Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

goal of uniform food labeling. it presents those developments chronologically in periods; that is, up to 1900, 1900 to 1940, 1940 to 1970, and 1970 to 1990, with the recognition that developments may have occurred over a number of years and spanned more than one time period.


Food Production and Marketing

Early in the nineteenth century, the development of shelf-stable food products in hermetically sealed containers was a major landmark in the history of food packaging. The use of tin cans to actually seal and cook a food began in England in the early 1800s (Sim, 1951). This convenient food package was a major step forward in packaging, providing a year-round food supply in three-piece sanitary containers with processing built in and preparation requiring only reheating and/or adding water.

In the late 1800s, several innovations in packaging had developed as a result of the industrial revolution, including the metal can for heat-processed foods described above, the collapsible tube, the folding carton, the corrupted shipping case, and the crown closure (for hermetically sealing narrow-neck bottles). These developments led to the introduction and commercialization of the milk battle and canned condensed milk, which together with pasteurization had a positive impact on public health and infant mortality. Late in the 1880s, the Uneeda Biscuit package provided a consumer-sized quantity of crackers, undoubtedly leading to the self-serve era (Downes, 1989).

At that time, bulk dry goods, such as flour and sugar, were sold in country and general stores. As the nation approached the twentieth century, specialty stores developed, with consumers making separate stops at the butcher shop, the bakery, and the produce stand—that is, if horse-and-wagon peddlers did not provide the items needed at the consumer's doorstep. The small retail food specialty store was run independently by the owner, and most items came in bulk form (FMI, 1986).

The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, better known as A&P, is generally credited with creating the first chain grocery stores—the forerunner of the modern supermarket (Walsh, 1986). Established during the mid-1800s, early A&P stores resembled a typical specialty store: one person ran the whole operation, standing behind the counter and handing customers their orders from the shelves. However, in contrast to specialty stores, these chain operations had a direct link with suppliers, which allowed them to charge consumers lower prices than their competitors.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement