The Unlikely Success of Fish Sticks



Staff member
The Unlikely Success of Fish Sticks - Hakai

There are many curious facts about fish sticks. The invention of this frozen food warranted a US patent number, for instance: US2724651A. The record number of them stacked into a tower is 74. And, every year, a factory in Germany reportedly produces enough fish sticks to circle the Earth four times.

But the most peculiar thing about fish sticks may be their mere existence. They debuted on October 2, 1953, when General Foods released them under the Birds Eye label. The breaded curiosities were part of a lineup of newly introduced rectangular foods, which included chicken sticks, ham sticks, veal sticks, eggplant sticks, and dried lima bean sticks. Only the fish stick survived. More than that, it thrived. In a world in which many people are wary of seafood, the fish stick spread even behind the Iron Curtain of the Cold War.

Beloved by some, merely tolerated by others, the fish stick became ubiquitous—as much an inevitable food rite of passage for kids as a cultural icon. There’s an entire South Park episode devoted to riffing off the term fish stick, and the artist Banksy featured the food in a 2008 exhibit. When Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th birthday in 2016, Birds Eye presented her with a sandwich valued at US $257 that included blanched asparagus, saffron mayonnaise, edible flowers, caviar, and—most prominently—gold leaf–encrusted fish sticks.