Have you ever wondered when the can had its breakthrough? Well, I did and so I did a little research. The triumphal march of the can dates back to the time right after World War I. Along with the growing industrialisation, the US food production increased enormously, so that the former military supply became a symbol of the modern world and its prosperity. Or as the narrator from the 1952’s documentary “Miracle of the Can” stated:

“So the miracle of the can continues, bringing to countless supporting industries added expansion and prosperity, to millions of people more jobs, better security and a better way of life.”

In order to stand out from all the other suppliers, brands offering canned food, came up with a bright variety of advertisements. And this is what caught me the most during my research, after all I just love art, history and cans, especially in combination, as you might recognize from my other articles. So get ready for my top 4 vintage can ads categories:

The Classic Can Ads

My favourite category of vintage can ads is the one of those classic posters and commercials from the past. In the rising era of canned food, especially after the two World Wars, the storytelling was all about family and having a good life. Furthermore, the ads often focused on the opportunities of good and fresh food for less money, the wide range of canned food offered. I like these commercials, because they transport this retro atmosphere of the “golden ages” of the 50s and 60s. In some fact, they are symbolising the American way of life and therefore a bright future for all. The fact, that canned food is good and fresh is often forgotten today as the focus is many times just on the convenience aspect.

Low Cost Heinz

Back Again…21 Soups from Campbell’s

The Dream Can Ads

When talking about vintage ads, a category not to be missed is “exotic dreams”. As canned food became available for many people, various exotic fruits became buyable for them, too. Therefore, big companies like Libby’s or Del Monte used this for their ads, of course. The consumer had the feeling to get this tropical, exotic breeze from faraway countries by simply opening a can of these brand’s food. The mostly colourful ads of this category perfectly show the people’s desire to travel and dream of paradise-like holiday locations. Cans are real all-round talents, that even take us to other places, at least in our mind.

Libby’s Pineapple

Del Monte Pineapple

The Cosy Can Ads

Is there anything better, than a hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day? This idea is, indeed, not new, as the third category of vintage ads for cans illustrates very well. In addition to the family-focused category one, there are plenty of ads arousing homey emotions. Good examples of these ads, are the typical cocoa promoting posters, often with small children or a winter scenery. But the meta message is more important than the fact, that a hot chocolate is quite nice, on cold days. With these products you get a cosy home and enjoy quality time with your family. For me, these visuals also give me a feeling of Christmas time, of which I am actually a very big fan.

Hershey’s Cocoa

Kraft Cocoa

The Crazy Can Ads

Last but not least, it’s time for the crazy ones. I just love to see what companies have tried to sell in cans in the past. Two of my favourite examples are the canned hamburgers and the canned ribs, two things you would probably never buy in cans. I mean, I‘m a really big fan of canned food, but hamburgers and ribs coming in cans are somehow weird. Nonetheless, they are the best evidence, that at a time of rising canned food, companies have tried to bring new products to market and to offer their customers a range of cans that was even wider than before. So, although this is more of a fun category, it is also the category that shows the possibilities cans provide.  

Canned Hamburgers

Canned Ribs


What is your favourite vintage can ad (category)? We would love to see them!

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