What is the history of glass packaging?

For the longest period of human history, packaging was used as a practical means of transporting, storing and protecting food. It was not until the 20th century that manufacturers began to think about marketing and advertising, which gave rise to modern packaging.

 

old wine bottles on a shelve

Glass through history

The first evidence of glass

The history of glass begins in 4000 BC, when archaeologists have found the first evidence of human-made glass. However, it was not until 1500 BC that the first hollow glass containers were made by covering a core of sand with a layer of molten glass so that it could take on a shape for storing products.

Glass packaging in the Napoleonic era

During the 19th-century battles for supremacy among European powers, Napoleon offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could improve the conservation methods then used to feed his troops. The French confectioner and inventor Nicolas Appert earned Napoleon’s prize by demonstrating that foods could be preserved and prolonged by boiling them at high temperatures and then sealing them in glass containers. Because of this achievement, Nicolas Appert, become known as the “Father of Canning”. Using glass to store and transport food is a technique that’s over 200 years in the making.

Glass packaging in the industrial revolution

The next great innovation took place in Britain when a Mr Ashley in Castleford, Yorkshire, developed a semi-autonomous machine that could produce 200 bottles an hour – an incredible feat that tripled the speed of production in his factory. The innovation did not stop there, as barely 20 years later Michael Owens from Illinois developed a fully automatic machine that produced 2500 bottles per hour – a previously unimaginable feat.

Glass packaging in the modern era

Glass packaging for food preservation has since been on the rise and has found its way into the homes of millions as something we use and love every day, but what makes it so reliable? Glass is a non-reactive material, which means that anything that comes into contact with it will not be affected or damaged. When it comes to food preservation, this is crucial. When a glass jar or container is sealed, no air can get in or out, so your food remains perfectly edible and healthy. In the modern era, glass packaging is recognised by consumers as one of the most recyclable and environmentally friendly packaging material.

 

glass bottles on shelves

How does glass long heritage contribute to modern packaging?

Glass is an ancient material with a rich cultural heritage, and it is more relevant to modern life than ever. Today, glass packaging performs a variety of tasks and serves important sectors such as the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries as well as perfumery and cosmetics. It is a packaging material which is healthy, reusable and infinitely recyclable within a closed loop system, supporting policy ambitions around driving a circular economy.