1910s: Cracker Jack
Caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts are just delightful things, and Cracker Jacks are among the world's first commercial snack foods. The product was launched back in 1896, and just 20 years later, it became the best-selling snack food in the entire world.
1920s: Candy bars
In addition to Prohibition and the start of the Great Depression, the 1920s saw the rise of the Mars Company and its now-ubiquitous Milky Way candy bar. Another of its famous products is the Snickers bar, which remains the most popular candy bar in America to this very day. Other candy bars that were invented during the Roaring Twenties include Butterfinger, Mounds, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Mr. Goodbar, and Babe Ruth.
1930s: Congealed salads and casseroles
The advent of the Great Depression meant that women had to change the way they cooked, and this was because efficiency in the kitchen took priority above all else. Green bean and tuna noodle casseroles, for instance, were easy to prepare and a great way of re-purposing leftovers from the previous day. Another (rather gross) trend that took hold during the 1930s was gelatin-based meals. One-third of all cookbook recipes dating back to the era were gelatin-based. Most of them consisted of gelatin rings surrounded by an assortment of fruits and vegetables.
1940s: Frozen orange juice
Frozen food only truly began to take hold in America and around the world following the end of the Second World War, when freezers actually became large enough to store a substantial amount of food items. A man by the name of Jack Fox was quick to see how things were changing, so he founded Minute Maid in 1946. The company produced the world's first frozen orange juice concentrate, meaning that the product's shelf life was extensive relative to others on the market, and consumers could enjoy the refreshing juice within minutes.
1950s: TV dinners
TV dinners are the epitome of culinary laziness, and have been in existence since the 1950s much to the annoyance of the world's greatest chefs. The frozen meals initially consisted of turkey meat, but chicken and beef products were later added. The meals only required a short amount of time in the oven for them to be ready. During 1956, soon after the inception of the company that invented them, some 13 million TV dinners were sold. The inspiration for them came from airplane meals, which were almost exclusively served in aluminum trays at the time.
1960s: Beef Wellington
A 1960s housewife would prepare Beef Wellington for her esteemed guests in order to prove how high-class she was. The extravagant dish, which consists of beef foie gras and puff pastry, was far more popular in America than it ever was in the United Kingdom despite the popular myth that it was named after an English Duke.
Despite being invented in the 1930s, it would be another 40 years before smoothies really caught on in America. It was a common drink to enjoy at the mall during the 1970s. Although their popularity waned in subsequent decades, they came back in a big way in the early 2000s, and are loved by health-conscious people the world over.
1980s: Jell-O Pudding Pops
The famous "frozen pudding on a stick" began to permeate popular culture in the 1980s, and was one of several sweet snacks that became popular during that decade. Jell-O Pudding Pops were made with 60% skimmed milk, and seemed to be loved by the vast majority of the country. In fact, people were dismayed when they were discontinued in the 1990s. They returned to the fold in 2004.
Kids went crazy for Lunchables in the 1990s. The DIY lunch kits allowed them to build their own pizza or enjoy some crackers and cheese. Admittedly, many (if not all) of the ingredients in Lunchables were heavily processed, but it gave busy parents a way out of having to pack a brown bag lunch for their children each morning.
Cupcakes have been around for decades, but it was the 2000s that saw them explode in popularity. A watershed moment for them came about following the opening of the world-famous Beverly Hills cupcake bakery, Sprinkles, back in 2005. Cupcakes are so well-loved that they even starred in their own reality show, named Cupcake Wars. As you probably have gathered, contestants tried to beat each other to the win by baking the best cupcake.
Revered as a superfood around the world, kale's popularity is reflective of health food trends that have shifted more toward salads and grain-based bowls. Kale salads are now commonplace on many a restaurant menu, and people even wear T-shirts with slogans such as "eat more kale" on them.