Part 1: The History and Future of Food Packaging Technology

As populations grew and transportation capabilities expanded in human history, the food industry became a global network of growers, processors, storage facilities, distributors, and packagers. The worldwide reach of the food market actually dates back as far as the late 15th to mid-17th centuries. Merchant ships during this time brought exotic foods to Europe, even in the dead of winter. Lemons and other citrus fruits in season during the winter in warmer parts of the world were frequently featured as luxury imports on Northern European tables in Dutch still life paintings. For example, this Pieter Claez still life from 1643 (Minneapolis Institute of Art) showcases lemons and shellfish as exotic foods brought from other regions to Dutch ports. As food packaging technologies progressed through the Industrial Revolutions, the market became even more accessible globally. Today, Forpak equipment plays an important role in supporting the worldwide food industry. Our innovative food packaging designs improve production efficiency, limit downtime, and increase sanitation in any facility.

Food Packaging

Food packaging has come a long way since lemons were brought to Pieter Claez’s table, and it continues to advance as demand for more sustainable and biodegradable options grows. The future of food production will likely see an increase in automation, a decrease in single-use plastics, and even better sanitation to prevent spoiling and the spread of foodborne illnesses.

History of Food Packaging

A brief history of food packaging technologies can help us understand what materials helped propel our current packaging systems forward at different times.

Cloth and Pottery:

The use of cloth and pottery for storage are two of the oldest human inventions. Pottery sherds as old as 29,000 BCE have been found in the Czech Republic. Textile evidence dates back much further, but fabrics degrade over time, making them harder to categorize. Some of the oldest fabric-making tools are dated to at least 50,000 years ago.

Paper and Glass:

Both pottery and glass are also ancient storage systems. The first uses of paper date back as far as the 2nd century BCE in China, and the oldest use of glass vessels is thought to have occurred 3,600 years ago in Mesopotamia.


In the early 1700s, the first uses of tinplate storage systems were manufactured in England, France, and the Netherlands.


In 1809, French brewer and confectioner Nicolas Appert found that food cooked and sealed in a glass jar did not spoil. Around 50 years later, Louis Pasteur would discover why food protected from microbes was stable.


While paper had been used for centuries, the first use of corrugated paper/cardboard didn’t occur until around 1870. This was followed by the first invention of a folded paperboard box design for Quaker Oats cereal in 1880.

In the second part of this blog series, we’ll cover the development of plastics, barcode systems, and more throughout the history of food packaging.

To learn more about Forpak equipment, contact us today at (612) 419-1948 or You can also request more information online or request a quote to get started with us.