Nicolas APPERT (1749 - 1841)
Essential inventor for food preservation

Nicolas Appert
Nicolas Appert

For over two centuries, his invention has become a must-have of our daily lives without every realising where this ingenuity has come from.

This discovery was to revolutionise the food industry across the world: appertisation or a kind of canned food.

This relentless researcher was born in Châlons-en-Champagne, in the east of France in 1749.

He went from being a cook to a worker in a sweet shop and was quickly to perform an experiment with the heat that he used for the syrups that was to form the basis of preservation.

In 1795, in his workshop of Ivry-sur-Seine, he fine tuned his technique by heating foodstuffs to over 100° in airtight closed containers. He then discovered that the product could be kept for a very long time.

In 1802, based on this air-free heat preservation process, he created his own canning plant in Massy, where he managed the production and marketing of canned foods.

In 1810, his process was officially recognised and his invention set the trend.

This humanist inventor continued to fuel the passion of his quest and discovered the principle of condensed milk.

Nicolas APPERT died on 1st June 1841 before his 92nd year. 

His process is alive and well today enabling us to conserve every bit of the nutritional and  gustatory quality of the foodstuffs thus appertised.

The ingenious destiny of the CAN


Nicolas APPERT (1749-1841), a confectioner from Champagne created the first preserves in glass jars in Ivry-sur Seine. This entailed placing a foodstuff in an airtight container and sterilising it by cooking above 100°C. Hence the birth of appertisation.


The foodstuff preservation process created by Nicolas APPERT was officially recognised.
A patent that was to set an example.

from 1810

The French sardine preserves adopted the APPERT process. The oldest tin of sardines known in France dates back to 1810.
It bears a copper stamp in the name of Joseph-Pierre COLIN, regarded as the founder of the canning industry. In his Gourmet Calendar book of 1810, the food columnist, Grimod Reynière, commended the freshness of the confit sardines of Nantes packaged in a metal tin.

from 1815

Canning expanded in France. In addition to sardines and other fish, meat, vegetables and fruit were then appertised in tin cans.

from 1841

The production process started to get more sophisticated.
The Brits Donkin, Hall and Gamble used a control cabinet to check the sterility of their preserves. This was the birth of "quality control". Raymond CHEVALIER-APPERT registered a patent for an "autoclave with special pressure gauge" process enabling the temperature of the sterilisation chamber be to raised above 100°C, in controlled pressure conditions.

from 1846

The American Allan TAYLOR patented a can printing machine in 1846.
In France, the first printing dates back to 1863.
The canner H. VOISIN developed a flat machine with two cylinders in 1868 to print high quality decoration at a rate of 700 sheets per hour.
This was to see the start of direct lithographic printing.
It was to be replaced by offset printing at the beginning of the XXth century.


Louis PASTEUR identified microbes and demonstrated how they could be destroyed at high temperature. This underlined the importance of Nicolas APPERT’s discoveries.
Jean-Baptiste GEORGET developed a special varnish to protect the inside of tin cans from acid etching by foodstuffs.
It was commonly called "Chatenay varnish".


The pull-off sardine tin, of an unknown inventor, was marketed for the first time.
The can with surrounding strip, which appeared at the same time, was attributed to the RIOM PINARD firm.


PECHINAY manufactured in France the first seamless aluminium stapled tin with base and lid crimped according to the same principle as the tin can.
Aluminium was used in Norway from 1930 to package certain shellfish subsequently followed by sardines.


Appearance of moulding on the body of steel cans to ensure improved mechanical strength as the thickness of the metal required to manufacture them was becoming thinner and thinner.


Appearance of the first easy opening base which went on to be constantly improved. In 1989, Eole, the easy opening base set a new quality standard which is still in use today.

The ever-lasting,
ever-growing tin can

The recycling rate of metal packaging in Europe has reached 61% and 57% in France.

Whether steel or aluminium, the can is hugely advantageous in terms of the environment: it is recyclable and recycled 100%, ad infinitum, and its properties remain intact (technical performance). Whether steel or aluminium, metal packaging is easy to extract and sort in household waste management flows.

In France, the recycling rate of steel packaging is 71% and approximately 50% for aluminium.

Food and mankind: the need for preservation

In the early days, primitive man instinctively kept the surplus from his hunting and fishing for days when food was in short supply. The process was simple, drying in the sun and smoking.

In ancient times, sea salt was used to preserve meat and fish.

A sweeter story involved the Romans who preserved game in honey.

The Conquistadors discovered cocoa powder, dried fruit and pulses in the attics of Aztec buildings. Here again, sun drying and the reduction of foods into powder form are natural preservation solutions.

Fermentation of drinks were stabilised thanks to the measured addition of doses of alcohol.

In large jars, cushions of fat covering food gave rise to confits to preserve pieces of meat, game and poultry in particular.

However, the revolution in preservation stems from Nicolas APPERT’s discovery (at over 100°) and an airtight container. This appertisation process (called after its inventor) was to allow for long-term preservation of foodstuffs keeping their nutritional and gustatory qualities intact.

Since this remarkable discovery, the principle of appertisation remains true to the idea of its inventor. Technical changes have come along in order to adapt this to the nutritional requirements and demands of users.