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behind the design

Behind the Design of the OXO POP Containers

OXO POP pioneered the airtight storage space and continues to do so—keeping the best of what we’ve done in the past, and adding new features, benefits and sizes that fit your home and your life.

9 min read

Over 10 years ago OXO launched POP Containers– a beloved food storage solution that’s found its way to millions of homes, restaurants, even classrooms and under bathroom sinks. At OXO, we test, iterate and look to make improvements on all of our products. After 10 years of POP Containers on the market, in 2019 we thought it was time to take another look.

You might be wondering, what’s changed? OXO Senior Advanced Development Engineer Noah Pentelovitch took the challenge head-on. He wanted to find a way to make POP even better and work harder for all of its users. He looked at three main components: design, size and variety. 

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Simplify the Design

While to any user, POP might seem like a simple storage solution: you press a button and the top seals; press it again and it releases the seal. It takes just a second or two to open and close, and you hardly think about what is going on when you’re using the container. But, in actuality, tens of tiny parts are all working together to make that button work. When thinking about simplifying the design, Noah and the team looked to create a more reliable mechanism. The team found inspiration from an unlikely place: a Herman Miller Setu chair.  Behind the flexing support structure is what’s called a compliant mechanism: a single flexible piece or part that performs the same action typically required by many pieces or parts. The same technology is used in aerospace engineering, micromachines, surgical devices and even toys.  

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The compliant mechanism is shaped like a web and each container has a unique web design because of the different sizes. The whole web pushes out (with the click of the button) and creates a seal with the wall of the container (more on the airtight seal here). It’s a more reliable process because fewer parts = less room for error. It was also important to us not to lose the “pop” you hear from pressing the button. Aside from the sense of satisfaction it gives you, it signals that the container is properly sealed. We decided to use a click-click mechanism (think how a pen clicks) with the compliant mechanism to get the seal and the great noise (which even dogs recognize(Opens in a new window)). 

Thin Out the Size

We know that users love the satisfaction of emptying a 5 lbs bag of rice into the 2.8 Qt Big Square Short or pouring a whole bag of pretzels into the 6.0 Qt Big Square. 

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With the new POP Containers, we went for a design that has a thinner lid and takes up less space. It gives the containers a more modern look, but don’t worry, all POP Containers still stack and fit modularly with each other. 

Endless Possibilities

While POP was designed with dry food storage in mind, we noticed the containers showing up beyond the kitchen. It’s not uncommon to see POP in bathrooms, craft closets, garages or on desks. We want people to be inspired to use their containers all over the home, so we decided to make even more shapes and sizes.  We created new sizes like the .2 Qt Mini Square Mini, which is great for holding spices, paperclips and hair ties; the 1.9 Qt Slim Rectangle Medium, ideal for almonds, popcorn and cotton balls, and .8 Qt Medium Square for dried beans, lentils and paper straws.

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Along with new sizes, we introduced new accessories. We wanted to create a food storage solution that’s even more convenient when it’s time to bake or cook. To save you from rummaging through your kitchen drawers, we created a spot to store the accessories on the underside of the POP lid –  so you’ll never lose that flour scoop again.  New accessories include a rice scoop, date dial and an already-fan-favorite: the Brown Sugar Saver. The Brown Sugar Saver is made from terracotta, a very porous clay, so when it is soaked in water for 15 mins, the pores hang onto the water and then slowly release the moisture into your hardened brown sugar. This means easy pouring next time you go to make chocolate chip cookies.

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Always Testing

With any new product, we test exhaustively to ensure it works in different scenarios and even beyond “normal” consumer use POP Containers are no different. Once we had the updated design, we put the POP Containers to the test. We know consumers might reach for their POP Container every day, maybe even multiple times a day. That’s why we did cycle testing on the lid for 100,000 cycles. To test the seal, we created a pressurized container and used a flow meter to measure if air escapes. This test ensures we’re creating an airtight seal, which helps to keep food fresh.  We also do a series of weight tests, including putting different weights in the container and turning it upside down. If the top doesn’t fall off from the force of the weights, we know there is a consistent seal around the container.

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While it’s extremely helpful to do these types of testing, the most valuable is consumer testing. We place POP Containers in restaurants all over New York City, like Chef Jonathan Benno’s Leonelli and Made Nice since we know they’ll really be put to the test in a busy professional kitchen.

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POP Tips from the Team

While it’s hard for Noah to pick just one favorite feature of POP, he gets the most satisfaction from his new and improved coffee set up. #2 Cone Coffee Filters fit just right in the new 1.2 Qt Slim Rectangle. Pair that with the 1.7 Qt Rectangle Short, which fits a 1 lb bag of coffee beans, and his Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank, he’s got an extremely neat and organized coffee bar on the kitchen counter.  

Jenny Trinh, Senior Product Manager for POP Containers, is in love with her rice scoop. As someone who “eyeballed it” every time she made rice, the measurement markings make it much simpler. Also, the edge of the scoop makes it easier to get the rice from the container and she can lay the scoop on the counter top if she’s setting up her mise en place. Our OXO POP Containers revolutionized the airtight storage space 10 years ago and continue to do so—keeping the best of what we’ve done in the past, and adding new features, benefits and sizes that fit your home and your life.

Photos courtesy of Gear Patrol.


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