We’ve all been there, scrambling around at the last minute, trying to find something for dinner. An entire area of most supermarkets are dedicated exactly to addressing that problem, and the answer is the prepackaged meal. Sometimes frozen, sometimes in a box with components ready to be mixed and heated. It’s a lucrative market.
That doesn’t mean everyone should be in it, however.
Meet the Wine & Dine Dinner, introduced by Heublein, Inc. in 1973. The owners of Smirnoff vodka and Inglenook wine decided to expand their footprint into the food world by packaging a box containing dry noodles or rice, a sauce mix, and a wine that had been salted and spiced. The wine came in a small bottle attached to the box.
They overestimated Americans’ willingness to read directions. Rather than add the wine to the sauce mix and the cooked starches, many people made the dish in the already-popular “Rice-a-roni” or “Hamburger Helper” style and saved the wine for drinking.
The salted, spiced wine.
Few who made the mistake of drinking it repeated their error… but they also didn’t buy the product again, which was pulled from most markets by the end of 1974.
Still, it lasted longer than the Colgate frozen entrees.
Like the toothpaste.
There’s no explanation for that one, other than the desire to expand their brand recognition. Colgate frozen meals appeared in grocery store shelves in 1982… and disappeared from the shelves in 1982. They’re even front and center in the Museum of Failure, in Los Angeles:
They didn’t just have lasagna… they were international! In addition to the Italian cuisine (also represented by frozen spaghetti), the product line included Asian Stir-Fry and, of course, Swedish Meatballs.
Because Swedish Meatballs and toothpaste go together in someone’s mind. Somewhere.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite under-fifteen-minute meal, prepackaged or not?