Science & Technology

The Story of Canned Beverages

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Prof. Ashoka tells us the history of canned beverages, an exclusive for Different Truths.

Cans were used to package beer and soft drinks as early as 1930. They were sturdier than glass bottles and easier to store and transport. Early canned drinks were factory sealed and required a special opener. These cylindrical punch top cans were made of iron or tin and had a flat top and bottom. In the mid-1930s, cans with cone-shaped tops and caps that could be opened and poured like bottles were developed. These cone tops and containers were produced until the late 1950s.

The first canned soft drink, Cliquot Club Ginger Ale, was launched in 1938. It used a cone top can produced by the Continental Can Company

The first canned soft drink, Cliquot Club Ginger Ale, was launched in 1938. It used a cone top can produced by the Continental Can Company, which often leaked or imparted a metallic flavour to the drink. These problems made canned beverages slow to catch on. By World War II, cans consisted of only ten percent of the beverage market. It took several years for the glitches to be worked out.

An improved design from Continental Can finally allowed Pepsi-Cola to launch the first major canned soft drink in 1948. Its popularity was delayed by metal shortages during the Korean War in the early 1950s, but by 1960, Pepsi and Royal Crown were selling a large number of canned soft drinks. Inspired by the competition, Coca-Cola began marketing cans on a large scale soon afterwards.

American Ermal Fraze devised the pull-tab opener in 1959.

American Ermal Fraze devised the pull-tab opener in 1959. This eliminated the need for a separate can opener. Apparently, while at a picnic, Fraze forgot to bring an opener and was forced to use a car bumper to pry the cans open. One night he remembered the incident and began working on a self-opening can.

Others had tried to come up with similar devices, but they malfunctioned or broke easily. Fraze solved these issues and his invention made canned drinks even more popular. By 1965, nearly 75 percent of US breweries were using it. However, people tended to throw away the tab after opening their can, creating a major littering problem.

The first aluminium beverage can was manufactured by Reynolds Metals Company in 1963

Soon steel and tin cans were being replaced by aluminium ones, which had many advantages—they were light, cheap, corrosion resistant, durable, and recyclable. The first aluminium beverage can was manufactured by Reynolds Metals Company in 1963 and used for a diet cola called Slenderella. Royal Crown adopted the aluminium can in 1964 and by 1967, Pepsi and Coke followed. In 1977, Fraze patented the first non-removable, pushing and fold-back pop tab opener. This solved the litter problems associated with the pull-tab. By 1985, the pop tab aluminium can dominated the packaged beverage market.

Photos from the Internet


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