Before 1800, packaging was restricted almost entirely to containment for shipping, with minimum levels of protection and preservation. Grocery bags debuted in the 17th century, but it was not until the 19th century that practical bagmaking machinery was developed. The 19th century also saw the emergence of metal cans (1810), setup boxes (1844), folding cartons (1879), and the bottle machine (1899).

Early in the 20th century, marketingoriented packaging began to evolve and branding, quality, handling, and point-ofsale display became important attributes. By the end of World War II, packaging had become a major medium of advertising and marketing.

The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966 gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to determine that packages are labeled accurately. The 1990 Nutrition Labeling Act required packages to contain more nutritional information, forcing companies to relabel about 75% of all goods carried by supermarkets. Today, many manufacturers are working towards packaging that causes less damage to the environment.