10 Food Industry Fads You Probably Forgot About

by Staff Writer

The food industry has seen its fair share of flops and successes. Foods or diets that "catch on" with the public have a tendency to stick around, but just like any fad, foods can disappear in a flash. Here are 10 food industry fads you probably forgot about:

  1. TV dinners

    TV dinners put the fun back into family dinners. The first TV dinners were served on airplanes, but in 1945, the Swanson brothers coined the term "TV dinners," by advertising them as family-oriented meals that could be eaten while gathered around the television. Comfort foods like Salisbury steak, turkey, mashed potatoes, and corn were served on an aluminum tray that you'd zap in the microwave. Even though Lean Cuisine, Banquet, and Hungry-Man frozen dinners are still around, they don't come close to the heartiness of the 1950s TV dinners.

  2. Gelatin

    When you hear the word "gelatin," Bill Cosby and a jiggly dessert may come to mind, but gelatin has been a food fad for decades. Jell-O molds and salads were all the rage in '50s and '60s. It was common for people to make these colorful creations for dinner, mixing in meat, olives, mayonnaise, cheese, fruit, and vegetables. Just about anything and everything could make its way into a gelatin dish.

  3. Low-carb

    Low-carbohydrate diets gained popularity with the rise of the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet. The low-carb fad diets restrict carbohydrate consumption and are replaced by foods that are high in proteins and fats. Although low-carb diets often result in dramatic weight loss, its followers generally have trouble keeping the weight off when they start incorporating carbohydrates back into their diet. The low-carb diet fad proved that a burger just isn't the same without a bun.

  4. Frozen yogurt

    Fro-yo, a healthy alternative to ice cream, took off in the '80s and has managed to stick around ever since. A resurgence of the tart treat has caused some steep competition in the dessert industry and has paved the way for other sweets to join in. Cupcakes and other trendy desserts have given fro-yo a run for its money. Sweet tooths are growing tired of paying $6 for a cup of low-fat frozen yogurt and toppings.

  5. Slim-Fast

    Slim-Fast and other liquid meal replacements were a food industry fad of the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s. Slim-Fast was best known for its diet shakes that came in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors and were designed to replace breakfast and lunch. Dieters were recommended to have a low-calorie dinner to add some variety and promote weight loss. Although Slim-Fast is still around and has expanded its brand to include snack bars, meals bars, and shake mixes, the liquid meal option has become less enticing over the past few years.

  6. Space-age snacks

    From Tang to freeze-dried ice cream, the launch of space-age snacks was a very successful food fad. The public's fascination with astronauts and space life paved the way for space-age snacks to take off. The powdered orange-flavored drink, Tang, found its way on John Glenn's Mercury flight and other NASA space missions. Freeze-dried ice cream also became popular with kids, despite its dry, chalky taste.

  7. Fat-free/diet snacks

    The fat-free, diet snacks of the '90s seemed heaven-sent for dieters who weren't willing to give up their favorite junk foods. Low-fat and low-sugar desserts like Nabisco's SnackWells cookies and fat-free Lay's WOW Chips became instant hits. But this food industry fad took a turn for the worse when consumers reported abdominal cramping and loose stools from the Olestra-laced potato chips. The SnackWells cookies also got a bad rap for using high fructose corn syrup in most of their products, which has been linked to obesity.

  8. Fruit snacks

    Kids have always had an affinity for fruity and chewy snacks, but the craze reached new heights in the '80s and '90s with fruit snacks like Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit by the Foot, and Gushers. These colorful and sugary snacks were about as much fun to play with as they were to eat. Many of the snacks came with temporary tattoos for your tongue, as well as games and jokes on each wrapper. You can still find these fruit snacks at your local grocery, but the high sugar content has caused many parents to steer clear of these sweet snacks.

  9. Snapple

    Advertisements said Snapple was "made from the best stuff on Earth," and we believed it. The tea and juice drink brand was one of the most popular beverages of the 1990s. Snapple's witty commercials and pop-culture references helped make the beverage a household favorite. Although the brand has discontinued many of its flavors and has fallen out of the spotlight, you can still find Snapple at many grocery stores.

  10. Trans fat-free

    In 2006, the FDA ordered food companies to list trans fats on food labels in an effort to reduce consumption of the artery-clogging ingredient that gives many food products flavor. The trans fat-free fad forced many food companies to revise their recipes to make their products trans fat-free and meet consumers' needs. Although trans fat-free logos continue to grace the front of many grocery items, the trans fat frenzy has toned down quite a bit and may have been forgotten by many.


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