POSTED BY: Marie McGrath

A ‘Can’ Do Attitude

2nd May, 2018

A ‘Can’ Do Attitude

Who would have guessed that the all-time favourite soda pop would ultimately become one of the biggest targets in our present day war on sugar! From its nostalgic glory days to the buzz of making your own at home with the Soda Stream, it’s hard to believe the world’s favourite treat has ended up as Public Enemy Number 1.

For me, the excitement around soda probably began with the Soda Stream. The gadget entered our house one Christmas many, many years ago and the occasion is still very much embedded in my memory. In constant demand, no other kitchen appliance ever got so much use! It didn’t matter if it didn’t taste like the real thing or even anything close to it… it was all in the magic of making our own fizz!

This got me to thinking about soda in general and how “the soda can” has become such a huge part of our everyday experiences. It’s been such an amazing canvas for so many brands and in particular, for one of the all time iconic consumer brands – need I say more!

But where did it start out? How has it evolved? Or has it really evolved at all?

It seems that its origin is a bit of mystery – some suggesting it was Cliquot Ginger Ale back in 1938 with a product that was launched but then withdrawn from the market. Around this time Pepsi also tried, but that too ended just two years later due to leaking and exploding cans. It wasn’t till the 1950s that cone top cans and the flat cans we know and use today were developed. Flat cans were easier to stack and store on retailers’ shelves so ultimately they won out and most soft drink manufacturers began to jump on the bandwagon.

An interesting feature of this evolution was the way in which consumers actually drank from the can – an amazingly simple progression. Initially the soda was factory sealed and required an opener called a ‘Church Key’. This key would pierce the can in a triangular shape, but you had to also have another identical opening across from the drinking opening to let air in. The ‘pull tab’ also known as a “pop top” came about in the late 50s, but unfortunately these weren’t the safest solution either. 1975 saw the introduction of the ‘stay tab’ and that’s still the solution we use today… a simple but really effective design solution.

As brands evolve, their packaging must too – the can offers a unique opportunity to do this. Taking Pepsi as an example, you can see the subtle influences of the times throughout its can designs. The 60s introduced Sans Serif typography and a simplified design treatment, while the late 70s and 80s Pepsi use designs with more red than blue – a decision that was later reversed in an aim to distance themselves from their competitors. Today’s design is a big departure from the blocky uppercase mark. Simple and minimalist, it’s a truly confident solution that is bang on trend.


During the 90s, Pepsi introduced a number of limited edition cans to the market. Personalisation and limited edition runs have now become the norm due to the unique opportunity they offer brands to engage, celebrate specific occasions and establish a more local voice. By enabling brands to be spontaneous, react quickly and flex to changing consumer needs, this can ultimately enable them to gain a competitive edge.


So despite the many years since its inception, the evolution of the soda can has been quite steadfast. That said there has been some attempted innovation in the form of cans that can be resealed – designed to compete with the plastic bottle. We have even seen temperature sensitive inks which offer brand owners a unique opportunity to increase engagement with consumers before, during and after beverage consumption. We should however remember the one great thing that has not changed for the aluminum can – it continues to be one of the easiest and most cost effective materials to recycle.

So as soda companies fight the good fight on sugar and brand owners develop and innovative through their product ranges, lets hope the humble can continue with its role as an exciting canvas!


Marie McGrath, Account Manager – Brand & Packaging

Marie has many years’ design and consultancy experience to the team, gained from working alongside many of Ireland’s highly regarded brand heavyweights. She has extensive experience in branding, design and project management and injects a high level of creative and strategic thinking across all projects. Marie is constantly on the look out for new opportunities to enrich the brand experience and build your brand’s strength in the market. The primary communication conduit, she manages the entire process from concept to finishing, ensuring that the project delivers at every stage.