Unwrapping the Secrets: The Fascinating Origins of 10 Iconic Product Packages

You spot them instantly on crowded store shelves. You‘d recognize them anywhere, even without the logo. They‘ve become embedded in popular culture, occasionally to the point of becoming artistic muses. We‘re talking, of course, about iconic product packages – those signature containers and wrappings that have become synonymous with the brands they contain.

But how did these memorable boxes, bags, bottles and cans come to be? Often, the stories behind their creation are as fascinating as the designs themselves. From whiskey-inspired eureka moments to the unintentional genius of frustrated inventors, the origins of many iconic packages have become the stuff of branding lore.

So pour a bowl of Campbell‘s soup, grab a handful of Pringles, and join us as we unbox the intriguing hidden histories of 10 instantly recognizable product packages. The stories might surprise you!

1. The Coca-Cola Contour Bottle

Perhaps no package is more iconic than the curvy Coca-Cola glass bottle. Dubbed the "contour bottle," this unique container was the result of a 1915 design contest that challenged glass companies to develop a bottle that could be recognized even if broken on the ground or touched in the dark.

The Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana won the challenge with a bottle design inspired by the shape and grooves of a cocoa pod. The bottle became so synonymous with the Coca-Cola brand that the company patented the contoured shape. Over a century later, it remains one of the most recognizable packages in the world.

2. The Pringles Can

The saddle-shaped stackable potato crisp known as the Pringle was an innovative concept, so it‘s fitting that it required an innovative package. When Procter & Gamble began developing Pringles in the 1960s, they needed a container that would keep the chips stacked neatly, prevent breakage, and keep them fresh. Inventor and organic chemist Fredric Baur rose to the challenge, spending 2 years designing the iconic Pringles can.

Interestingly, Baur was so proud of his invention that he told his family he wanted to be buried in a Pringles can. When he passed away in 2008, his children honored the request, placing part of his ashes in a Pringles can in his grave.

3. The Absolut Vodka Bottle

With its minimalist label and distinct shape, the Absolut bottle is a masterclass in elegant simplicity. Launched in 1979, the bottle was designed to reflect the pureness of the vodka within. The shape was inspired by an 18th-century Swedish medicine bottle found in an antique store in Stockholm.

Absolut made only minor changes to the original bottle design, but the simple container popped on shelves next to fancier vodka packages. It conveyed confidence in the product and made Absolut seem like a premium yet unpretentious choice. The bottle has since inspired countless creative ad campaigns, cementing its iconic status.

4. The McDonald‘s Clamshell Burger Container

Younger generations may not remember a time before paper burger wrappers, but those who came of age in the 80s and 90s likely feel a twinge of nostalgia at the sight of a McDonald‘s styrofoam clamshell burger container.

First introduced in 1976, the polystyrene foam package was designed to keep burgers hot and prevent sogginess – a constant challenge with paper wraps. The container‘s hinged design mimicked the shape of the bun and allowed for easy one-handed eating on the go.

While the clamshell was phased out in the early 90s due to environmental concerns around styrofoam, it remains an iconic symbol of the fast food culture of the era. Some collectors even sell vintage packages for hundreds of dollars online.

5. The Altoids Tin

The quirky, breath-freshening "curiously strong mints" known as Altoids have been packaged in distinctive metal tins since the early 1920s. But the origins of the Altoids brand actually date back to the reign of King George III, who ruled England during the American Revolution.

First created by London confectioner Smith & Company in the 1780s, Altoids were originally conceived as a stomach calming remedy. The mints were named after the Latin "alt" meaning "to change" and the Greek "oids" meaning "taking the form of" – as in, taking the form of a cure-all for indigestion and bad breath.

The mints surged in popularity throughout the 19th century, even earning a Royal Warrant as a supplier to the royal family in 1837. But it was the introduction of the distinctive "pocket-size" tins in the 1920s that cemented the brand‘s staying power. With a satisfying snap closure and a size perfect for pockets and purses, the Altoids tin is now an icon in its own right.

6. The Heinz Ketchup Bottle

The classic Heinz ketchup glass bottle is recognizable for its distinctive "keystone" label shape and the "57" etched into the glass near the neck. That "57" has generated many theories over the years, with some speculating that it represented the number of ingredients used or the best angle for pouring ketchup. In actuality, company founder H.J. Heinz simply believed 57 was a lucky number.

Another longstanding myth was that tapping the "57" makes the ketchup pour out faster, but Heinz company officials have said that‘s not the case. However, the placement of "57" is strategic – it sits at the sweet spot where a forceful tap can dislodge ketchup more easily. The bottle was designed with this in mind, even though Heinz never instructed consumers to whack the bottles.

7. The Toblerone Triangular Box

Swiss chocolatier Theodor Tobler launched Toblerone in 1908 with its distinct triangular shape and packaging. But the inspiration behind this design is a bit of a mystery. Some say the peaks represent the Swiss Alps, while others believe they mimic the shape created by a row of dancers at the Paris cabaret Tobler once frequented. Tobler himself simply said that he chose the shape because it was unique and would stand out from other chocolate bars.

Regardless, the triangle chunks made Toblerone an instant hit and inspired copycats. This prompted Tobler to quickly trademark the design and shape. He also trademarked the Matterhorn mountain logo that appears on Toblerone packs, definitively linking the brand to its Swiss heritage and Alpine inspiration.

8. The Pringles Can

When Procter & Gamble began developing Pringles in the 1960s, they knew they needed a container that would keep the saddle-shaped chips neatly stacked, unbroken and fresh. Inventor and organic chemist Fredric Baur spent 2 years designing the perfect package – a tall canister with a resealable plastic lid and an aluminum foil-lined interior to maintain freshness.

Baur was so proud of his design that he told his family he wanted to be cremated and buried in a Pringles can. When he passed away in 2008, his children honored the unusual request, placing part of his ashes in a Pringles can in his grave. Now that‘s what we call on-brand.

9. The Jagermeister Bottle

You might not expect the stag on the Jagermeister bottle to have a backstory, but the iconic image is steeped in legend. Hubertus, an 8th-century Belgian saint, was said to have had a vision of a glowing crucifix appearing between the horns of a stag while out hunting. This divine experience caused him to convert to Christianity and inspired him to use his wealth to establish churches and monasteries.

When Curt Mast developed his 56-ingredient herbal liqueur in 1934, he named it "Jagermeister" in a nod to Saint Hubertus, the patron saint of hunters. The Hubertus stag has adorned every bottle of Jagermeister since, although not without controversy. Some claimed the image was secretly a symbol for Satanism, but the brand has always maintained the true history.

10. The Chiquita Blue Sticker

The Chiquita banana brand and its Miss Chiquita mascot are advertising icons, but it‘s the simple blue sticker that transformed how we buy bananas. Before Chiquita began using these labels in 1963, banana quality varied widely since shoppers couldn‘t easily tell where the bananas came from. The little blue stickers allowed Chiquita to differentiate its bananas and build consumer trust.

Fun fact: Each Chiquita banana label has 3-5 small squares around the edge that indicate the banana‘s size code for easier sorting and inventory management. The brand now uses 4 different colors (blue, yellow, pink, and white) to distinguish where the bananas were grown. Who knew such a small sticker packed such a big punch?

From lucky numbers to liquor bottle saints, the surprising stories behind these famous packages illustrate that inspiration and innovation can come from anywhere. The next time you tear open a pack of Pringles or make a run for the border with a Doritos Locos taco, take a moment to appreciate the design that makes your favorite products so easy to spot in a crowd.