The Origin of the Soda Can (A Genius Packaging Innovation)

19 October 2020

We all have to start somewhere, right? That goes for many things in life, whether it be a career path, product packaging, or simply waking up in the morning. Product packaging has continued to transform over the years, and some designs have more of a history than we may realize like the soda can. However, manufacturers must choose a packaging design that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. But is one really more important than the other? The consumer market is drawn to a convenient design that catches their attention. Explore the transformation of the soda can and get creative with your product packaging design today.

How It All Began

French Military and political leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, is said to have been the driving force behind the invention of the soda can. In 1795, the French Military identified their need for food preservation as there was no reliable method available at this time to ensure their food stays fresh while allowing for adequate transportation. Malnutrition and starvation were killing many soldiers, and because of this, Napoleon Bonaparte offered a prize to any inventor who could design an effective method for large quantity food preservation.

In 1806, Nicolas Appert finally made progress on the matter, even though it was over ten years later. He discovered that cooked food placed inside a glass jar didn't spoil unless the seals leaked. This discovery was known as the first time in history that someone discovered food could be preserved while maintaining its texture and taste. However, we still have many advancements to cover, as canning in glass jars is a slow process, and this material wasn't ideal for transportation.

While Appert made an impressive discovery, an Englishman brought it home by patenting Appert's invention. He designed the first tin can as this material was cheaper to produce compared to glass and much easier to transport. Due to the time commitment required to design the can, cook the food, and correctly seal the can, canned food was viewed as a symbol of status throughout the mid-nineteenth century. And while the French Military didn't get the opportunity to use canned food, the British Army and Royal Navy benefitted exponentially.

Production Speeds Up

In the late-nineteenth century, can manufacturing really started taking off as can-making machinery was introduced in Britain, and many saw the tin can as the future of preservation and food packaging. In 1930, many began seeing the value in exploring the packaging of beverages in cans. Beer started becoming available in cans in 1935, and soda followed shortly after. Due to the high acidity and pressures required by these carbonated beverages, manufacturers had to explore the design of the can and improve it with an interior liner to help preserve the product's flavor rather than being ruined by a chemical reaction with the metal.


Americans could purchase flat-top beer cans in 1935 in Richmond, Virginia. Each can was factory sealed and could only be opened with an instrument called a "church key," which was a long piece of metal that was pointed at one end. Drinkers utilized this instrument to create two holes in the can's top, one for drinking and one for airflow. The flat-top can was an impressive design advancement, and many manufacturers began revisiting the density of material utilized for the top to allow for more effortless opening. Americans saw the flat-top can dominating the market up until the 1960s.


While the USA had access to flat-top cans from the beginning, they didn't make their way to the UK until 1950. Until flat-top cans took over, UK beverage cans were designed with a cone-top. This design's aesthetics was very similar to that of the glass bottle, meaning new equipment wasn't a requirement as this can style could use existing equipment. There were four basic types of cone-top cans, each ranging in the height of the cone or spout.

  • Low Profile
  • High Profile
  • J-Spout
  • Crowntainer


After the production of the aluminum can in 1958, an American named Ermal Fraze invented the can-opening method that would soon dominate the canned beverage market: the pull-tab. This convenient opening design had a substantial impact on the popularity of cans being utilized for beverages as it offered the customer an efficient, fast solution. The pull-tab system eliminated the need for an additional opening tool like the "church-key" since an aluminum pull-ring lever was attached to the can. The consumer could easily open the can with a simple pull-and-press movement. This design continued to make advancements and was introduced into the soft drink industry in 1989, and beer can industry in 1990.

But, What About Today?

As with any packaging design, the soda can has continued to evolve and transform over the years. The last noteworthy advancement in can manufacturing occurred in 1992 when a widget device was designed that stores a tiny amount of gas that gives the beverage extra carbonation. The packaging industry has continued to gain traction with new designs and methods entering the consumer market each year. Whether you're searching for a way to package a beverage, food item, household product, and more, there are many different designs available on the market today. Here at The Packaging Lab, we offer industry-leading flexible packaging solutions that work for a variety of industries. You can choose from our stand-up or lay-flat pouch designs, create custom branding with our graphic design experts, and get the sales results you've been hoping for.

Product Packaging Will Continue to Transform

Manufacturers will continue to make improvements on all types of product packaging, whether that's adjusting resealable methods, altering the material, or transitioning into a more convenient solution. Your product packaging has a significant influence on a potential buyer's interest in your product. With competition continuing to grow, it's vital that you study previous packaging designs and identify how you can make advancements to stand out from the competition. Optimize your product packaging today with a reliable packaging solution from The Packaging Lab.