Packaging in the food sector has evolved hand in hand with technological innovation and industrialization, playing an essential role in daily life and the development of the modern economy. Packaging actually performs several functions at the same time, from the perfect preservation of the products to their visual presentation.
Modern food packaging also facilitates storage, transport and sale, simplifying consumers’ lives, too. This is the result of decades of innovation, research and development, so to understand how we got to this level of quality, safety and functionality, it is important to know how packaging began and how it has evolved.
Food packaging: how and when it began
The history of packaging in the field of food products is long, structured and dates back to ancient origins. Packaged food marks the definitive move from hand-made products to industrial products, extending shelf-life and making products available that are not from the consumer’s immediate surroundings.
It is quite difficult to establish precisely when food packaging emerged, as very basic forms of packaging were already being used by ancient populations. However, the origins of modern product packaging date back to the 19th century when industrialization brought about the first preserved food products.
Nevertheless, it was in the post-Second World War period that the accelerated economic development and the requirements of globalization led to the creation of innovative packaging solutions. One example is the double packaging of concentrated diced meat, which appeared in the late ‘40s, with an inner cardboard box and outer packaging made from paper and aluminum.
Compared to the previous cans, which allowed for a substantial increase in shelf-life, this new packaging was cheap and ideal for mass production, while also allowing for the packaging to be customized to market the product. From then on, developments in packaging technology occurred at a fast pace, until the arrival of the sophisticated packaging used today and eco-friendly alternatives.
The evolution of food packaging: a summary of the history
As we have seen, the history of food packaging can be attributed to two centuries, from the first canned foods at the start of the 19th century to the new packaging solutions for mass production introduced from the second half of the 20th century. In the 1800s, they used packaging like metal cans and tins for long-life products, especially for military supplies.
They moved from these expensive, bulky and inconvenient products to plastic materials and laminates, until the introduction of polyethylene for bags for food products. This was a complete novelty, which allowed for the production of foods ready to heat up in the microwave – a real revolution that enabled families to prepare a meal in just a few minutes without cooking.
Other innovations included the tetra pack, which consists of various superimposed and heat-sealed layers of paper, aluminum and polyethylene for long-term preservation of liquid and semi-liquid products, or laminated paper for fresh products and products in MAP. More recent new products include the bag in box, a more modern and efficient alternative to the tetra pack for packaging liquid and semi-liquid products like wine, sauces and olive oil.
The evolution of packaging went hand in hand with the history of packaging design: modern packaging can be embellished with captivating, customized graphics that present each product in an original and effective way. Plus, the packaging material makes it possible to add detailed information for better traceability and consumer awareness, or advanced tools like barcodes and QR codes.
At Volmar, we offer highly innovative food packaging products and solutions, taking advantage of our high-level technology to ensure safe, hygienic and superior-quality packaging at competitive prices. The wide range of options allows you to find specific packaging for each of your products, to preserve the quality and freshness of the food and offer excellent protection against external agents.