Thanksgiving table with roasted turkey, sliced ham, pie, and side dishes.

Food history from the year you were born

Written by:
September 20, 2022
Elena Veselova // Shutterstock

Food history from the year you were born

Fashion is often thought to be the defining quality of a generation. But the dinner table can give just as many clues about a period in time as clothing. Sweet and savory gelatin-based foods were as characteristic of the 1960s as bell bottoms, go-go boots, and drop-waist dresses. Low-fat diets and farm-to-table foods represented the '70s as much as peasant blouses, military surplus clothes, and frayed jeans. In the '80s, aesthetics-obsessed Americans sipped on Diet Coke and snapped up Lean Cuisine from grocery shelves, all while wearing skintight Spandex aerobics gear, power suits, and eye-catching jumpsuits. 

But unlike the cyclical nature of fashion endlessly repeating itself, food innovations tend to build upon one another. We probably wouldn't have the Big Mac if the Whopper hadn't come out more than 10 years prior. Food fortification, which started in the 1920s, continued to progress well into the late '90s. And food preservation and safety advanced from a relatively simple state into flash-freezing, controlled-atmosphere packaging, irradiation, and even bans on certain food dyes—evidence of growth over the decades in food technology and our interest in what we eat.

Stacker curated a list of some of the biggest moments in food history from the last 100 years, drawing from various studies, food and agriculture policies, and other major changes documented by academic researchers and government agencies. We also researched the histories of major food corporations to learn about their contributions over the last century. Read on to find out the history of your favorite dishes, including those that are soon to sit atop your Thanksgiving table.

1921: Refrigerators become household appliances

It got a lot easier to keep food fresh at home in the 1920s when the refrigerator became an essential appliance for every kitchen. Manufacturers produced about 5,000 refrigerators in the U.S. in 1921, according to The Washington Post. By 1927, that number had jumped to 6 million.

1922: Chimichangas are invented

El Charro Cafe, the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, invented the chimichanga in 1922. The deep-fried burrito was created by accident when founder Monica Flin plunged a burrito into bubbling fat, creating a delicious mistake many have enjoyed ever since.

1923: Mars releases Milky Way candy bars

The Mars company debuted Milky Way candy bars in 1923. Despite the galactic name, the brand was actually inspired by malted milkshakes, which were extremely popular at the time.

1924: Iodine is added to table salt

Producers began voluntarily adding iodine to salt in the U.S. in 1924 to curb the number of Americans with goiter. The move was promoted by many national health organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association.

1925: Speakeasies serve up finger foods

Tens of thousands of speakeasies popped up in New York City alone by 1925 after bars and saloons in the country were shut down during Prohibition. Some started offering finger foods alongside clandestine cocktails to boost sales.

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1926: America gets its first canned ham

Hormel introduced the United States to its first canned ham in 1926. The company launched its most famous product, Spam, a decade later.

1927: Girl Scouts publish the first s'mores recipe

While the idea for a graham cracker sandwich with a roasted marshmallow and chocolate had been around for some time, the first s'mores recipe didn't make its debut until 1927 in "Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts." The guidebook, intended to teach kids how to be good Girl Scouts, referred to the recipe as "Some More"—a name that stuck for at least another 40 years.

1928: Clarence Birdseye perfects flash-freezing

Inventor Clarence Birdseye developed a double-belt freezer to flash-freeze foods in 1928. The appliance helped frozen meats and produce maintain peak ripeness while preserving them for longer than they would otherwise be edible.

1929: Oscar Mayer invents first 'branded' meat

Oscar Mayer created its signature yellow band in 1929, making its products the first "branded" meat available on the market. The label is still used on the company's packaging.

1930: First chocolate chip cookies are baked

Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the chocolate chip cookie in 1930, apparently by accident. At the time, she and her husband ran the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts.

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1931: Transcontinental train trips popularize brunch

While the concept of brunch had been around since the late 1800s (if not earlier), it first became popular in the U.S. in the 1930s. Hollywood stars on transcontinental train journeys would often stop in Chicago for a late morning meal during that time, and restaurants across the country picked up on the trend.

1932: 3 Musketeers Bar is invented

The newcomer to the candy aisle in 1932 was the 3 Musketeers Bar. The original candy contained three distinct nougat flavors—strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla—in one package. High vanilla and strawberry costs during WWII caused Mars to alter the bar to contain only one musketeer: chocolate.

1933: Milk is enriched with vitamin D

Milk producers began enriching their products with vitamin D in 1933, either by irradiating the milk or adding irradiated yeast to the cows' feeds, in response to recommendations from health groups. Seven years later, they would start using vitamin D concentrate to enrich the milk—a technique that's still used today.

1934: Heinz launches tomato breeding program

Ketchup purveyors Heinz started a special tomato breeding program in 1934. The company recognized that the quality of ketchup depended on growing high-quality tomatoes.

1935: Kraft Foods buys Vegemite

Already beloved by Australians, Vegemite became American-owned and produced when Kraft Foods bought the recipe and manufacturing instructions for the yeast extract in 1935. The recipe has since been slightly adjusted to include less salt.

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1936: The first American health food store

It became easier for Americans to find healthy, natural foods when Sawall Health Foods opened its doors in Detroit in 1936. Still open today, it bills itself as "the oldest family-owned and operated natural food store" in the country.

1937: Kraft creates boxed mac and cheese

Kraft Foods in 1937 launched its now-iconic boxed macaroni and cheese. The 19-cent product had enough food for a family of four, which made it extremely popular during the Great Depression. Around 8 million boxes were sold that year, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

1938: French dressing hits grocery stores

Milani's 1890 French dressing hit grocery store shelves in the U.S. in 1938, making it the first French dressing to go mainstream. While it takes its name from the European country, French dressing is actually an all-American condiment.

1939: Government launches food stamp program

To help low-income families afford food, the federal government launched a food stamp program in 1939. It was in effect for four years, after which the country switched over to ration stamps.

1940: Government formalizes definition for enriched flour

The Food and Drug Administration developed a standard definition for enriched flour in 1940 to help reduce the rates of nutrient deficiency in the U.S. It required that flour producers add thiamin, iron, riboflavin, and niacin to any products they labeled as "enriched."

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1941: General Mills creates Cheerios

General Mills invented the cereal now known as Cheerios in 1941. Originally called "CheeriOats," a "puffing gun" gave the cereal its iconic, donut shape.

1942: 75% of all white bread is enriched

Around 75% of all white bread sold in the U.S. was fortified with added vitamins and nutrients by mid-1942. Enrichment of white bread was voluntarily accepted by industries associated with bakeries and their products.

1943: Pizzeria Uno dreams up deep-dish pizza

To satiate the hunger of Midwesterners, Pizzeria Uno created the first deep-dish pizza in 1943. The sunken, thick-crust pie with sauce on top became famous in Chicago.

1944: First frozen dinner is born

The year 1944 marked the birth of the world's first frozen dinners: Strato-Plates. Created by W.L. Maxson Co., the meal featured meat, a potato, and veggies "on a paperboard tray treated with Bakelite resin." Frozen dinners allowed airlines and the Navy to serve their crews and passengers a hot meal.

1945: Sliced bread makes a comeback

Commercially baked bread was sold as unsliced loaves starting in 1943 due to a shortage of steel during World War II. Sliced bread finally made a comeback in 1945 when the war ended.

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1946: Free lunch becomes available in schools

A federal law led to the creation of the National School Lunch Program in 1946. The initiative would bring free and low-cost lunches to qualified students in schools across the country.

1947: Pepperidge Farm opens state-of-the-art bakery

Margaret Rudkin's dream of a new, state-of-the-art bakery for her company, Pepperidge Farm, was finally realized when she cut the ribbon on a new space in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1947. The bakery helped her streamline production and make Pepperidge Farm the brand it is today.

1948: General Mills reveals secret ingredient for chiffon cake

Los Angeles insurance agent Harry Baker invented chiffon cake in the 1920s, keeping his recipe under lock and key for 20 years. General Mills bought his recipe in 1947, and a year later, they revealed the delightfully airy cake's secret ingredient (vegetable oil) in Better Homes and Gardens.

1949: Cake mixes make it big

More than 200 food producers were churning out cake mixes by the end of the 1940s. The majority came from Betty Crocker and Pillsbury.

1950: Controlled-atmosphere packaging increases shelf life of food

The 1950s brought along the development of controlled-atmosphere packaging. This allowed producers to regulate the oxygen and carbon dioxide in the packaging process to help delay the spoilage of fresh foods.

1951: Bananas foster is born at Brennan's

Celebrated New Orleans restaurant Brennan's needed a way to use surplus bananas in 1951. So it invented Bananas Foster, a dessert made from bananas flambéed with butter, liqueur, brown sugar, and cinnamon, then topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

1952: Backyard grilling becomes popular

George Stephen, a welder, invented the Weber charcoal kettle grill in 1952. The inexpensive appliance would help propel backyard grilling into a beloved pastime in the U.S.

1953: Eggo waffles pack the freezer section

Eggo waffles made their way into the freezer section of grocery stores in 1953. At the time, they were called "Froffles"—a mash-up of the words "frozen" and "waffles." They were rebranded as Eggo two years later.

1954: California dude ranch invents ranch dressing

Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch on the central California coast, invented ranch dressing in 1954. It became an instant hit with guests, who took bottles of the creamy dressing home as souvenirs. Less than 20 years later, the brand was sold to the Clorox Company for $8 million.

1955: Green bean casserole originates at Campbell's

Home economist Dorcas Reilly developed the first recipe for green bean casserole in the Campbell's Soup Co. test kitchen after a journalist at the Associated Press asked for an idea for a vegetable side dish. The now-iconic dish is whipped up for Thanksgiving in 30 million homes each year.

1956: Dove launches chocolate-dipped ice cream bars

Dove launched its now-famous chocolate-dipped ice cream bars in 1956. At the time, the company was an ice cream and candy shop with four locations.

1957: Burger King introduces the Whopper

Burger King created the Whopper in 1957—more than a decade before McDonald's launched its Big Mac. The original price was just 37 cents.

1958: First Pizza Hut opens

Wichita, Kansas, welcomed the first Pizza Hut in 1958. The original location has since been turned into a museum at Wichita State University.

1959: Professor invents machine-harvestable tomato

Jack Hanna, an agronomy professor, bred a "hardy, tough-skinned tomato that could be more readily harvested by machines" in the late 1950s. It would pave the way for machines to start gathering the majority of tomatoes in California in the coming decades, improving farm efficiency.

1960: Gelatin makes its way into every meal

Knox published "Knox On-Camera Recipes," its collection of "gel-cookery" recipes in 1960. It offered ways to use gelatin in every meal, from the classic gelatin salad dessert to a savory dish using mayonnaise and shrimp paste.

1961: 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' becomes bestseller

"Mastering the Art of French Cooking" became an instant sensation when it was published in 1961, propelling author Julia Child into the limelight. The home cook got her own TV show two years later.

1962: 'Silent Spring' raises awareness about pesticide risks

"Silent Spring" hit bookstores in 1962, sparking worries about the potential risks of pesticides used on food. Author and environmental activist Rachel Carson called for an end to the practice of using DDT as a pesticide on food crops.

1963: Irradiation of flour gets FDA approval

The Food and Drug Administration gave food producers the green light to begin irradiating wheat and wheat flour in 1963. The technique would help eliminate pests from the products.

1964: Buffalo wings debut at western New York bar

Teressa Bellissimo, owner of Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, invented buffalo wings in 1964. Now a Super Bowl staple, the wings were created on a whim after the bar received a delivery of chicken wings instead of the necks they had ordered.

1965: Pillsbury Doughboy makes first TV appearance

The first commercial featuring the Pillsbury Doughboy aired in 1965, helping increase sales of canned refrigerated dough. An instant hit, the mascot earned an 87% recognition factor with customers in just three years.

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1966: Peet's Coffee founder debuts French roast coffee

Alfred Peet, the man behind Peet's Coffee & Tea, jolted Americans out of their preference for light-roast coffee when he introduced a French roast in 1966. The java was inspired by European-style coffee, which was darker, less acidic, and sometimes even slightly burnt.

1967: Pop-Tarts are frosted

It didn't seem like Pop-Tarts could get more popular after the first shipment of the breakfast treats in the U.S. were wholly snapped up within two weeks in 1964. However, Kellogg's took things to the next level in 1967 when it debuted the first frosted Pop-Tarts. Today, some of the brand's bestsellers include Frosted Strawberry and Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon.

1968: The Big Mac goes national

A year after McDonald's franchisee Jim Delligatti devised the Big Mac, McDonald's took the double-decker burger national in 1968. The Big Mac helped turn low-grossing locations into some of the most profitable in the McDonald's system.

1969: Californians go wild for 'Animal Style' fries

Legend has it that In-N-Out invented its famous "Animal Style" fries in 1969 because the chefs at the Baldwin Park, California, location needed a name for the sauce that its boisterous surfer clientele put on their food. It's one of the best-known items on the fast food chain's secret menu today.

1970: Nutrition expert tells Senate that cereal isn't healthy

Is cereal part of a balanced breakfast? Not according to nutrition expert Robert Choate, who told a Senate subcommittee that "breakfast cereals aren't good sources of nutrition," according to the Food Industry Association. Cereal makers responded by adding vitamins and nutrients to their products.

1971: Chez Panisse kick-starts farm-to-table movement

Chef and food activist Alice Waters cut the ribbon on Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, in 1971. The legendary restaurant, which focused on local, sustainable agriculture, is widely credited with launching the farm-to-table movement.

1972: First female chef heads big-name hotel kitchen

Leslie Revsin was hired as a "kitchen man"—a low-level position—at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1972. She would rapidly climb the ladder and go on to become the first woman to lead the kitchen of this famed hotel, as well as a cookbook author and television chef.

1973: Shuck Yee invents fortune cookie folding machine

Fortune cookies became a mainstay in Chinese takeout after inventor Shuck Yee developed a machine to crimp the dough into a distinctive crescent shape in 1973. Legend has it that Japanese restaurateurs in Los Angeles or San Francisco first invented the fortune cookie in the 1800s.

1974: Gerber launches food for grownups

Baby product company Gerber made a brief foray into food for grownups in 1974 with the launch of Gerber Singles. The products consisted of single-serving pureed foods for adults but were packaged in jars similar to those that contained baby food. The product was met with a cold response from consumers and was ultimately pulled from the company's lineup.

1975: Food program for women and children becomes permanent

The government made the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) permanent in 1975, after a successful three-year pilot program. The food program aims to reduce malnutrition and other health problems among pregnant people and babies.

1976: FDA bans red dye #2

The FDA banned red dye #2 in 1976 after research found a correlation between the food coloring and cancer. The Mars company stopped producing red M&M's (which did not contain red dye #2) at that point to ease customers' worries.

1977: Americans switch to low-fat diets

After the government published the first edition of "The Dietary Goals for the United States" in 1977, Americans overwhelmingly switched to a low-fat diet. The fat replacements used in many processed foods during this era may have led to poorer health among Americans, according to University of Connecticut researcher Julia Reedy.

1978: Ben & Jerry's founders take ice cream-making course

A $5 correspondence course taught Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen everything they needed to know about starting an ice cream empire in 1978. Later that year, they opened their first Ben & Jerry's scoop shop in Vermont,.

1979: Associated Press documents California roll

While multiple chefs claim to have invented the California roll, Los Angeles-based Ken Seusa scored the first documentation of this type of sushi in an article from The Associated Press in 1979. The all-American creation, which puts the seaweed inside the roll, is an unconventional take on sushi.

1980: Modified-atmosphere packaging becomes available

The 1980s saw the introduction of modified-atmosphere packaging in food production. The technique flushes the insides of food packages with nitrogen gas to help protect the products from spoilage, freezer burn, and weight loss.

1981: Lean Cuisine sells out

Lean Cuisine sold so quickly when it was launched in 1981 that its parent company, Nestle, was forced to ration the meals among retailers. The under-300-calorie entrees tripled sales projections in their first year on the market.

1982: Diet Coke enters the market

In response to a growing demand for low- or no-calorie foods, the Coca-Cola Company released Diet Coke in 1982. By the end of the following year, the drink would become the top soda brand among women.

1983: Microwave popcorn becomes available across the US

Microwave popcorn became a sensation when it made its way to supermarket shelves across the U.S. in 1983. By 1986, sales of the movie night snack would hit $250 million.

1984: Rosa Mexicano whips up tableside guacamole

Manhattan-based Mexican restaurant chain Rosa Mexicano pioneered the tableside guacamole trend in 1984. It turned a typical appetizer (chips and guac) into an entertaining experience for diners.

1985: Meat producers use irradiation to make pork safer

The Food and Drug Administration permitted meat producers to use irradiation on pork in 1985. The technique would help them control the parasite that can cause trichinosis.

