Dinner. However, in the United States, the term remains synonymous with any prepackaged dinner purchased frozen from a store and heated at home.
The first Swanson TV Dinner consisted of a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cornbread dressing, peas, and sweet potatoes. Originally, Swansons made the tray of aluminum. They separated each food item into individual compartments, too. At home, the cook heated the dinner in the oven. The cooking time was usually 25 minutes. Today, nearly all frozen food trays can be cooked in the microwave or a conventional oven.
When Swanson’s first sold TV dinners, they priced them at 98 cents. In the first year, production estimates reached 5,000 dinners. To their surprise, Swanson far exceeded that amount. In the first year, they sold more than 10 million of them.
TV Dinner Facts
- 1960 – Swanson added desserts to a new four-compartment tray.
- 1964 – Night Hawk name originated from the Night Hawk steak houses that operated in Austin, Texas, from 1939 through 1994. The original diners were open all night, catering to the late-night crowd. The restaurants produced the first frozen Night Hawk TV dinner in 1964.
- 1969 – The first TV breakfasts were marketed. Great Starts Breakfasts and breakfast sandwiches followed later.
- 1973 – Swanson markets the first Hungry-Man dinners. The meals included larger portions of its regular dinner products.
- 1986 – Microwave-oven safe trays debut on the market.
- 1986 – The Smithsonian Institute inducted the original Swanson TV Dinner tray into the Museum of American History.
Much has changed since the original TV Dinner. They also remain a popular choice for a fast and convenient meal, fun to eat in front of the TV!
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HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalTVDinnerDay
Get out a TV dinner, pop it in the microwave or oven, and enjoy! Use #NationalTVDinnerDay to post on social media.