The man behind aluminium packaging





16-6-1915 29-8-2011

DAVID Reynolds, a metals manufacturing executive who helped bring aluminium foil and aluminium beverage cans into homes and commercial kitchens around the world, has died at a university medical centre in Richmond, Virginia. He was 96.

He followed his brother, Richard Reynolds, as president, and was the last member of his family to lead Reynolds Metals, which was founded in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1919 by his father, Richard Reynolds snr, and grew to become the second-largest aluminium* (aluminum in the US) manufacturer behind Alcoa in the United States.

Reynolds was sold to Alcoa in 2000, five years after Reynolds stepped down from its board.

Reynolds joined the family business as a salesman out of college in 1937 and began trying to persuade the major St Louis breweries to affix aluminium labels to their beer bottles. Almost 50 years later, at age 71, he retired as Reynolds's chairman and chief executive, positions he held for a decade.

Reynolds oversaw the development of aluminium products for the aerospace, automotive and construction industries. But he was best known for bringing the metal to a mass consumer clientele.

As aluminium sales slowed after World War II, Reynolds and his brothers hoped to avoid a glut by aggressively promoting aluminium's use in consumer goods and packaging.

Aluminium foil had been sold since the 1920s, largely as an industrial product, but Reynolds saw an opportunity for Reynolds Wrap to become a household staple. He developed television commercials to show how aluminium foil could be used in cooking, and he arranged demonstrations to educate consumers on how to wrap leftovers.

"David was really the big pusher of Reynolds Wrap," said Randolph Reynolds, a nephew, who worked at Reynolds Metals for 32 years.

Aluminium beer cans made their debut in the late 1950s, and the Reynolds company was quick to take notice. It began manufacturing 12-ounce (0.45 litre) aluminium cans for the Theodore Hamm Brewing Co. of Minnesota in 1963, and four years later it introduced the first aluminium cans for Pepsi and Diet Pepsi.

Today, more than half of all beverages sold in American supermarkets come in aluminium packaging. This figure is believed to be roughly the same in other developed countries.

"It was very important in helping build the American soft drink business," said John Sicher, the publisher of Beverage Digest. "It provided consumers with a lightweight, low-cost and highly recyclable package."

Reynolds earned a reputation as an environmentalist promoting the re-use of aluminium as a solution to litter and waste. In 1987, he received an award from the organisation Keep America Beautiful for pioneering efforts in recycling.

Reynolds was born in Bristol, Tennessee. He graduated in 1934 from the Lawrenceville School, where he was captain of the football team. Four years later he graduated from Princeton University and joined his three older brothers William, Richard jnr and J. Louis at Reynolds Metals.

Reynolds, who lost an eye playing polo during his junior year at Princeton, owned dozens of thoroughbred racehorses, including Tabasco Cat, who won the 1994 Preakness and Belmont Stakes, the final two legs of US racing's triple crown. Another top sprinter that he bred and owned, Lord Carson, was a multiple stakes race winner who equalled the track record for six furlongs at both Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, and Turfway Park, in Florence, Kentucky.

Beyond beverage cans and kitchen wrap, Reynolds promoted the use of aluminium in everyday life and frequently tested ideas on his family. The Reynolds house was outfitted with an aluminium solar-panelled roof an aluminium Christmas tree graced their home during the holidays and the family freezer was stocked with foil-wrapped ice-cream from the Eskimo Pie Co., a subsidiary of the family metals business.

Reynolds even gave his wife aluminium jewellery, something she wore sparingly, preferring more precious metals.

In retirement, he lived at his homes in Richmond, Del Ray Beach, Florida, and Wequetonsing, Michigan.

His wife, Margaret, died in 1992, and he is survived by three daughters, six grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

* Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the earth's crust, and is a major constituent of clays and feldspars. The main commercial ore is bauxite. The metal is resistant to corrosion because of a surface layer of oxide, and its lightness and strength (especially when alloyed) have led to widespread use in domestic utensils, engineering parts, and aircraft construction. Aluminium metal was first prepared by H. C. Oersted in 1825, alumina having been recognised as the oxide of an unknown metal by A. Lavoisier in 1782. Source: Oxford dictionary

Join the Conversation...

There are comments posted so far.

If you'd like to join this conversation, please login or sign up here

Related Articles