The Foundations of Foil
More than a century of achievement and continuous progress
The first aluminium rolling plant in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland was opened by Robert Victor Neher who took out a patent in 1910 for the continuous rolling process. Initially regarded as a replacement for tin foil, by 1911 Bern-based Tobler began wrapping its chocolate bars in alufoil, including the iconic Toblerone. By 1912 foil was being used by Maggi to pack its range of soups and stock cubes.
The unique properties of alufoil have brought many benefits for converters, brand owners, retailers and, of course, consumers. Keeping flavour and freshness in while protecting against damaging moisture or light are today taken for granted, but were revolutionary when first proven.
In the 21st century aluminium foil is performing a vital role in every conceivable market - from food and drink to pharmaceuticals. Applications cover aseptic beverage and juice cartons, sachets, pouches, lids, wrappers, blister and strip packs, coffee pods, foil trays and containers, plus much more.
On the horizon are even more markets, for both existing and new formats, for this ubiquitous material. Already microwaveable containers are gaining traction throughout Europe, while exciting and highly consumer focused applications for pharmaceutical products – such as low cost drug delivery systems and devices, or high barrier packs for biomeds – are reaching the market.
Robert Victor Neher took out a patent for the continuous rolling process and opened the first aluminium rolling plant in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland.1910
Bern-based Tobler began wrapping its chocolate bars in alufoil including the unique triangular chocolate bar, Toblerone.1911
Alufoil was being used by Maggi to pack soups and stock cubes.1912
Alufoil's influence as a successful packaging material in Germany grew sufficiently to make real inroads into the dairy sector, one of the largest sectors of the German economy. Moreover, Household foil had been introduced successfully in the US.1920s
Alufoil comprehensively conquered the packaging market for butter and cheese. At the time a reviewer of the sector wrote: "More so than in any other sector, foil keeps highly sensitive products, especially butter and cheese fresh longer. It is an unrivalled and indispensable aid in the battle against deterioration." Additionally, 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.1930s
Alufoil was first proposed as a packaging material for butter at the World's Dairy Congress in Berlin. Results of studies revealed that alufoil allowed butter to stay fresher for two-three months longer than previously used materials.1937
In Europe, the first alufoil food containers were used for bakery products appearing on the market, soon followed by a variety of other foodstuffs.1948
The TV Dinner, the forerunner of today's ready meal, was created in the US. Packed in compartmented aluminium trays the idea soon spread to Europe. But it was not only consumer packaging that benefited, semi-rigid alufoil was also in use for technical applications such as industrial products including fats, waxes and adhesive compounds.1954
Thin alufoil was used in conjunction with paper and PE to create a laminate for aseptic cartons (TetraBrik). Originally conceived for use with UHT milk, the alufoil laminated carton has now established itself for applications including fruit juices, soups, yoghurt drinks and much more. Another success story in the1960s was the alufoil laminate tube, comprising plastic/paper/ alufoil, which conquered markets for goods such as toothpaste, cosmetic creams and pharmaceutical ointments.1960s
Greatly assisting the growth of alufoil was the formation of the European Aluminium Foil Association which has been instrumental in spreading the message to a wide audience, and growing its success into the 21st century.1974
The first large-scale use of an aluminium-plastic laminate, for a well-known effervescent tablet for headaches, took place.1978
Blister packs were starting to be introduced on a wide scale.1980s
Alufoil was accepted as an innovative material for almost all packaging applications with expressions such as "foil-sealed for freshness" becoming commonplace on branded packs. Alufoil was also responsible for the growth of a new market for easy-open ‘gourmet' pet food containers.1990s
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 ultimate consumers.2000s
The Age of Convenience and Resource Efficiency
Successes in light weighting of alufoil which had begun in the eighties led to material savings of more than 30% in the new millennium, and in turn this has provided growth in markets for resource efficient packaging options. 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. To name just a few, 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.