Nicolas Appert: The Father of Modern Food Preservation


Who was Nicolas Appert? Discover the fascinating story of Nicolas Appert, the French confectioner and inventor behind the modern process of thermal sterilization for food preservation. Learn about his pioneering work, challenges, and lasting impact on the canning industry.

Nicolas Appert

Nicolas Appert;(1749-1841), French confectioner and inventor. He was born in Châlons-sur-Marne, France, on Nov. 17, 1749. He is sometimes erroneously called François Appert. Appert is renowned as the originator of the modern process of thermal sterilization of foods in sealed containers, which led to the development of the canning industry. He served his apprenticeship as a cook at the Palais Royal Hotel in Châlons and was later employed by the duke and duchess of Deux-Ponts. By about 1780, however, he was settled in Paris and became widely known as the “confectioner of Paris located at Lombard Street.”

He soon began to experiment in the preservation of foods of various sorts and eventually obtained from the ministry of the navy authorization to ship the products of his manufacture on board vessels. The certificates of commendation resulting from these experiences attracted official notice with the result that, in 1809, Napoleon I gave Appert a grant of 12,000 francs with the sole stipulation that he make public his invention.

In 1810, Appert published A Book for All Housekeepers, or the Art of Preserving All Kinds of Animal and Vegetable Substances for Several Years. He was honored as a “benefactor of humanity” and presented with a gold medal by the SociĂ©tĂ© d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale in 1812. Appert erected a factory at Massy, south of Paris, to exploit his process, but he was ruined during the invasion of France by the armies of the Allies in 1814. The government failed to restore his wrecked properties, and he was virtually a pauper when he died, at Massy, on June 2, 1841. In his declining years he saw the process he invented undergo extensive exploitation in England.


Thermal Processing (canning)

In the year 1804, a pioneering milestone in food preservation was achieved at La Maison Appert, known as The House of Appert, nestled in the town of Massy near Paris. This establishment marked the genesis of the world’s first food bottling factory, a significant development preceding Louis Pasteur’s groundbreaking discoveries on the effects of heat on bacteria. François Appert, the visionary behind this enterprise, embarked on a mission to preserve a diverse array of foods within sealed bottles.

Initially, Appert utilized champagne bottles, sealed somewhat crudely with a mixture of cheese and mineral lime. Over time, he refined his method, transitioning to robust, wide-mouthed glass containers suitable for an assortment of provisions. His repertoire spanned from beef and poultry to eggs, milk, and a variety of prepared dishes. Notably, Appert eschewed the use of tinplate due to the substandard quality of French tinplate during his era.

A meticulous process ensued under Appert’s methodological approach. Each bottle was deliberately left with a space at its summit, and a cork was then firmly pressed into place using a vise. To ensure the contents were thoroughly cooked, the bottle underwent submersion in boiling water for a duration determined by Appert’s discernment. Subsequently, the wrapped bottle was submerged into boiling water, undergoing a cooking process that Appert deemed appropriate for thorough preservation.

In recognition of his pioneering efforts, the term “appertization” was coined to describe this method of food preservation, a tribute to François Appert’s contributions. It is essential to distinguish “appertization” from pasteurization, the latter famously attributed to Louis Pasteur.

Despite his technical triumphs, Appert faced financial challenges stemming from the substantial costs of equipment and his limited acumen in business affairs. His financial woes culminated in a declaration of bankruptcy in 1806, yet he tenaciously persevered in his endeavors. Notably, in 1795, the French army had offered a substantial prize of 12,000 francs for the development of a novel food preservation method.

In a poignant turn of events, Appert presented a selection of his bottled fruits and vegetables at the Exposition des produits de l’industrie française in 1806, yet regrettably did not garner any accolades. However, the Bureau of Arts and Manufactures of the Ministry of the Interior extended an ex gratia payment of 12,000 francs to Appert in 1810 on the condition that he disclose his process to the public.

Embracing this opportunity, Appert published his seminal work in 1810, titled “L’Art de conserver les substances animales et vĂ©gĂ©tales” (The Art of Preserving Animal and Vegetable Substances). This seminal treatise, comprising 6,000 printed copies, marked the inception of modern food preservation methods literature. Remarkably, Appert’s process, though founded on empirical observations rather than a deep understanding of bacteriology, rapidly gained widespread adoption.


In the year 1810, Peter Durand, an enterprising British inventor and merchant, patented a similar method, this time employing tin cans. This pivotal innovation heralded the advent of contemporary canning processes for food preservation. Subsequently, in 1812, Englishmen Bryan Donkin and John Hall acquired both patents, catalyzing the large-scale production of preserved foods.

The legacy of François Appert endures as a testament to human ingenuity and perseverance in the realm of food preservation. His innovative methods laid the foundation for a transformative industry, shaping the way we approach the preservation and accessibility of food to this day.

Leave A Reply