Saturday, November 28, 2020

History of food packaging

For millenniums, the most common material used to protect goods were paper and glass. People understood the role of package as meant to protect their product on the way home from market.

Egypt seems to have pioneered food packaging. Mummies were packed with all articles of daily use including food. Egypt was one of the first countries to have used paper (from Papyrus plant).

It is also known that Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians and Turks made bottles by inflating liquid glass in the years B.C. 3000.

There are references how paper was in rise for packaging food as well (that included vegetables and spices). In the prehistoric times, however, only natural materials were available and used for packaging which included leaves, animal skin, bark, coconut shells and dried vegetable skins etc. These materials have been used since the earliest times for domestic storage and local sales of foods. However, with the exception of glazed pottery, they have poor barrier properties and are only used to contain foods and keep them clean.

Subsequently, baskets of reeds, wooden boxes, wooden barrels, woven bags, etc. came into use. Pottery vases, water storage containers came later. Since the early ages of history, people have used packaging to consume, preserve and transport food.

The use of tinplate for packaging dates back to the 18th century. The first corrugated box was produced commercially in 1817 in England. Gair discovered that by cutting and creasing he could make prefabricated paperboard boxes.

The years 1930–1940 were probably the most important decade in the history of plastics as today’s major thermoplastics (PS, PVC and the poly-olefins) were developed.

The use of plastics in food packaging has gone up several folds during the last two to three decades owing to the several advantages offered by them as compared to other materials.

Packaging advancements in the early 20th century included Bakelite closures on bottles, transparent cellophane over wraps, that increased processing efficiency and improved food safety. Aluminum and plastics were also incorporated later.

Traditional packaging couldn't stand the rigors of World War II which led to Military Standard or tough "mil spec" (military specifications) in the 1940s. In the middle of 1940s, further study of synthetic polymers by DuPont chemists synthesized polyethylene terephthalate (known as PET) used for manufacturing of plastic bottles until this day.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) revolutionized food packaging. It has excellent resistance to chemicals (acids and bases), grease, and oil; good flow characteristics; and stable electrical properties. It formed a seal without clinging to itself, food or to the container. It has low permeability to oxygen, water vapors and flavors, however there have been concerns about its toxicity.

The manufacturing technology changed the whole concept of packaging after the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth century when manufacturers were forced to develop more resilient types of protection so the products could be transported from factory to shop and later to customer’s home. In 21st century food packaging has evolved as a specialized industry.
History of food packaging