packaging

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

packaging

packaging, containment and packing prior to sale with the primary purpose of facilitating the purchase and use of a product. Before 1800 packaging was restricted almost entirely to containment for shipping, with minimum levels of protection and preservation. Grocery bags, for example, were known in the 17th cent.; however, it was not until the 19th cent. that practical bag-making machinery was developed. That century saw the emergence of metal cans (1810), setup boxes (1844), folding cartons (1879), and the Owens bottle machine (1899). Early in the 20th cent., marketing-oriented packaging began to evolve and branding, quality, storage and handling, and point-of-sale display became important attributes. By the end of World War II, packaging had become a major medium of advertising and marketing. In recent years, consumer advocates have argued that packages should contain more information on nutrition, unit costs, and contents. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966 gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to determine that packages are labeled accurately; the 1990 Nutrition Labeling Act required packages to contain more nutritional information, forcing companies to relabel about 75% of all goods carried by supermarkets. Environmental concerns have led to the passage of state and local laws requiring that some types of packages (notably bottles and cans) be recycled. Manufacturers are attempting to allay further regulation by developing and using packages that cause less damage to the environment.

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