Lemon juice has long come in containers shaped like lemons. In the U.K., the containers hold an important legacy—both through pancakes and the legal system.


Filed under: industrial design, lemon to express bottles, lemons, manufacturing, plastic, plastic history, squeeze bottles


Today in historicsweetsballroom.com: Plastic, barring every the environmental problems and health comes to that could come v it, is awesome as a moldable product. It reflects up in all sorts of places, from laptop cases, to CDs, to bottles. Today, I want to talk about a common, but relatively obscure use for plastic: together a way to market lemon juice. Someone had the idea to offer lemon juice inside a squeezable container the looks exactly like a lemon, and also it’s been something the a fight product ever before since. Who had this idea, and why was it therefore successful? Today’s historicsweetsballroom.com investigates. — Ernie
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“This very same lemon juice, contained in glass bottles, has been marketing in groceries for years. Currently it has received fresh impetus since a year or two ago some smart container designer encouraged its manufacturers to sell it in lemon-like containers which help justify the insurance claim to actual lemon juice.”


— Alice Hughes, a syndicated columnist, discussing the increase of lemon-shaped plastic containers, which ended up being common in the united States and the united kingdom in the 1950s. Such gadgets were developed by a brothers firm, Edward Hack, Ltd., in the 1950s, despite a number of American providers quickly copied the idea. However, a legal paper suggests they initially came from Italy in the post-World war II era.

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An instance of the plastic lemon form. (Drew McLellan/Flickr)

Why lemon juice is therefore perfect because that this sort of container

There’s no reason why lemons, specifically, need to be the only type of juice sold in a container that looks favor the original product. (OK, limes are as well, but they’re sort of a comparable deal.) but a big reason may have something to execute with the details use situation for lemon juice.

Simply: It’s typically not a beverage on its own, however an ingredient, which provides it a perfect enhance for squeeze out bottles. Even prior to the lemon-shaped product took hold, the plastic squeeze bottle was obtaining promise together a potential family tool. A 1953 Chicago Tribune short article highlighting brand-new ideas because that household commodities from recent tradeshows showed off a couple of plastic to express bottles, together with a lemon squeezer shaped prefer a fish.

“Plastics space being used more and an ext in family items,” the short article claimed, together it showed instances of together bottles being provided for window cleaners and also and dampening laundry around to be ironed.

So, that gets us about halfway there—squeezable plastic commodities were about to take end the kitchen. Yet why, specifics lemons?

In 2015, beach Packaging Design, one industrial architecture firm, did part digging into this curious object, which appears to be all over without lot of an explanation as to how it became so common. And also ultimately, they came to the conclusion the a designer called Bill Pugh deserves the credit transaction for comes up with the idea because that this wonderful device.

Pugh to be the chief plastic designer for a agency named Cascelloid, which was the only firm in the joined Kingdom—and among only two carriers in the human being at the time—that had actually a maker that was able to blow plastic bottles right into a molded shape.

Per his 1994 obituary in The Independent, Pugh developed a mold out of a combination of wood and also lemon peel, recreated the mold with plaster, played v the form as lot as possible, and eventually came up with the perfect form.

This to be one of plenty of molded plastic products that Pugh’s team draft in the around two years he operated with Cascelloid. He to be an artist the sorts, and his medium was molded plastic.

“He was patient and also a perfectionist,” the obituary stated. “In comparable vein the made funny plastic fruits, a gaudy tomato-shaped ketchup party for café tables, and a range of nasal sprays.”

They make the efforts other tools for this idea. However in terms of combining novelty and function, the lemon hit every the bases—you only require a tiny lemon juice at a time, and it demands to it is in stored for long periods. Hence, that"s why we have this for lemons (and limes) and also not, uh, oranges.

A Hax Lemon Juice advertisement in a 1955 version of The Chemist and Druggist. (via beach Packaging Design"s "Box Vox" blog)

Originally, Pugh’s lemony production was built for a firm called Edward Hack, Ltd., which reportedly helped with the development of the plastic lemon through putting lot work into finding the perfect specimen. The lemon, initially, was marketed under the brand surname Hax.

But there to be a problem: roughly the same time, this other male named Stanley Wagner came up with a very comparable lemon idea, i m sorry he had briefly sold under the Realemon brand name until he had been referred to as out because that infringing one American trademark.

“It’s likewise interesting to note how tiny is make of Wagner’s evident trademark infringement,” coast Packaging style pondered in that article. “Coldcrops, Ltd. Originally passed off their lemon juice packs together the American ‘Realemon’ brand and also then, ‘after an objection by the then board of Trade,’ simply shortened the surname to ‘Realem.’”

(More top top ReaLemon in a bit.)

There was briefly a legal battle between the 2 sides, yet eventually, Reckitt & Colman swooped in, gained the rights for the plastic lemons from both the Edward Hack and Stanley Wagner elements, and soon enough, “Realem” obtained its present name, Jif.

