Packaging down the years - the history of the UK's Institute of Packaging

Packaging Professional magazine
1 Jan 2007

As we reflect on reaching our 60th year, we can do so with pride in terms of the contributions the Institute of Packaging (IoP) has made to the packaging industry. None more so than its impact on formal education and training.

In 1955, the first Diploma in Packaging Technology syllabus emerged. The course was presented via evening classes with input from Institute members. By 1959, the number of successful candidates had grown to 159 out of 200. A year later, when advertising a packaging position, the Littlewoods chain expressed a preference for applicants to hold ‘membership of the IoP by examination’. Six centres were set up and maintained.

Long distance

Other avenues for the provision of education and training were also explored and, in 1970, preparation for the first correspondence course began. The first candidate to apply was from South Africa, which indicated the scheme’s broad appeal. By March 1972, the number registered on this course had swollen to 200. Tutors were drawn from the Institute’s membership. They assessed and marked assignments and acted as mentors to students.

Essential to the programme were two textbooks – Fundamentals of Packaging and Packaging Materials and Containers (both edited by Frank Paine). In 1977, Packaging Materials and Containers was replaced by The Packaging Media, again edited by Frank Paine and containing some of the original text. It is also worth noting that the Institute published a number of monographs in the 1970s which later emerged in booklet form in the series Practical Packaging under the editorship of John Briston. These continued to be published until 1989.

Learning material

A working group was established in 1993 to develop texts and visual materials for use in classroom situations. This became a resource pack that encompassed 60% of the syllabus. It was designed for use in evening classes but also looked to the future and, in particular, the special requirements of overseas countries.

The next stage was for IoP to purchase the copyright of the text, The Fundamentals of Packaging Technology, written by Walter Soroka, which had been published by the Institute of Packaging Professionals in the USA. It was necessary to edit the book for the UK market and this was undertaken by Anne and Henry Emblem. With extensive knowledge of the industry, their scholarship resulted in an excellent text which was to be the core student reference for years to come.

In 1998, the Diploma in Packaging Technology was accredited under the Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme (CATS) by Sheffield Hallam University, UK. This meant that students holding the Diploma could obtain university credits, providing entry to university or as part exemption for their studies.

Issuing the certificate

Five years ago, the Institute introduced the Certificate in Packaging, a course designed for individuals who work in packaging and associated industries and still require knowledge of the fundamentals. In particular, those areas closely allied to managing commercial operations, such as warehousing and distribution, packaging cost, and the adjunct operations of printing and labelling.

Stamp of approval

The move to give credibility to courses and qualifications in all sectors was a feature of The Quality Control Authority [the UK Government’s examinations regulatory authority]. Research carried out in 2001/2 led to the creation of the awarding body in January 2003 and the setting up of the Packaging Industry Awarding Body Council (PIABC) as a division of the IoP. This was a major step and provided the power to ensure that the new programmes, the Diploma and Certificate, would be quality assured and that centres delivering the courses would meet the strict accreditation requirements.

The body is responsible for the development and monitoring of the qualifications as well as their award. It also opened the door to the introduction of National and Scottish Vocational Qualifications designed as work based training and targeted at different skill levels.

The Leonardo da Vinci Project is about to come to fruition with the introduction of the European Diploma in Packaging Technology. This will be valid across the whole of the European Union, setting a consistent standard.

To finish on a personal note, I recall talking with Ron Watson (President, Board of Directors, Retail Packaging Association) back in the early 1970s and suggesting that the nature of packaging was such that the IoP had an opportunity for its Diploma to circumnavigate the globe. Over the years the qualification has reached some 27 countries – an outstanding record and a great tribute to the institute.


Further information:

IoP became IOP: The Packaging Society following a merger with IOM3 in 2005.
Emeritus Professor H R Lovell is President of the Australian Institute of Packaging. Email: