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SaferPak: Food Packaging Safety, Food Safety, Business Improvement and Quality Management
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The History of Packaging
By Anon

First things first I've had this for a very long time but I cannot for the life of me remember where I got it from. I'd like to credit whoever spent a lot of time and effort researching this if anybody knows who he or she is. Ed.

A long time ago:
If we look at the main packaging materials from their very origins, the first fascinating fact to emerge is that every material that has ever been used for packaging is still being used, to a greater or lesser extent. Below is a list of the main material developments in the sequence of their discovery, invention or adoption.

100,000 years ago - Naturally occurring materials - animal skins, horns, bamboo, large gourds, leaves.

20,000 years ago - Modified natural materials - Woven baskets, leather bottles.

8,000 years ago - Ceramics, amphorae, beakers etc., developed in the Middle East.

5,000 years ago - Wood, barrels, boxes, crates. Wooden boxes have been found in Egyptian tombs.

3,500 years ago - Mass produced ceramics, invention of potters wheel.

3,000 years ago - Glass vessels, glass blowing was developed by the phoenicians.

2,000 years ago - paper and cellulose fibres, the invention of true paper is credited to Cai Lung, a Chinese, in 105 AD.

The last 1,000 years:
All of the great social changes over the last 1,000 years have had their effect upon packaging. A minority of wealthy individuals required containers for the transportation and protection of their goods. Their large armies of retainers needed provisions, and their affluence made it possible to afford expensive luxuries from abroad, all of these made demands on packaging. Early plagues and sicknesses such as the Black death disproportionately affected the poor and low status population leading to the Peasants Revolt, Civil War and eventually to a an enhanced degree of representation in a parliamentary system. This in turn, plus the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries gave rise to a large middle class population.

The adage ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ is certainly true of packaging, with military imperatives providing the impetus for many of the more significant developments. In 1795 Napoleon offered 12,000 Francs for a system that would preserve food for his armies, Nicholas Appert obliged and this led in only 15 years to the worlds first canned food factory set up by Brian Donkin at Dartford.

More recently both polyethylene and PTFE (each discovered accidentally in the 1930’s) owe their rapid exploitation to the war time needs of the 1940’s; the former as an insulation material for the magnetron used in radar, the latter as a component for the atomic bomb.

A brief sequence of the most important developments in packaging since year 1,000 is listed below:

1035 Paper recorded as being used for wrapping in Cairo.
1040 Movable type printing invented by Pi Cheng in China.
1100 Paper first arrived in Europe form China.
1250 Tinplate developed in Bohemia (to prevent armour from rusting).
1450 Guttenberg’s printing press.
1630 First recorded mention of ‘grocer’s paper bags’.
1700 First commercial glass factory (Egham, UK) produces 3 million bottles per year.
1750 Jute sacks in general use.
1794 Schweppes design the famous ‘lay down’ bottle for mineral waters, the idea being to keep the cork wet, and thus gas-tight.
1795 Napoleon offers prize for food preservation technique.
1806 Bryan Donkin patents machine for making paper in reel form.
1807 Humphrey Davy predicted the existence of a new metal and named it aluminium.
1810 Hot canning system of food preservation patented.
1820 First food canning factory set up at Dartford, Kent.
1825 First carbon dioxide-pressurised dispensing container, the ‘Regency Portable Fountain’ devised by Charlie Plinth for soda water.
1825 Danish scientist Oersted produced the first tiny pellet of aluminium.
1850 Decorative fancy paperboard boxes in use.
1855 First commercially produced ingot of aluminium.
1855 Can-opener designed by Robert Yeates in the UK (the famous ‘bull’s head’ model followed ten years later in the USA).
1860 Parkes in the UK produced the first synthetic plastic ‘parkesine’.
1860 Paperboard tubes described.
1869 Celluloid invented in the USA as substitute for ivory for billiard boards.
1870 Folding cartons developed in the USA by bag-maker Robert Gair.
1871 Corrugated board patented by Jones in the USA (as a cushioning material).
1879 Margaret Knight patented the paper-bag making machine in the USA.
1880 Paperboard cartons first used on large scale by Kellogg in the USA.
1880 Fully automated can-making machinery developed (soldered tops).
1890 Cardboard boxes developed in the USA by Robert Gair.
1890 Paper-based pill boxes patented by Robinson in UK.
1903 Corrugated boxes first produced on a large scale.
1903 First fully automatic glass bottle-blowing machine, Toledo, USA.
1909 Bakelite invented by Belgian/American Leo Baekeland.
1911 Wax-coated liquid-tight cartons for milk described (first produced in USA in 1915).
1912 First aseptic food packaging system (for cream) described in Scandinavia.
1920 Staudinger in Germany produced the first artificial macromolecules (polymers).
1922 Development of crimped-on hermetic seal for metal cans renders soldering obsolete and makes high speed food production feasible.
1930 First beer cans, with conical, tops and crown cork developed.
1931 Liquid-tight cartons (the Perga system) commercialised.
1933 Bottles made from moulded fibre described (FESA) in France.
1933 Polythene isolated by Swallow & Perin of ICI.
1935 Cellophane. the first transparent film, produced in the UK.
1937 Moulded pulp egg trays designed (Hartman). patented in Europe.
1940 Liquid cartons first used for milk on large scale in Chicago.
1941 Goodhue & Sullivan in the USA produced the first practical aerosol container.
1948 Denis Gabor in Hungary discovers the holographic effect.
1950 First two-piece (impact extruded) aluminium beer can produced in Switzerland.
1951 Original ‘TetraPak’ designed.
1956 Flip-top carton launched.
1963 Pull-tab easy open end for beer cans.
1964 DWI Aluminium two-piece can for beer developed.
1970 Two-piece can in steel for beer launched.
1972 Stay-on easy open tab for beer cans.
1972 First ‘widget’ beer-foaming device manufactured for Guinness.
1980 Micro-flute corrugated board launched.

What about the important developments that have taken place in packaging in the last twenty-odd years? If you can help us bring this list into the 21st century please drop us a line.



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