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Year: 1795-1809
Promoters: The French Directory
Prize: 12,000 Francs (Today's value £26,000)
Winner: Nicolas Appert

As the armies of revolutionary France tore up the map of Europe and set out to build an empire, the generals began to encounter the problem that would lead to Napoleon Bonaparte’s most enduring adage: “an army marches on its stomach”.

Back in Paris, the Directory, the short-lived government of the time, offered a prize for a method of preserving food on these long military campaigns. It was eventually won in 1809 by talented confectioner Nicolas Appert, after 14 years of determined experimenting.

Appert was a popular creator of pastries and sweets in Paris, but he’d had no formal education and as such did not understand the science behind his time-consuming method of sealing boiled food in airtight, sterilized champagne bottles.

He was rewarded regardless, and he used the money given to him to set up a canning factory, which remained open until 1933.