When sending gifts through the postal system, buying something from another part of the country, or sending essential items, we all take it for granted that a packaging manufacturer will have the right materials available and the postal system will deliver our item.
Have you ever considered how goods were transported before materials such as polyurethane foam were designed?
In ancient times, packaging materials were sourced from natural materials and were very inventive but also effective. Here are a few examples:
Greek and Roman Amphoras
These are large ceramic vessels that were used from 1500BC to 500AD to ship wine and other products throughout the Mediterranean and may well have been the first "consumer package". Their form is very different from modern-day packages, but the shape and design evolved to make them economical to produce and ship; no different to packaging today.
Ancient Chinese packaging
In the earliest days of packaging in China, natural materials were used such as tree leaves, bamboo, lotus leaves, palm leaves, gourds, coconut shells, shells of shellfish and animal skin. Later on, man-made material were used including fabrics, ceramics, metals, lacquer ware, wood ware, jade ware and certain types of paper. It is interesting to note twelve airtight food cans were unearthed in Baoshan of Hubei in 316 BC, the earliest types of packaged food discovered. These cans were tightly sealed with multi-layer materials such as straw mats, bamboo leaves and wet clay and then wrapped in silk.
The earliest communities in Britain sought to conserve the surplus food collected during their hunting, fishing and food-gathering for the longest possible time, so as to be well prepared for any future food shortage. They used the leaves from trees, woven baskets and animal skins to store their food. 3,500 years ago the invention of the pottery wheel meant that the making of simple earthenware pots became more sophisticated. Innovations such as these meant that we could develop from a society living hand-to-mouth in a ‘feast or famine' cycle, into a farming society which could harness food sources and maintain a constant supply of food through its efficient conservation in appropriate containers.
The early Egyptians contributed to the history of packaging when they discovered that the glass they had invented for making jewellery could also be put to good use as far as containers were concerned, in the form of bottles, bowls and other receptacles for conserving food. Wooden barrels, though invented in Egypt nearly 7000 years ago, became popular in the Middle Ages because they could be used for storing various types of food, including liquids such as beer or wine, and were much less fragile than glass or earthenware containers.
Packaging manufacturers today have a huge range of materials at their disposal to ensure you get the right material for the goods you are transporting and the journey they are due to make.