A Short History of Convenience Food

  • Peter Jackson
  • Helene Brembeck
  • Jonathan Everts
  • Maria Fuentes
  • Bente Halkier
  • Frej Daniel Hertz
  • Angela Meah
  • Valerie Viehoff
  • Christine Wenzl


This chapter traces the historical growth of consumer demand for various types of convenience food, acknowledging the significance of earlier forms of bottled, pickled and canned food but focusing on the period beginning in the 1950s with the development of the frozen TV dinner in the United States and contemporary European examples (including frozen, chilled and ambient products, branded and own-label). It discusses the variable market penetration of convenience food across Europe and examines the role of technological change including innovations in industrial food processing (such as the ‘cold chain’) and domestic technologies (such as refrigeration, home freezing and microwave cooking). The chapter also considers the role of supermarkets in shaping the routines of car-borne food shopping and changing gender relations and household structures (including the effects of increased female participation in the labour force and the growth of single-person households). The chapter ends with a more detailed account of the development of convenience food in the UK, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.


Convenience Food Products Cold Chain Commercial Baby Food Ready Meals Chicken Tikka Masala 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Apple, R. (1987). Mothers and medicine: A social history of infant feeding, 1890–1950. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bentley, A. (2014). Inventing baby food: Taste, health, and the industrialization of the American diet. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beskæftigelsesministeriet. (2011). Kvinder og mænd på arbejdsmarkedet 2011 [Women and men in the labour market 2011]. Copenhagen: Ministry of Employment.Google Scholar
  4. BMEL. (2017). Deutschland wie es isst: Der BMEL-Ernährungsreport 2017. Berlin: Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture).Google Scholar
  5. Brembeck, H. (2007). Hem till McDonald’s. Stockholm: Carlssons.Google Scholar
  6. Brembeck, H. (2012). Cozy Friday: An analysis of family togetherness and ritual overconsumption. In B. Czarniawska & O. Löfgren (Eds.), Managing overflow in affluent societies (pp. 125–140). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Brembeck, H., Karlsson, M., Ossiansson, E., Shanahan, H., Jonsson, L., Bergström, K., & Ölander, E. (2010). Ju mer vi är tillsammans: fyrtiotalisterna och maten [The more we are together: Baby-boomers and food]. Stockholm: Carlssons.Google Scholar
  8. Bruegel, M. (2002). How the French learned to eat canned food, 1809–1930s. In W. Belasco & P. Scranton (Eds.), Food nation: Selling taste in consumer societies (pp. 113–130). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Buhl, B. (2010). Historien om danskernes mad i 15.000 år [The history of the food of the Danes over 15,000 years]. Copenhagen: Dansk Landbrugsmuseum.Google Scholar
  10. Coop. (2017). Sundere at leve nemt [Healthier to live easily]. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from
  11. Coop-Analyse. (2016). Convenience vækster [Convenience grows], 12 July. Retrieved April 4, 2018, from
  12. Counihan, C. (2004). Around the Tuscan Table: Food, family and gender in twentieth-century Florence. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. CPH Post. (2015). Danes buying more convenience food. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from
  14. Damberg, J. (2015). Nu äter vi!: de moderna favoriträtternas okända historia [Now we eat]. Stockholm: Ponto Pocket.Google Scholar
  15. Deding, M., Lausten, M., & Andersen, A. (2006). Børnefamiliernes balance mellem familie- og arbejdsliv [The balance between family-life and work-life in families with young children]. Copenhagen: Social Forsknings Instituttet [Social Research Institute].Google Scholar
  16. Defra. (2012). Green food project: Conclusions. London: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.Google Scholar
  17. Eriksson, L. (2004). Korv, mos och människor [Sausage, mash and people]. Stockholm: Wahlström och Widstrand.Google Scholar
  18. Euromonitor International. (2016a). Ready meals in Denmark. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from
  19. Ferguson, P. P. (2006). Accounting for taste: The triumph of French cuisine. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  20. Findus. (1962). The Findus saga. Switzerland: Findus International Ltd.Google Scholar
  21. Gerber, S. (2015). Küche, Kühlschrank, Kilowatt: Zur Geschichte des privaten Energiekonsums in Deutschland 1945–1990. Bielefeld: Transcript.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hagberg, J.-E., & Kaijser, A. (1987). Lotta—mellan diskmaskinen och framtiden: en bok om vardagslivets tekniska villkor [Lotta: Between the dishwasher and the future: A book about everyday living conditions]. Linköping: Universitetet i Linköping.Google Scholar
