Over 100 years old and still moving forward
A little overview about alufoil’s history looking at past, current and some future (technical) developments.
Conceived as a replacement for tin foil, Robert Victor Neher took out a patent in 1910 for the continuous rolling process and opened the first aluminium rolling plant in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, and by 1911 Bern-based Tobler began wrapping its chocolate bars in alufoil including the unique triangular chocolate bar, Toblerone. And by 1912 alufoil was being used by Maggi to pack soups and stock cubes. (Manufacturing History)
Over its history converters, brand owners, retailers and ultimate consumers have all benefited from alufoil's unique barrier properties which provide a total block to light, moisture and aroma. Today it is used in every conceivable market from food and drink to pharmaceuticals. Applications include aseptic beverage cartons, sachets, pouches, lids, wrappers, blister and strip packs, foil containers and much more. And coming up over the horizon are even more markets and resource efficient options. These include microwaveable containers gaining a foothold throughout Europe and fascinating and technically innovative applications for pharmaceutical foils.
But none of this would have been possible without the vision of the early innovators. In the 1920s for example the dairy sector began to benefit from alufoil's advantages over the previously used tin foil: its chemical properties meant that it did not turn black when coming into contact with cheese and was some 20 % more economical than using tin. Other uses included baking products where alufoil's non-stick properties came into their own, while by the mid-1930s the European alufoil sector began to produce rolls of household foil for the domestic kitchen as either a tear off product on rolls or as loose sheets in bags. Marketed as "sterile, free from bacteria, clean and trouble free, and reusable" alufoil's inroads into packaging markets continued up to the Second World War. (Link to Alufoil's history 1910 - 1940)
A spectacular period of growth in the 1950s and 1960s saw alufoil production quadruple, and both rolling speeds and rolling widths increasing dramatically, helping to feed demand. In the early 1950s as freezers became more affordable and began to appear in consumers' homes, TV Dinners, the forerunner of today's ready meals, packed in compartment alufoil trays began to shake up the food market. Developments such as these signposted the beginnings of a revolution in consumer convenience with alufoil used successfully for frozen foods, soup and stock cubes; and heat-sealable pouches for coffee, cocoa, tea and spices.
The 1960s heralded a number of major market developments where alufoil's protective properties against light and oxygen were used to good effect, for example thin alufoil was used in conjunction with paper and PE to create a laminate for aseptic cartons (Tetra Brik). And in 1978 the first use of an aluminium-plastic laminate took place for a well-known effervescent tablet for headaches. By the end of the 1990s alufoil was accepted as an innovative material for almost all packaging applications with expressions such as "foil-sealed for freshness" becoming commonplace on many branded packs. (Alufoil's history 1945 - 1999)
Come the new millennium resource efficiency and even better consumer convenient options were the major goals for alufoil, as they were for all material sectors, converters, brand owners, retailers and consumers. Successes in lightweighting led to material savings of more than 30 % in the 2000s, and in turn this has provided growth in markets for resource efficient packaging options, where its recyclability is also a major plus for customers and consumers alike.
Today alufoil's unique barrier properties are being merged increasingly with flexible films to create lightweight packs with excellent preservation properties and this has been instrumental in their use for a number of exciting new and expanding markets including pouches for everything from pet food to drinks; lidding applications; technically innovative solutions for pharmaceuticals; and the increasing acceptance of alufoil as a microwave safe material. (Aufoil's history 2000 - )