The year is 1953.
An obscure poultry supplier in Omaha, Nebraska has a problem: Thanksgiving has come and gone, and they have an overstock of turkeys. A serious overstock: Two hundred and sixty tons of turkeys. That translates into 20,800 birds – give or take a turkey.
What to do?
After much finger pointing and blame assigning, someone has an idea: Cook the birds. Make large quantities of dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a vegetable. Peas, perhaps? Then portion it all out into individual metal trays, one turkey dinner with trimmings per tray. Put each dinner in a box that has an enticing color picture of the contents, and freeze it.
The sales department loves the idea. They believe housewives will buy the product, take it home and put it in their freezers. And one night when Mom can’t figure out what to make for dinner, she’ll open her freezer and – saved! Mom will say, “No cooking for me tonight. I have these in my freezer, all ready to heat and serve in just 25 minutes. My family will love them! And I love them, too, because after dinner – no cleanup! I just throw the trays away.”
The new product appears in grocery stores that same year. The company was so confident that it authorized a first run of 5,000 frozen dinners, but within 10 months, they’d already sold 10 million.
By the end of 1954, they’d sold more than 25 million frozen dinners.
The name of that obscure company in Omaha, Nebraska? C.A. Swanson & Sons.
The product? Swanson’s Turkey TV Dinners.
Now, you’ve heard: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
I say: When life gives you turkeys – make TV Dinners.