Mexico`s history with container glass



Mexico`s history with container glass
From tequila to beer:
Mexico’s history with container glass
exico’s documented relationship
with glass begins when the
Spanish arrived in South America
in the early 1500s. It is said that when
they first invaded, the natives were so
impressed with items such as glass beads
that they would gladly trade them for
gold. Up until that point, only naturally
occurring volcanic and obsidian glass was
known on the continent, but the arrival
of Europeans also brought the advent of
manufactured glass to the continent.
The first glass made in the Americas
was produced in the town of Puebla,
Mexico, in 1542. A Spanish businessman
constructed a furnace and set to work
creating handmade vessels for holding
liquids such as beer, wine, and water. By
1547 the glass items produced in Puebla
were popular enough to be exported to
Guatemala and Peru, despite the ban
that was placed on the glassworks by the
local council: Due to the great quantity
of firewood consumed by the furnace,
the council forbade the glassworks to
chop or collect the necessary firewood
from the local area. Over the next 200
years the glassworks continued to operate
in the town using the same traditional
handmade techniques, until the tradition
died out somewhat in the 1700s.
Glass blowing was later reintroduced
back into Mexico and became very
popular, largely because of the ready
availability of the ingredients and the
Mexican arts and crafts tradition, and
hand blown Mexican glass products
remain popular with tourists.
From handmade to automatic
In 1889 Camilo Ávalos Raza, the first
known Mexican master glassmaker,
installed a factory in La Merced, Mexico
City, which went on to become the
principal provider of glass products in the
country. Today, the original La Merced
factory is still owned by the Ávalos
Raza family, and continues to produce
handmade decorative glass items for
export all around the world.
Camilo Ávalos Raza trained in a glass
works owned by the French Quinar
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It is fair to say that
Mexico’s container
glass industry has
developed alongside
and in tandem
with its alcoholic
beverage industry,
with many factories
and companies
created for the sole
purpose of making
glass bottles for
a specific drink.
Ahead of Glassman
Latin America in
September, Sally
Roberts took a look
at the history of
container glass in
family, and went on to make his fortune
in Guatemala, Santa Ana Chiutenpan,
Texcoco, Apizaco, San Juan de los Lagos,
and Puebla. His three sons inherited the
glassmaking business, and years later
one of them, Odilon, went on to open
another factory in Guadalajara, to satisfy
the packaging needs of the burgeoning
tequila industry.
Although the Aztec people had
previously made a fermented drink from
the agave plant, it was the Spanish who,
reportedly running out of Brandy, began
to distil the agave liquid to create tequila
as we know it in the 1520s. Following
this, around the year 1600 the Marquis of
Altamira began to mass-produce tequila in
Jalisco, and soon after the Cuervo family
was granted the first commercial licence
for tequila by King Carlos IV of Spain. In
1884 Don Cenobio Sauza, the founder
of Sauza tequila and the President of the
village of Tequila, became the first person
to export tequila to the US. It is amongst
this backdrop that Odilon Ávalos Raza
entered the market by installing his glass
bottling plant in nearby Guadalajara.
20 years after Camilo Ávalos Raza
began to establish his handmade glass
empire, Vidriera Monterrey was founded
in the north of the country and was the
first glass factory in Mexico to produce
container glass using an automated
system (licensed from Owens-Illinois).
Dedicated solely to producing beer
bottles to meet the demand created by
the Mexican industry, the factory opened
in 1909.
Although Mexico has a long history
of producing beer, the real rise of beer in
Mexico began in the 1850s: Its popularity
Máquinas (FAMA), in order to develop its
own in-house industrial technology.
Dedicated to the production of parts
required for glass production machines,
with FAMA the group was able to repair
machines, produce parts on request, and
make its own equipment. In 1949 FAMA
produced its first fully automatic machine
for the production of glass bottles, and in
1956 the company made its first export
to the US, reversing the traditional flow
of commerce. Its reputation for technical
expertise continued to grow, and in the
1970s its technology further diversified
rose in tandem with the influx of
immigration to the Americas, and by the
1920s there were over thirty breweries
in Mexico. The production of beer was
further bolstered when prohibition
began in the US, and Vidriera Monterrey
was perfectly placed near the border to
cater to this flourishing market. Since
then, the company that went on to
become Vitro has played a prominent
role in Mexico’s glass history, and is the
largest and most firmly established glass
manufacturer in the country.
with participation from Owens-Illinois,
Ball Corp, and Linch machinery.
These internal developments helped
when the company was faced with
external factors such as the great
depression in the US, followed by the
Second World War, and finally a block
on imports that was brought in by
Mexico. The eventual aftermath of all
of these events was a high growth in
industry, particularly in the 1950s, and
many innovations were generated –
particularly in the fields of flat, fibre and
borosilicate glass.
The block on imports, or ‘modelo de
sustitucion’, that was adopted by Mexico
was an economic development strategy
that aimed to promote the domestic
production of consumer goods by
imposing tariffs on and barring certain
imports. The glass industry was one of
those that succeeded in using it to its
advantage, with Vidriera Monterrey
in particular taking advantage of the
block to dominate domestic sales. The
Vitro: Technological progress
As well as being the first automated
container glass company in Mexico, in
1928 Vidriera Monterrey expanded into
flat glass and by 1930 it had opened the
first float glass plant in the country. By
1935 the company had began to export
its products to other Latin American
countries, and had developed a strong
reputation in the region for investing
in and developing the latest technology.
In line with this, in 1943 it invested in
the subsidiary company Fabricación de
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successful Vidriera Monterrey later became Grupo Vitro, and in
1974 the company was listed on the Mexican Stock Exchange.
In 1985 Vitro Packaging was created with its base in Texas, to
act as the sales and distribution branch for the US market.
More recently, Vitro has acquired or started businesses across
Central and South America, including Vidrio Lux, the largest
glass container producer in Bolivia, and Vitro Colombia, which
specialises in architectural and automotive glass. Today, Vitro
has maintained its position as the premier glass manufacturer
in Mexico and Latin America for more that 70 years, and as
well as Mexico, Bolivia and Colombia the company also has
production facilities in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, the US
and Panama.
In 2013 Vitro reported sales of $1.675 billion, and employed
15,730 people, and recently the company accepted a $2.15
billion bid from international giant Owens Illinois (O-I) for its
food and beverage glass container business.
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Mexico history.indd 3
Today, some of Mexico’s iconic glass designs, such as the
margarita glass and the Mexican Coke bottle, have a firm
standing in popular culture around the world. Mexi-Coke, as
it is often referred to, has developed a cult following in the US
due to its ‘more natural’ taste, which is accredited both to the
rumour that Mexican Coke is made using cane sugar, and the
fact that it is always served in glass bottles rather than plastic.
Mexi-Coke bottles are manufactured to a thick 355ml or
500ml specification, and have screen-printed enamel labels
instead of the vinyl label wrapped around plastic bottles.
The reason behind Mexican Coke’s thicker bottle has not
been clarified, with theories ranging from it providing extra
protection from breakage as the bottles are transported around
Mexico’s roads, to helping to keep the liquid cool and protected
from the sun in the country’s scorching summers.
The margarita glass was designed specifically to hold
Mexico’s most famous tequila cocktail, and today it is used in
bars across the world to serve a variety of cocktails. As with the
coke bottle, the original reasoning behind its shape is debated:
Theories range from it mimicking the shape of a cactus plant,
to the perhaps more believable theory that there was a demand
for a glass similar to the Champagne glass, which was then
enlarged to accommodate the added volume caused by adding
ice to the liquid. Supposedly, margarita glasses were made from
recycled Coke bottles, explaining the mottled green colour of
the originals and giving an insight into Mexico’s early cullet
recycling systems.
Today, Mexico’s container glass industry is thriving, with its
continued beer and tequila production continuing to provide
ample business, and its geographical location making it well
placed for exports. As well as Vitro there are a number of
manufacturers that cater to the international market, such as
Fevisa and Pavisa, as well as independent factories dedicated to
the domestic market. As well as homegrown manufacturers, O-I
is established in Mexico, recently forming a 50-50 joint venture
with Constellation Brands to own and operate a glass container
production plant dedicated to producing beer bottles in Nava,
Mexico. Glassman Latin America takes place in Guadalajara on the 22nd
and 23rd September.
Glass International May 2015
5/15/15 10:05 AM

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