(Which, it need to be said, is much better known as a peanut-butter-related brand surname in the U.S.)


The percent of the annual sales of Jif plastic lemons sold ahead that Shrove Tuesday, according to a 2012 Marketing article. (For Americans and also anyone else who isn’t British: Shrove Tuesday, likewise known as Pancake Day, is the day prior to Ash Wednesday. In various other words, us literally simply finished Shrove Tuesday, for this reason no lemon-juice-seasoned pancakes for you.) The brothers lemon brand, thanks to part clever marketing, has actually long been closely associated with the pre-Lent event, to the allude where the work is referred to as Jif Lemon work in some quarters.


A Jif lemon. (Gin Soak/Flickr)

How a marketing battle over plastic lemon became crucial British legal case

The Jif lemon no a actual lemon, however it had marketed itself as a clever substitute for virtually 30 year by the time it confronted the first true difficulty to that is domination.

In 1985, that difficulty came in the kind of what could best be described as an American invasion—one, notably, that had previously offered the lemon brand headaches. The U.S. Company Borden, which then owned the ReaLemon brand and also was doing pretty well selling lemon juice to world throughout Europe, saw the success that Jif was having with its plastic lemons in the U.K., and also decided that it wanted in on this market.

ReaLemon, i beg your pardon was currently common in the U.S., had actually came up v its own variants top top the lemon design, every one of which play on the fact that lemon juice was frequently sold in a form that mimicked the organic product. This proved too much for Jif owners Reckitt & Colman, who finished up suing Borden over its too-close-for-comfort marketing.

This emphasize a problem for Reckitt & Colman: The architecture of that is lemon made its product distinctive in plastic form, yet effectively difficult to trademark.

“The purity the this idea, though, exposed the brand come imitation and also costly litigation,” brand consultant Silas Amos argued in a 2012 Marketing article. “Perhaps including one ‘twist’ to the lemon architecture might have turned an noticeable idea right into a more distinctive (and protectable) brand?”

That made the legal case approximately Reckitt & Colman Ltd. V Borden Inc, chose by the residence of Lords in 1990, an essential part of British instance law, together it produced a test for proving even if it is a product deserved legitimate protection despite otherwise being generic—a principle known in British law as “passing off.”


The gist of the three-part test, as formulated by mr Oliver that Aylmerton:

There need to be an existing reputation that the general public carries through the initial product or design. (check)The competing product create confusion or misrepresentation in the market, even if it is intentional or not. (check)There room signs the the confusion created by the contending product negatively impacts the bottom line of the original one. (double-check)

Reckitt & Colman quickly hit all three components of this test, and also it was assisted by the reality that they hosted a monopoly of sorts on plastic lemons until ReaLemon come along.

lthough the usual law will defend goodwill versus misrepresentation by recognising a monopoly in a details get-up, it will not recognise a syndicate in the write-up itself,” mr Oliver wrote in his legit opinion. “Thus A can compete with B by copy his goods listed that the does not execute so in together a way as to imply that his products are those the B. Lawful competition will not be limited by the typical law.”

As a an outcome of this case, Borden wasn’t barred from making a plastic lemon the looked prefer a genuine one, however they had actually to placed much much more work into ensuring that they weren’t merely succeeding by producing marketing confusion through the Jif lemon.


The brilliance that the style of the Jif lemon, in part ways, is additionally its downfall.

From a marketing perspective, the idea behind this bottle was straightforward to start with as a branding idea—because, effectively, mommy Nature had currently done most of the branding occupational for them. All they had actually to execute was offer it a little squeeze.


A video of Jif lemons gift manufactured.

But the prompt familiarity and also innate novelty only goes so far. If another firm attempts to sell a lemon in the very same vein together Jif, the company’s current owner, Unilever, isn’t afforded the exact same kinds of defense for the brand that various other kinds of commodities might earn. In fact, the lawsuit itself was something of a Hail mar pass to rescue some type of regulate over the brand’s destiny. Fortunately for Jif, that worked.

Part the the trouble for Procter & Gamble, and also other providers running right into branding problems of this nature in the future, is that the Reckitt & Colman ruling collection a standard few other companies have the right to reach there is no what Jif had—that is, a heavy generation of goodwill and also a vacation nicknamed after ~ the product.

“Reckitt & Colman succeeded in its claim,” the architecture firm Coley Porter Bell composed on that is blog. “However, the uniqueness of the to express lemon packaging collection the bar very high because that brands following them right into court v a complaint over passing off.”

You can’t trademark nature, yet sometimes your certain squeeze ~ above the issue is what sets you apart.

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Clarification: very early mention that a fish-shaped lemon squeezer in the write-up made it sound favor it to be a squeeze out bottle. In fact, it actually squeezes actual lemons. Sorry the was confusing; us cleared that ar up.