The Atlantic addresses the supermarket's transition to plastic, particularly the history of cellophane (and eventually plastic wrap) and its direct correlation to impulse buying. Here are a few takeaways:
- Open-access shelving and self-service was a novel, game-changing strategy in its day. (It was initially seen as a threat to the full-service meat, cheese, and produce counters, and food producers were reluctant to implement it.)
- Cellophane was introduced in the 1920's, and the clear, flexible food packaging became "all-important to stimulate unplanned, impulse buying," according to surveys conducted by DuPont's Market Research Section of the Cellophane Division.
- The original cellophane produced by DuPont was a cellulose-based material made from wood. Nowadays much of what we refer to as "cellophane" is actually plastic wrap made from petroleum-derived PVC, which replaced traditional cellophane beginning in the 1960's.