AN ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN FOR CARBONATED BEVERAGES advised consumers in 1956 to "Enjoy Sparkling Soft Drinks!" and "Life is Great When You Carbonate!" Soft drinks were being marketed as a digestive aid that helped the body absorb nutrients, maintain a balanced diet, and cure hangovers. As early as 1930, can manufacturers had begun to explore the possibility of adapting cans to package carbonated beverages. And beer and soft drink companies eagerly anticipated a means of delivering more volume, more efficiently to consumers. Cans would be sturdier than glass bottles and their shape more amenable to transportation and storage. But the can first had to be strengthened to accommodate higher internal can pressures created by carbonation—especially during warm summer months. Without increasing the thickness of the metal used, distortion of the end would strain the seal, potentially causing leaks and making the cans unstackable.
Tobacco, cigarettes and cigard were among the first products
to be commonly sold in tins of various shapes and styles
including the infamous Prince Albert in a can.
Soft drinks appeared in cans
as early as 1938. This Pepsi
can design dates from the 1960s.
The Coca-Cola Company introduced
the "Harlequin" design in 1966.
The use of cans for carbonated beverages was delayed, however, because of material limitations mandated by the government during the Korean War. When the restriction ended after the war, the new beverage can was introduced and marketed nationwide. However, a new competitor to the market—aluminum—would soon inspire can manufacturers to embark on a program of cost savings to reduce both the amount of steel and coatings used in can making.
The first aluminum beverage can was manufactured by Reynolds Metals Company in 1963 and used to package a diet cola called "Slenderella." Royal Crown adopted the aluminum can in 1964, and by 1967 Pepsi and Coke followed. This was an exciting innovation for the packaging industry because the aluminum can was made with only two pieces—a body and an end. This made 360-degree printing possible on the body of the can, increasing store display potential and shelf appeal. A can could now advertise its contents with dramatic and colorful graphics, drawing the consumer's eye to the package and creating a visual draw to purchases of one brand over another. This market advantage was further leveraged by the introduction of the multi-pack, which allowed for twelve cans to be packaged together in a compact paperboard box. The secondary packaging of the multi-pack, in addition to the graphics on the cans themselves, created a billboard for product advertising. Even more importantly, multi-packs increased sales. Consumers could easily and cost-effectively stock their refrigerators and pantries with their favorite beverages, and bottlers could move signficantly more volume. Pepsi-Cola first introduced a twelve pack of cans in 1972, noting that once consumers chose a product and a brand they would happily buy larger units.
Canned soft drinks were first dispensed in vending machines in 1961, joining glass bottle and paper cup machines, and by the late 1960s, dominated the vending market. Some years later, in a popular series of national television ads, both space aliens and supermodel Cindy Crawford would choose cans of Pepsi from a vending machine. By 1985, the aluminum can was the most popular beverage package in any market. Today's consumers buy soft drinks from their grocery stores in aluminum cans four times as often as in plastic bottles, and thirty-eight times as often as in glass bottles.