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The History of Packaging

Don’t Know Much About Packaging?


For the entire existence of humanity, we have been searching and inventing new ways to carry, store and preserve food and water. The initial “packaging” first used by the ancients looks unrecognizable alongside the plastic box of cookies in your pantry today, but they share a surprising amount of hidden similarities. From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars to your neighborhood bodega, the history of packaging is filled with more twists and surprises than a roll of bubble wrap.

The Origins of Packaging

When humans were solely hunters and gatherers, we had to live near water and subsist off the migration patterns of our prey. Then someone (or many someone’s across the globe) came up with the idea of using gourds, leaves and hollowed-out logs to transport what we needed to survive.

It would be thousands of years before the next big leap forward when Ancient Egyptians developed glass blowing techniques in 1500 BC to make the first water bottles. Fast forward another thousand years and the Chinese began using mulberry bark to transport food—this was a forerunner of paper packaging and the oldest example of flexible packaging.

Packaging Through the Years


Medieval Europe saw the usage of wooden barrels and wooden boxes to carry and store food. But, it was only thanks to a 12,000 franc reward from Napoleon, searching for a way to feed his massive armies, that Nicholas Appert (the “Father of Canning”) discovered an efficient way of preserving food by boiling and storing it in glass containers. Across the English Channel, Brit Peter Durand built on Appert’s idea by swapping the glass for tin.

The United States got in on the invention game with Francis Wolle, who devised a paper bag-making machine in 1852, and Margaret Knight, who received a patent for a flat-bottomed bag machine in the 1870’s. Brooklynite Robert Gair accidentally invented the folding cartoon we still use today while running a malfunctioning machine; the National Biscuit Company (NABISCO, aka the source of Oreo, Ritz Crackers and all your favorites) was the first brand to use this new technology.

Clarence Birdseye learned from the Inuit tribe that freezing could potentially preserve food even better than the boiling techniques from Napoleon. Working with Dupont, Birdseye made his frozen dreams come true by creating a waterproof version of cellophane.

What Packaging Looks Like Today


Plastic, plastic, plastic…there’s one material that has become the major workhorse of the packaging industry and that is, you guessed it, plastic. Since the first commercial plastic package was debuted in 1946 to use with spray deodorant it has completely dominated the market. Even McCormick, famous for their tin containers of Old Bay and Black Pepper has shifted in recent years to a more easily recycled plastic container.

Now, we are exploring ways to create sustainable plastic bottles made entirely from plants—bringing us full circle from the flexible mulberry bark first used by the Chinese as we move towards the future.


Whether you’re looking for tin cans or the plastic marvels of today, GCB Solutions has the know-how and resources to fit your project. From initial brainstorming to product design and launch, we can help you every step of the way.

Call us at (904) 263-2804 or schedule a free consultation, today!


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