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The History of Food Packaging

stone paper<sup>®</sup> food containersAn interesting chronology of the history of food packaging on illustrates how much food packaging has evolved over the years. The chronology begins with the use of natural materials like reeds and animal skins, progresses through ceramics and narrow-necked jars called amphoras, continues to wood and pottery, leaps ahead to glass, carries on to paper and cellulose fibers, and finishes with notable recent advances such as tin cans, plastic film, and polyethylene containers. The chronology begins:

  • 20,000 years ago – modified natural materials (grass, reeds, skins)
  •   8,000 years ago – ceramics, amphoras
  •   5,000 years ago – wood, barrels, boxes, crates
  •   3,500 years ago – mass produced ceramics
  •   2,500 years ago – glass containers
  •   2,000 years ago – paper and cellulose fibers  (not true paper)

Notable advances in food packaging containers in the 20th century included aluminum cans and foil, cellophane, heat shrinkable plastic film, styrene foam, polyethylene containers and the tetra pak carton.

Modern food packaging innovations include barriers to oxygen, moisture, and the unwanted transfer or loss of flavors. According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, “It is interesting to note that some packages have actually allowed the creation of new categories in the supermarket. Examples include microwave popcorn and fresh-cut produce, which owe their existence to the unique packaging that has been developed.”

Paper and cardboard cartons emerged as a popular material for wrapping and packaging food at the end of the nineteenth century. Their popularity was challenged by the advent of plastics in the 70s and 80s, but that trend is now reversing with the growing “greening” of consumers, many of whom perceive plastic food containers as environmentally unfriendly. 

A recent revolution in paper packaging was the invention of environmentally friendly Stone Paper® – paper made almost entirely from a common element called calcium carbonate. There is no wood, pulp, acid, bleach or waste water used in the production of Stone Paper®, conserving energy and reducing carbon dioxide (Co2) emissions linked to global warming. One ton of eco-friendly Stone Paper® saves 20 trees and 16,000 gallons of water compared to traditional paper.

Consumers are increasingly insisting on eco friendly reduced, recyclable and sustainable packaging. Paper made from minerals is non-toxic, recyclable and photodegradable. It’s also waterproof, grease proof, strong and durable, insect proof, and even fire resistant. Stone Paper® is also FDA food grade certified, making it ideal for food packaging. 


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