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Updated: Jun 24, 2022
I am so glad you are able to join me on my nostalgic trip through the visual history of food packaging design. From the Suez Crisis to Y2K, you will witness incremental changes in the psyche of a nation as seen through the prism of consumer culture.
This particular journey begins with the creation of a uniquely American invention: the Groceteria - or, as it would later become known, the Supermarket. The first true self-service grocery store was Piggly Wiggly, established in Memphis, Tennessee on September 11th, 1916. It was novel insofar as it was an establishment where you could handle, inspect and choose your food before buying it.
Before this innovation in shopping, you gave your shopping list to the grocery store clerk and they did the shopping for you. Piggly Wiggly's founder Clarence Saunders posited that a self-serving retail model would reduce expenditure on labour (therefore potentially increasing profits and lowering prices).
At this point in time - over 100 years later - the profusion of self-checkout wickets may be seen as an extension of this business model. However, since the COVID 19 pandemic, online grocery shopping has become increasingly popular. A phenomenon that is creating, once again, a need for ambulatory clerks who can rove the produce aisles, with shopping lists in hand.