Packaging is seldom thought about throughout the course of the day, yet we come into contact with some form of packaging constantly. For as long as there has been goods that needed transportation there has been packaging – beginning with woven baskets and ceramic vases. Throughout the centuries since then packaging has continued to evolve, and continues till this day.

During the Middle Ages, the wooden barrel become the most prevalent way to store and transport goods. The durability of the barrel allowed it to thrive while being transported on the crude roads and trails that made up many of the trade routes. As the world moved out from the shadows of the Middle Ages more goods were beginning to be offered and the need for packaging increased.

What ushered in the true explosion of packaging and its importance was the industrial revolution in England, subsequently followed by the United States own surge in industrial manufacturing. With the influx of large amounts of products that were desire by an array of people forced the innovation that swept packaging. In 1810, Nicolas Appert invented the can – originally out of glass, but it would become widely popular in metal. The can became the first packaging method that was able to preserve food for an extended period of time. Before becoming a staple in households the can was used on the battlefield during the Civil War where its effectiveness was truly discovered.

What emerged next is still widely popular and useful in today’s world. The cardboard box. Created by Robert Gair, the ability of the pre-cut, cheap shipping material has withstood the test of time. Many products that are shipped around the world today will arrive at their destination inside a cardboard box.

The biggest revolution for food storage arrived in the mid-20th century with the invention of plastic. Plastic has also become widely popular in other areas but no impact was as great as the one it made on storing food. From soft drinks to Tupperware packaging has helped make food last longer and storing it cheaper. The plastics used for packaging are continuously being improved and with an increased emphasis on sustainability will produce many more innovations in the years to come.

This week we will explore the innovation of packaging as well as some of the challenges that it faces as our world becomes more and more globalized. Packaging as an industry is playing an ever more important role in today’s society, from the ability to cut costs to being completely self-sustaining and deserves a deep analysis to figure out the most efficient way to accomplish our goals.

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