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FoodHistory Of The Canning Food Industry

History Of The Canning Food Industry

When compared to the vast past of preserving food, canning is a new innovation. Before there were written records, people were already drying, salting, and fermenting food. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that people figured out how to keep food fresh for longer periods of time by heating it and then sealing it in airtight containers such as glass jam jars wholesale.

Canning is a way to store food that involves preparing and sealing food in an airtight container (jars like Mason jars and steel and tin cans). When properly canned, food has a shelf life of at least one year and often more than five, depending on the conditions.

Canned dry lentils, for example, that have been freeze-dried, have a shelf life of up to 30 years.

Canning: A Brief History

Napoleon Bonaparte, who continually kept his army on the move, offering a reward in 1795 to whoever could devise a foolproof way to store food. About 15 years later, Nicholas Appert tackled the problem and introduced a solution that entailed heat processing food in glass jars strengthened with wire and sealed with wax.

Some people still use paraffin wax to seal jelly jars, despite the fact that this is a dangerous practice that has been deprecated in recent years.

At that time, there was no concept of packing machines such as those with delicate parts. Today’s packing machines are full of the latest components such as premium valves by any top china ball valve supplier and high-end operating systems.

Originating in France (Originaire en France)

In the early Napoleonic Wars, the French government offered a handsome cash prize of 12,000 francs to any innovator who could come up with a simple, inexpensive, and successful way of storing huge quantities of food.

The larger armies of the time needed more consistent access to high-quality food supplies. Military campaigns were restricted to the summer and fall because of limited food supplies.

French brewer and baker Nicolas Appert realized in 1809 that food sealed in a glass jar wouldn’t go bad unless the seals were broken.

In 1810, French minister of the interior Count Montelivert presented the award to Appert. Since Louis Pasteur’s discovery of the role of bacteria in food spoiling wouldn’t come for another half-century, the explanation for the lack of spoilage was a mystery at the time.

The Original Canning Process

The next big thing was the first actual canning technique (as opposed to bottling or jarring). By the year 1810, the Englishman Peter Durand had invented a way to enclose food in “unbreakable” tin cans. Thomas Kensett established the first American canning company in 1912.

Louis Pasteur’s discovery that the proliferation of microbes leads to food spoilage did not come until over a century after Nicholas Appert tackled Napoleon’s food preservation dilemma. Before that, people thought that canning techniques were effective but had no idea why. ​

Concurrent with these advancements, glass food preservation jars with metal clamps and replacement rubber rings were developed during the American Civil War. Indeed, you can still buy these jars in 2018. However, they’re not typically used for canning anymore but rather for keeping dry foods.

John Mason invented the first glass jar with a threaded rubber seal and a screw-on top in 1858. Wire-clamped jars like Lightning and Atlas jars were popular from the late 19th century until 1964 and can still be seen in garage sales and second-hand stores today.

The Great War (WWI)

During World War I, there was a dramatic increase in the demand for canned goods as military leaders sought inexpensive, high-calorie food that could be properly transported, endure the harsh conditions of the trenches, and not rot.

For the duration of the war, British troops ate mostly low-quality canned foods like British “Bully Beef” (cheap corned beef), pork and beans, canned sausages, and Maconochie’s Irish Stew.

However, by 1916, widespread dissatisfaction and increasing complaints about the poor quality of canned food among soldiers led militaries to seek better-quality food to improve morale, and complete meals-in-a-can began to appear.

The Italian Army tried out canned ravioli, spaghetti bolognese, Minestrone, and Pasta e Fagioli in 1917, while the French Army started providing canned French food such coq au vin, Beef Bourguignon, french onion soup, and Vichyssoise the previous year.

Due to canteen food shortages in 1917, the British government distributed smoke and amphetamines in mass amounts to its soldiers in an effort to curb their appetites. Canneries that had supplied the military after the war wanted to enhance their game for the civilian market.

Influential Figures In Their Fields

In the late 1800s, William Charles Ball and his brothers began acquiring smaller enterprises in the food preservation jar industry. The market soon shifted to make way for them as leaders.

It wasn’t until 1903 that American inventor Alexander Kerr came up with the wide-mouth canning jar (an innovation that the Ball brothers quickly duplicated). After that, in 1915, Kerr improved upon an earlier concept by a man named Julius Landsberger, who had invented a metal lid with a gasket that was permanently bonded to the metal.

Kerr devised a metal disk with a gasket like this, secured by a metal ring with threads. The first successful 2-piece canning lid was developed.


While tin cans are still widely used to store vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy goods, and processed foods, aluminum cans are now more generally used since they are lighter and do not rust. The art of canning is constantly evolving and presenting with the latest technology such as high-speed Levapack can packaging machines.

Single-piece canning lids, used by popular brands like Quattro Stagioni, are functionally equivalent to the more traditional 2-piece canning lid, thanks to the canning technology.

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