1986: Farmer invents baby carrots

Veggie lovers could get their carrots in a convenient snack-size form in 1986 when produce farmer Mike Yurosek created the world's first baby carrots. The technique of smoothing otherwise imperfect carrots with a potato peeler helped reduce food waste.

1987: Snapple offers bottled iced tea

Snapple began selling bottled iced tea in 1987, giving birth to a new soft drink category.

1988: Microbiologist creates ice cream balls with cryogenic technology

Microbiologist Curt Jones used cryogenic technology to create the mini multicolored ice cream balls he called Dippin' Dots in 1988. The fun-to-eat treat would become a staple snack at theme parks in the 1990s.

1989: Supermarkets pull Chilean fruit from shelves

Supermarkets in the U.S. pulled Chilean fruit from their shelves in 1989 after a fruit import from the South American country was found to have two cyanide-laced grapes. Chile had previously been the go-to place for out-of-season fruits in the U.S.

1990: Government sets standards for nutrition labels

The black-and-white nutrition labels you see on food products today were standardized with the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. It required most food products to list a breakdown of their nutritional value, including fat content and vitamins.

1991: 'Not from concentrate' juice becomes commercialized

The 1990s saw the rise of a new product in grocery store refrigerators—"not from concentrate" orange juice. Despite being branded as fresh and pure, commercial orange juice still needed processed flavor packs to mimic the taste of fresh juice.

1992: Government introduces food pyramid

The food guide pyramid made its debut in the U.S. in 1992. The illustrated guide on healthy eating was aimed at helping Americans get enough nutrients and avoid consuming too much food.

1993: The Food Network launches on cable TV

Cable TV got a channel entirely dedicated to food when the Food Network launched in 1993. It was first branded as the Television Food Network because the names "Cooking Channel" and "Food Network" were not available at the time.

1994: FDA gives GMOs the green light

The Flavr Savr tomato earned the Food and Drug Administration's first genetically modified food approval in 1994. The tomato was designed to resist potential damage during shipping and maintain ripeness for weeks.

1995: DiGiorno disrupts the frozen pizza market

Kraft disrupted the frozen pizza market when it launched DiGiorno in 1995. The new frozen pizzas were the first to have a doughy crust that rises in the oven—in contrast to the flat, crispy crust that frozen pizzas had been known for.

1996: FDA mandates addition of folic acid to enriched grain

The Food and Drug Administration added folic acid to the list of nutrients that must be included in grain products labeled as "enriched" in 1996. The move was an effort to help reduce birth defects.

1997: Hudson Beef recalls 25 million pounds of meat

An E. coli contamination that made at least 16 people sick led to a recall of 25 million pounds of ground beef from Hudson Beef in 1997—the largest food recall at that point in history. The recall prompted Burger King to end its contract with Hudson.

1998: Red Bull energizes Americans

Red Bull seized 75% of the nation's energy drink market in 1998, according to the University of Virginia. The carbonated, caffeine-packed beverage had only entered the U.S. market a year prior.

1999: 'Sex and the City' makes Cosmos trendy

The Cosmopolitan—a combination of vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec, and lime juice—became a trendy cocktail after Samantha ordered one at a wedding in the second season of "Sex and the City" in 1999. The show would mention it several more times, increasing its popularity.

2000: Heinz creates rainbow-colored ketchup

The new millennium brought along changes to even the most basic things, like the color of ketchup. Heinz released a series of ketchups in unconventional colors like purple, blue, and orange in 2000.

2001: Pizza Hut delivers to outer space

Pizza Hut made headlines in 2001 when it delivered a heavily seasoned and salted pizza to the International Space Station. The stunt cost the pizza chain roughly $1 million to pull off.

2002: Government releases USDA Organic Seal

Amid the rising popularity of organic foods, the Department of Agriculture launched the USDA Organic Seal in 2002. Food producers must adhere to a strict set of standards, such as avoiding certain pesticides, to use the seal on their foods.

2003: Starbucks launches the pumpkin spice latte

Starbucks' director of espresso Peter Duke developed the pumpkin spice latte in 2003. He had no idea it would go on to become the company's bestselling seasonal beverage in history.

2004: FDA issues massive almond recall

The Food and Drug Administration issued a recall of millions of pounds of almonds amid a salmonella outbreak in 2004, according to The Associated Press. The contaminated nuts made at least 25 people sick.

2005: New coating keeps apples fresh for longer

Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service released a new vitamin-and-mineral-based coating for apples in 2005. The coating helped keep refrigerated apple slices fresh for up to 28 days.

2006: Michael Pollan publishes 'The Omnivore's Dilemma'

Author Michael Pollan sparked a nationwide discussion on the way America eats when he published "The Omnivore's Dilemma" in 2006. The book earned Pollan a James Beard Award.

2007: Locavores seize the spotlight

The term "locavore," used to describe a person who only eats food grown close to home, was named Oxford University Press' "Word of the Year" in 2007. It gave recognition to the burgeoning interest in the local food movement.

2008: Food prices spike 45%

The world food price index climbed a staggering 45% in 2008, according to the Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The higher prices resulted from swings in the economy, shocks to the climate, and a shift in investment funds to agriculture commodities.

2009: Robert Wang invents the Instant Pot

Robert Wang invented the Instant Pot in 2009, offering home cooks a combination of a pressure cooker and a slow cooker in a single device. It became one of the hottest cooking trends of the decade.

2010: Food makers fish for likes on Instagram

When Instagram came on the scene in 2010, it changed how Americans saw their food. It was no longer just something to eat—food was something to photograph and post. Food makers and restaurateurs responded by creating aesthetically dazzling dishes like color-changing noodles and rainbow bagels.

2011: Greek yogurt takes the US by storm

Americans developed a preference for thicker yogurt in the mid-to-late 2000s. Greek yogurt climbed from a $60 million industry in the U.S. in 2006 to a staggering $1.5 billion business in 2011.

2012: Meal kits become big business

Blue Apron, Plated, HelloFresh, and other meal kit services became one of the biggest food trends in the U.S. in 2012. These services took in more than $1 billion in sales by 2015.

2013: Cronut creates a craze

New York City baker Dominique Ansel released the cronut in 2013. The fusion pastry, which combined the features of doughnuts and croissants, created a craze—customers waited in line for hours, and scalpers tried reselling the treats at a huge markup.

2014: Snacking becomes the norm

More than half of U.S. adults ate three or more snacks daily in 2014, an increase from just one in five adults who snacked that much in 2010, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. On average, people ate 2.8 snacks in between meals per day in 2014.

2015: Breakfast goes all day at McDonald's

McDonald's finally gave its customers what they'd been dreaming about for decades when it launched all-day breakfast in 2015. The publication called it one of the top food and restaurant trends of that year.

2016: Whole30 diet surges on Google

Whole30 became one of the most popular diets to try in 2016. That January, searches for the term "Whole30" spiked on Google. The diet involves cutting things like dairy, sugar, and legumes from your meals for a month to "reset your body and cravings."

2017: Kale sales soar

Once a humble leafy green, kale was elevated to a "cool" food in 2017 due to its nutrient density and versatility. That year, farmers in the U.S. harvested 15,325 acres of kale—more than twice as much as was harvested in 2012, according to the Department of Agriculture.

2018: People ditch dairy in favor of plant-based milk

Dairy milk sales took a $1.1 billion nosedive in 2018, according to The Daily Meal. Instead of animal-based beverages, people started reaching for alternative milk from plant-based sources like coconuts, oats, cashews, and almonds.

2019: Fake meat becomes ubiquitous

Faux meats, like those from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, became widely available in 2019. Mainstream fast-food joints including Burger King, White Castle, and Dunkin' started offering vegan burgers and other plant-based products to their increasingly health-conscious customers.

2020: Pandemic changes how we eat

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed how Americans ate in 2020. People started spending significantly less money eating out due to stay-at-home orders. They also coped with food shortages at the grocery store and began churning out loaf after loaf of homemade bread while stuck at home.

2021: A rise in online food orders and food delivery apps

While there were many restaurant closures due to the pandemic in 2020, 2021 saw a surge in the use of food delivery apps as well as online food orders. In fact, 92% of high-performing restaurants provided their customers with mobile order-ahead options and the ability to participate in loyalty rewards programs.

2022: Limited restaurant menus and sustainable packaging

The surge in food costs due to inflation and a shortage of employees has caused some chefs to get creative in the kitchen, with some scaling back on the cut of filet mignon provided at steakhouses. Some restaurants have also created menus designed to tempt customers to order non-meat sides due to recent shortages of items such as chicken wings. Restaurants also lean toward sustainable packaging with more reusable utensils, simple cardboard boxes, and biodegradable straws.

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