Can’t imagine a world without sliced bread? Neither can we. But in fact, bread wasn’t sold sliced until 1928. And believe it or not, plenty of other food items you can’t function without came to life within your lifetime; TV dinners and cheese in a can are only the beginning. Take a look at our line-up of some of the best food to hit the shelves in the last few decades. So take a look at our line-up and start getting excited for the food inventions that must be waiting for us just around the corner. Hopefully, we won’t have to add them to our list of the 75 Unhealthiest Foods On The Planet.
1946: Microwave Popcorn
As if you didn’t already love popcorn enough, you can thank it for the invention of the microwave. When an employee from the Raytheon Corporation was experimenting with a magnetron, he found that kernels popped when heated. But even though the microwave was invented shortly after this discovery, consumers would have to wait until the 1980s before mass-marketed bags of popcorn were sold in stores. Probably because the 1947 patent featured an entire ear of corn inside the bag instead of individual kernels. Now that the method has been perfected, you can check out our list of 30 Microwaveable Buttered Popcorns — Ranked!.
Although puffed cheese snacks were invented in the ’30s as a byproduct of animal feed, Cheetos actually kicked off their brand in 1948 with Crunchy Cheetos. It wasn’t until 23 years later that Cheetos released their “Puffies.” While orange-stained fingertips were a given from the very beginning, Chester, the brand’s famous cheetah mascot, didn’t make an appearance until the ’80s. Before him, it was the Cheetos Mouse.
1953: TV Dinners
Talk about learning from your mistakes. When C.A. Swanson and Sons overestimated how much Americans would eat on Thanksgiving, they turned 260 tons of leftover turkey into 98-cent microwaveable meals complete with peas and potatoes. Frozen food had been sold on airplanes before this, but Swanson was the first to market and sell a meal that could be heated up and enjoyed in front of the television. We’re not sure whether to thank them or curse them.
1958: Instant Noodles
The ’50s were all about quick and easy meals. Five years after the release of the TV dinner, Momofuku Ando created instant noodles. With boiling water, they’d be ready to eat in just two minutes time. Cup Noodles were launched 13 years later, making the process even easier.
1960: Fruit Leather
You might think Fruit Roll-Ups were the first on the fruit leather scene in 1983, but an apricot flavor from Joray Fruit Rolls was sold 23 years earlier. No tongue tattoos or perforated punch-outs on these, though.
It’s hard to imagine eating breakfast as a kid without thinking of Pop-Tarts, but they weren’t invented until 1964 — and they weren’t frosted until three years later. Whether you prefer them frosted or unfrosted, room temp or piping hot, there are now over 25 flavors to choose from… all made with high fructose corn syrup. Yikes.
1965: Squeeze Cheese
Before 1965, the words aerosol and cheese just didn’t go together. But that all changed when Nabisco released Snack Mate. It was cheese in a can that you could spray onto onion soup, scrambled eggs, burgers, or Ritz crackers, according to their original ad. But if you’ve never sprayed some straight into your mouth like whipped cream, we don’t believe you.
1966: Instant Oatmeal
Quaker made breakfast, the most important meal of the day, the easiest meal of the day with the invention of instant oatmeal in 1966. With a little water and a little microwaving, a packet of oats became a filling morning meal. Over 30 flavors are sold now with variations that are high in fiber, protein, and antioxidants.
Whether you know them as Pringles Newfangled Potato Chips or simply Pringles, odds are you’ve crunched your way through a tube before. This grocery store staple was originally created as a chip that wouldn’t break or crumble as much as others, thanks to its hyperbolic paraboloid shape and packaging. They’ve since broken away from their original flavors and branched out with options such as Cheeseburger, Screamin’ Dill Pickle, and Loaded Baked Potato.
1973: Blow Pops
Tootsie Pops first made an appearance in the ’30s, but it wasn’t until 1973 that lollipops and bubblegum found their way to each other. The Blow Pop was Charms’ best-selling product of all time, and although we don’t know the specifics of filling suckers with gum, we’re glad they figured it out.
1976: String Cheese
Looks like aerosol cheese isn’t the only kind of cylindrical cheese recently hitting shelves. Although it’s unclear when the heated debate began about whether string cheese should be peeled or just bitten into, it is known that this concept was developed by Frank Baker and Jed Cubbs in 1976. They wanted to produce smaller units of cheese for individual consumption but first sold them as twisted ropes of mozzarella before the cylinder shape took hold.
1982: Veggie Burger
A backyard BBQ was a sad place for a vegetarian until 1982. That was when Gregory Sams coined the term “VegeBurger” and created a meatless patty of wheat protein, sesame, oats, soy protein, and dehydrated vegetables. While similar fare may have been sold in restaurants before this, Sams was the first to commercially market and sell veggie burgers to the public. Unlike the versions found in stores today, these mixes had to be rehydrated, formed into a patty, and cooked.
It’s hard to imagine what a school cafeteria would have looked like before Lunchables came on the scene in 1985. Designed like a TV dinner and catered to working moms, these packaged meals were first created so Oscar Mayer could sell more bologna. The original meat, cheese, and cracker combo was eventually expanded to include a drink and a side — a.k.a. Capri Sun and a chocolate bar. It has since been joined by fan favorites like pizza and nachos.
1987: Red Bull
Technically, the first energy drink invented was Lipvitan-D in 1960, but you’ve probably never heard of it because it was missing two vital energy drink staples — caffeine and sugar. Red Bull changed that when they released their caffeinated drink 27 years later and changed the energy drink game, paving the way for companies like Monster and Rockstar. Each Red Bull has 27 grams of sugar and you’ve definitely heard of it; the company has sold over 62 billion cans in 171 countries.
1995: Stuffed Crust Pizza
Although there has been controversy over who first stuffed a pizza crust with cheese, the credit has been given to food scientist Patty Scheibmeir. She was the mastermind behind Pizza Hut’s 1995 release. The trend she started has held over the years with new additions to the cheese stuffing like applewood-smoked bacon and hot dog bites.
It used to be the end of the world when your mom didn’t pack a spoon for your yogurt — until the 1999 release of GoGurt. No spoon? No problem! These yogurt tubes, which are still in lunch boxes everywhere, no longer contain high-fructose corn syrup and now have high protein options.
2003: Pumpkin Spice Latte
Inspired by the success of their Peppermint Mocha and Eggnog Latte flavors, Starbucks created the Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003. Now, PSL-lovers can’t picture fall without their go-to order; it’s the company’s most popular seasonal flavor. And despite only being available from September to December, Starbucks has still managed to sell more than 2 million of these lattes. If you’ve got a soft spot for it, work it off right with a look at Your Custom PSL Order Translated Into Treadmill Minutes.