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  • Atit Gandhi

A Snapshot of the History of Flexible Packaging

The global packaging industry is growing by leaps and bounds. With evolving lifestyles and transitions in consumer lives, product packaging has taken centre stage, affecting choices for manufacturers, marketers, logistic operators, retailers, and consumers. Walk into a supermarket and you’re in for a visual treat of colour, gloss and detailing. Almost every product category has an influx of attractive packaging that beckons and lures you into an engagement placing flexible packaging at the threshold of innovation, promising an elevation in the lives of the common man the world over.

You’ll be surprised to know that plastic kitchen bags and even paper grocery stacks were not the first lightweights, flexible packing materials. Studies show that the bark of the mulberry tree offered flexible food packaging in China in the 14th century. Since then, thanks to advances in papermaking technology, manufacturing exploded in the mid-nineteenth century, with the advent of the first machine-made bags first in the UK, followed by the USA. The early 20th century saw Dr Jacques Edwin Brandenberger, a Swiss textile engineer, inventing cellophane, a clear layer of wrapping for any product that was the first entirely flexible, water-resistant wrap.

The invention is the mother of all necessities. During Napoleon Bonaparte's reign, the French Army was very active. He marched them throughout Europe, invading one country after another, but feeding them proved to be a difficult task. His response was to award 12,000 francs to anyone who could aid in the preservation of food. Nicholas Appert ("Father of Canning") received the prize money in 1805 after demonstrating that food could be preserved for an extended period by boiling it at high temperatures and then sealing it in glass vessels. Peter Durand, a British inventor and businessman, soon took this concept and demonstrated its application with a tin can. The same procedure is prevalent today in the thriving canned food industry with a global market value of $91.4 billion in 2018.

Packing became more convenient and practical as the popularity of preserved goods expanded. The Victorians invented the first cardboard box in 1817. Cereal boxes were eventually made out of paperboard cartons, a thinner variant of this. The first commercial production of paper bags began in England in 1844, shortly after this discovery. In 1852, glued paper sacks became the first semi-flexible packaging.

Waterproof packaging that eliminated air pockets and used waterproof print was developed as a result of frozen food packaging innovation, as was a waterproof version of cellophane. Tin-plated cans were replaced by glass bottles. This propelled the packaging sector forward in terms of innovation and improvement. Various plastic compounds were found in the nineteenth century, eventually leading the industry forward. The first commercial plastic bottle was created in 1946 when an underarm deodorant in a spray bottle became the first commercial plastic bottle. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) plastic bottles were introduced in 1977, and they immediately became the standard container for sturdy, non-toxic plastic bottles. As they say, the rest is history. Valued at $182.3 billion in 2020 and with an estimated $325.6 billion by 2030, Flexible packaging is the future of the packaging industry.

Knock, Knock! Haven't made the switch to flexible packaging yet? It’s time to think why? The Montage Group, for decades, has been at the forefront of packaging innovation, and its popularity continues to grow across a wide range of sectors. Every client faces a unique set of issues, many of which may be traced back to poor packaging practices. We, at the Montage Group, have used intelligent, practical, and sustainable flexible packaging innovation to help in problem-solving and revenue realisation.

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