Pop the Champagne -- Bubble Wrap Turning 50

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    In this Jan. 19, 2010 photo, Bubble Wrap streams out of an extruding line at Sealed Air's plant in Saddle Brook, N.J. Sealed Air is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Bubble Wrap this month.

    People have walked to the altar dressed in it, protected their garden plants with it, even put it on display at highbrow art museums.
     
    Mostly, people just like the sound it makes when they destroy it, piece by piece -- which largely explains the appeal of Bubble Wrap.
     
    The product once envisioned as a new type of wallpaper turns 50 this month, and enthusiasts' obsession with it has spawned more than 250 Facebook pages devoted to Bubble Wrap.

    Ken Aurichio, communications director for Sealed Air, the Elmwood Park-based company that manufactures Bubble Wrap, thought he'd witnessed every form of Bubble Wrap mania until he received a wedding invitation last year from a woman in Ohio who said she would wear the product on her trip down the aisle.
     
    "I'd never, never met her before," Aurichio said. "She must have gotten my name off the Web site."
     
    Like many innovations, Bubble Wrap initially was conceived for an entirely different purpose. According to Aurichio, a New York City designer approached inventors Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding in the late 1950s with a proposal for creating textured wallpaper.
     
    That idea stalled, but the product the two men had created in a small lab in New Jersey found its niche when, according to company lore, Fielding was flying into Newark Airport and noticed the fluffy clouds that seemed to cushion the plane's descent.
     
    Fifty years later, Sealed Air has global revenues of more than $4 billion and legions of fans who have come up with myriad uses for Bubble Wrap.
     
    "It seems like every day there's something new," said Rohn Shellenberger, the company's business manager for air cellular products.
     
    Two apparently disparate forces conspired to shape Bubble Wrap's growth: The advent of the transistor — and later the personal computer with all its accessories — which made the shipping of delicate electronic components a multibillion-dollar industry; and the Internet, which provided a forum for fanatics to swap stories and cement Bubble Wrap as a cultural icon.

    Then there's the true badge of hipness: A bubble-popping application for Apple's iPhone.