Hamburger Helper® was launched by General Mills
in 1970, the year after Pringles
came unto us. At the time a recession and President Nixon's economic policies had conspired to produce shortages of grain and meat, causing the price of both to rise; Hamburger Helper® was thus designed to 'help' a pound of ground hamburger meat become an entire family meal of itself. People ate a lot more meat in 1970 than they do nowadays. 'H' was a big hit, especially in the enviro-conscious 70s, and remains a staple of busy housewives and, just as likely, lazy college students.
Hamburger Helper® is sold under the Betty Crocker brand and consists of a cardboard box containing a sachet of pasta and a sachet of tomatoey or cheesy sauce, both of which are supposed to be heated in a pot with some water and meat. The resulting mixture forms a delicious meaty casserole, although meat-less Hamburger Helper® can be eaten on its own, or with an infinite variety of other things, as detailed in Betty Crocker's cookbooks. The economic reasons for buying it have long since passed, and Hamburger Helper® is now actually more expensive, relative pound per pound, than hamburger meat.
From 1977 the product has been advertised on television with a giant white-gloved Helping Hand™, with a face on it. The hand was killed off in 1991, but - as one might expect from a talking, singing, disembodied hand - it rose again, in 2001, and is still extant.
Hamburger Helper® was very much a forerunner of microwave meals, boil-in-the-bag convenience food, MREs and so forth, and is therefore very symbolic of a certain image of America, being artificial and slightly pointless. It is not sold in the UK and is entirely obscure; the British equivalent in terms of sociological positioning would be Pot Noodle. Hamburger Helper® has subsequently been followed by Tuna Helper® and Chicken Helper®.