Design Moment: Jif Lemon, 1954

In the 1950s, plastic was seen as a wonder material and the lemon juice container was very modern

The Jif Lemon is on the shelves all year – and probably in the back of cupboards – but its sales spike every year around Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, at the start of Lent.

The Jif Lemon is on the shelves all year – and probably in the back of cupboards – but its sales spike every year around Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, at the start of Lent.

 

No matter how functional, distinctive and downright cute – essential qualities for most consumer products – the Jif Lemon would never be designed today. The shocking realities of the negative impact of our use of plastic is becoming increasingly known and manufacturers are actively trying not to use the difficult-to-destroy material.

But in the 1950s, plastic was seen as a new wonder material, an extraordinarily useful way to package all sorts of consumer items. The lemon juice container was above all very modern – a much more convenient alternative to glass. The Jif Lemon, a blow-moulded squeezable lemon shape, was designed by Bill Pugh for Hax, and later sold to condiment maker Reckitt & Colman, who embossed it with the Jif name in 1956 and marketed it.

It is said he lined the first mould with a real lemon to get the distinctive dimpling on the plastic. In 1990, the Jif shape was in court as Colman’s sought to fight off a similar lemon juice container produced by US company Borden. Colman’s won, setting a precedent that a design, while not initially trademarked and appearing generic as it was based on a natural shape, could be legally protected. The Jif Lemon is on the shelves all year – and probably in the back of cupboards – but its sales spike every year around Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, at the start of Lent.