A bottle made of paper

paper bottle

A bottle made of paper

When Akanksha from New Delhi carries home a bottle of milk, the bottle is seldom a bottle. In many cases it is a tetrahedron-shaped, plastic-coated paper carton, heralded as one of the most successful Nordic inventions of all time.

Traced by:
Frederik Preisler

In the 1930s the company, Åkerlund & Rausing produced all sorts of paper packaging for dry staple groceries, but was determined to find a way to pre-package liquids like milk and cream. The goal was to provide optimal food safety, hygiene and distribution efficiency using a minimum amount of material, according to the subsequently famous credo that a package should “save more than it costs”.

The new package had to be sufficiently cheap to be able to compete with loose milk. In other words, the goal was minimum material waste and maximum production efficiency.

A success has many fathers – but only one mother

In 1944, the company’s lab came up with the idea of constructing a tetrahedron-shaped package out of a tube of paper. The idea was simple, but efficient, making optimal use of the material involved. It was reportedly Ruben Rausing’s wife, Elisabeth Rausing who came up with the idea of continuously sealing the packages through the milk while filling the tube in the manner of stuffing sausages, to prevent oxygen from entering the package.

The Genius of Everyday Things

The Tetra Brik carton package was represented at the exhibition Hidden Heroes – The Genius of Everyday Things at the London Science Museum/Vitra Design Museum, celebrating “the miniature marvels we couldn’t live without”.

A little more info

  • Tetra Pak is currently the largest food packaging company in the world in terms of sales, operating in more than 170 countries and with over 23,000 employees (2012).
  • When visiting the Tetra Pak factory in Lund in the 1950s, the Danish physics professor and Nobel Prize laureate, Niels Bohr allegedly claimed to “never have seen such an adequate practical application of a mathematical problem” as the tetrahedron package.
  • The aseptic packaging technology has been called the most important food packaging innovation of the 20th Century. Whether the same kind of praise one day will be given to the Danish brewery, Carlsberg’s on-going experiments with a bottle made of fibres remains to be seen.