Section 1: From Barrel to Box


Imagine you’re in a grocery store, and you’re hungry. Are you going to choose a box of crackers or maybe a bag of your favorite potato chips? Now, you’re thirsty, too. What do you reach for in the cooler by the checkout? A can of soda? A plastic bottle of juice?

Now imagine it’s the year 1915 and you just walked into the corner grocery store for a snack. You could still buy crackers or potato chips. But watch out! Your chips are in a tin, and many of them are broken and starting to go stale. Your crackers are from the bottom of a barrel, so they aren’t much better. They are soggy, broken, and it looks like a mouse may have munched on them already. You can still have some soda, too, but instead of a can or plastic bottle, you reach for a glass bottle. Remember to be careful- you don’t want to drop it! Because glass bottles are expensive, it is expected that you will wash and return the bottle when you finish your drink. Bottling companies will then refill, reseal, and resell the bottle.

Today consumers expect that any product they buy will be clean, fresh, and pest free. It wasn’t always that way. Since the early 1900s, food packaging has evolved significantly.

PDF: From Barrel to Box

In this section:
The Evolution of Soda Packaging
The Evolution of Cracker Packaging
The Evolution of the Potato Chip Bag
Review Questions 
Case Study: “The Evolution of the Coke Bottle”

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-5-33-37-pmThe Evolution of Soda Packaging

Learn how and why soda packaging evolved from glass bottles
to aluminum cans to plastic bottles. Consider the pros and cons
of each type that explain why new containers were developed
while older styles persisted.

The Evolution of Cracker Packaging treacher03
Explore the evolution of cracker packaging starting with the cracker barrels of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Follow experimentation with tins, cardboard boxes, wax
paper, and plastic bags to uncover how manufacturers reached the packaging we are familiar with today.

5194890079_dd611c1690The Evolution of the Potato Chip Bag
Examine the development of the modern potato chip bag, beginning with the first commercial potato chips sold
in bulk tins or glass jars in 1908. Discover the materials
producers used to keep chips fresh for individual sale.


evolution-of-the-contour-bottle-2720-2000-7d9e1f07Case Study: “The Evolution of the Coke Bottle”
In this case study, students will visit and answer a series of questions about the evolution of the Coke bottle. They will also be asked to design their own bottle based on what they learn.
Evolution of the Coca-Cola Bottle Activity Sheet