  23. Halkier, B. (2010). Consumption challenged: Food in medialised everyday lives. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  24. Hecht, G. (2009). Entangled geographies: Empire and technopolitics in the Global Cold War. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Heinzelmann, U. (2014). Beyond bratwurst: A history of food in Germany. London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
  26. Heßler, M. (2001). ‘Elektrische Helfer’ für Hausfrau, Volk und Vaterland: Ein technisches Konsumgut während des Nationalsozialismus. Technikgeschichte, 68(3), 203–229.Google Scholar
  27. Holm, L., Ekstrøm, M. P., Hach, S., & Lund, T. B. (2016). Who is cooking dinner? Food, Culture and Society, 18, 589–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kahma, N., Mäkelä, J., Niva, M., Ganskau, E., & Minina, V. (2016). Convenience food consumption in the Nordic countries and St. Petersburg area. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 40(4), 492–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kreyenfeld, M., & Geisler, E. (2006). Müttererwerbstätigkeit in Ost- und Westdeutschland. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung, 18(3), 333–360.Google Scholar
  30. Lien, M. E. (1997). Marketing and modernity: An ethnography of marketing practice. Oxford: Berg.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lin, X., Zhu, M., & Nettleton, S. (2017). Enduring ‘care’ and the shifting cultural meanings of convenience food. Discover Society, 6 December. Retrieved April 4, 2018, from
  32. Mäkelä, J., Lillebø, K., & Lammi, M. (Eds.). (2011). Nordic young health possibilities and barriers for new, healthy concepts in the fast food sector. Oslo: Nordic Innovation Report.Google Scholar
  33. Merkel, I. (1998). Consumer culture in the GDR, or how the struggle for antimodernity was lost in the battleground of consumer culture. In S. Strasser, C. McGovern, & M. Judt (Eds.), Getting and spending: European and American consumer societies in the twentieth century (pp. 2633–2280). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. MINTEL. (2010). Ready to eat meals: A revolution. London: Mintel Group.Google Scholar
  35. MINTEL. (2013). Prepared meals. London: Mintel Group.Google Scholar
  36. Nielsen. (2006). Consumers and ready-to-eat meals: A global A C Nielsen report. Oxford: A C Nielsen.Google Scholar
  37. Nielsen, J. K. (2017). Dansk detailhandels udvikling efter 1960 [The development of the Danish retail sector after 1960] in Den Store Danske Encyklopædi [The big Danish encyclopaedia]. Retrieved April 4, 2018, from
  38. Nordic Food Survey. (2015). Nordic food survey 2015: Consumer trends. London: Ernst & Young Global Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Oldenziel, R., & Zachmann, K. (2009). Kitchens as technology and politics: An introduction. In R. Oldenziel & K. Zachmann (Eds.), Cold war kitchen: Americanization, technology, and European users (pp. 1–29). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  40. Reid, S. E. (2002). Cold war in the kitchen: Gender and the de-Stalinization of consumer taste in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev. Slavic Review, 61(2), 211–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Samvirke. (2014). Hvad blev der af lørdagskyllingen? [What happened to the Saturday chicken?]. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from
  42. Shephard, S. (2000). Pickled, potted and canned: The story of food preserving. London: Headline.Google Scholar
  43. Skibsted, L. H. (2017). Færdigretter [Ready meals], Den Store Danske Encyklopædi [The Great Danish Encyclopedia]. Gyldendal.Google Scholar
  44. Southerton, D., Diaz-Mendez, C., & Warde, A. (2011). Behavioural change and the temporal ordering of eating practices: A UK-Spain comparison. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food, 19(1), 19–36.Google Scholar
  45. Thorndahl, J. (2001). Fra saltkar og spisekammer til frostboks og køleskab—ny husholdningsteknologi indføres i Danmark [From saltcellar and pantry to freezer and fridge—The introduction of new household technology in Denmark]. Elmuseet Årsskrift [The annual paper of the museum of electricity], 39–48.Google Scholar
  46. Trubek, A. B. (2000). Haute cuisine: How the French invented the culinary profession. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  47. Wolle, S. (1998). Die heile Welt der Diktatur: Alltag und Herrschaft in der DDR. Berlin: Links Verlag.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Jackson
    • 1
  • Helene Brembeck
    • 2
  • Jonathan Everts
    • 3
  • Maria Fuentes
    • 2
  • Bente Halkier
    • 4
  • Frej Daniel Hertz
    • 5
  • Angela Meah
    • 1
  • Valerie Viehoff
    • 6
  • Christine Wenzl
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Centre for Consumer ScienceUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Institute of Geosciences and GeographyMartin-Luther-UniversityHalle-WittenbergGermany
  4. 4.Department of SociologyCopenhagen UniversityCopenhagenDenmark
  5. 5.Department of Communication and ArtsRoskilde UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  6. 6.Institute of EducationUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  7. 7.Institute of GeographyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

Personalised recommendations