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Our look at iconic food & drink packaging designs everyone should know
21/09/2017

It probably goes with saying that every person, no matter how old you might be, there’s certain iconic food and drink packaging designs that spark feelings of nostalgia somewhere deep inside of you.

It might actually be pretty hard to explain why or be able to pin you finger on exactly what it is about a certain piece of packaging that brings back such good, or maybe even bad, memories but we’ve all got them.

We thought it would be nice to take a look at some of the most iconic packaging designs that have stood the test of time for numerous years and still create excitement when people see them at a party or maybe when they’re on sale in a local shop and you haven’t purchased one of them for a while.

Coca Cola

First up is one of the most, if not the most, iconic bottle designs there is, the Coca Cola bottle. This thing of beauty is now over 100 years old and nearly every one of us will have cooled our thirst with one of these at some point in our life.

Back in 1915, to distinguish itself from copycats and competitors like iKoka-Nola, Ma Coca-Co, Toka-Cola and Koke, Coca-Cola issued a design competition announcement where they were seeking “a bottle so distinct that you would recognize if by feel in the dark or if it was lying broken on the ground.” The best design would win £500 – which is approximately £11,700 today.

A five-person team from the Root Glass Company in Indiana created the winning proposal for the contour bottle when they were inspired by an illustration of a cocoa pod with an elongated shape and distinct ribs. When the Root Glass Company patented the design, their application omitted Coke’s signature script lettering logo to keep it secret from competitors.

While the bottle shape certainly makes a case for distinctive design in branding, Coca-Cola’s bottle has transcended soft drink sales and become somewhat of a cultural icon, which seen it featured on the cover of TIME magazine in 1950, the first ever commercial product to gain such a distinction.

If you were to travel to a corner of the world, chances are somebody would be able to recognise a Coca-Cola bottle no matter what language they spoke; this says all we need to about such an iconic design.

Campbell’s Soup

The Campbell’s Soup tin design is a bit of a "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" scenario. Was the Campbell's Soup can already legendary before pop artist Andy Warhol immortalized it in his work?

That familiar red and white-labelled can has been on shelves since the turn of the 20th century, and has become one of America's, maybe even the worlds, most widely-recognized food products. The fact the strap line on the company’s website is “The World’s Most Iconic Soup Brand” kind of says it all.

Not much has changed in the last 120 years, which certainly makes the phrase “if it ain't broke…don't fix it” ring true. So what was the involvement of Andy Warhol and how did he help cement Campbell’s Soup in design history?

Back in 1962, Andy Warhol produced Campbell's Soup Cans, 32 silk screened paintings, each representing a flavour from the brand's condensed soup line which was available at the time. The success of Campbell's Soup Cans' helped to usher in pop art as a major art movement in the United States and make Campbell’s the most recognisable soup brand for decades to come.

Andy Warhol certainly didn’t do too bad off it either, his reputation grew to the point where he was not only the most-renowned American pop art artist but also the highest-priced living American artist. Not bad for soup really is it?

Pringles

They may have caused some controversy over the years due to environmentalists claiming the packaging isn’t recyclable but what a legendary design the Pringles tube is.

Could you ever imagine eating Pringles that didn’t come in a tube? Pringles in a bag we hear you say but how would such a thing even work?

When P&G set out to create the perfect crisps they quickly cracked the Pringles symbolic shape, what followed next was big packaging rethink. Traditionally crisps came in a bag, but this meant they would break into bits, so their iconic foil-lined tubular can was born.

The packaging was such a stroke of genius, there’s so many different strands to it that you’ve probably never even considered. The first is that they can be aligned in such a manner that they’re able to support each other during shipping. The second is that once someone pops open a tub they look particularly neat and obviously appetising.  

The resealable plastic lid is able to keep all of the crisps airtight thus lengthening their lifespan and making them easier to share and store, although if rumours are to be believed that once you pop you can’t stop, we don’t know who’s resealing their Pringles.

The distinctive popping sound when opening has become a consumer ritual and in turn the basis for a long-running advertising campaign - showing how smart packaging design, and engineering, can build brand equity way beyond the shelf and create an iconic packaging design that has been hard to top in the world of all things crisps.

Jack Daniel’s

Even without its signature black label, which has since made its way onto t-shirts, you'd be pretty hard pressed to find anyone that wouldn’t know just what's inside that bottle anywhere in the world. Which in all fairness, shows just what an iconic design the Jack Daniel’s bottle is. 

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7’s signature squared-off look came about as a result of the namesake whiskey baron’s attitude. Back in 1894, Daniel’s nephew, Lem Motlow, began encouraging his uncle to start bottling his Tennessee whiskey himself.

An Illinois-based glass company pitched Daniel on dozens of designs, all of which he summarily rejected. In a desperate last effort, the salesman stuck an odd square prototype onto the table—and that’s when it clicked. 

“Nobody was in a square bottle at that time,” says Nelson Eddy, the official historian for Jack Daniel’s. “Even back in Jack’s day, he understood the importance of packaging to carry a message and it’s certainly something Jack Daniel’s has done for centuries.”

It’s hard to disagree with Nelson Eddy on this; a guy who has a job title that we all hope comes with plenty of freebies and taster sessions.

Is there any certain packaging pieces that stand out to you, which you’d like to see featured in our next blog? Let us know over on Twitter; @OrchardTweets.

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