It's a pity there's no English Wikipedia article about this marvellous thing that exemplifies Germany so beautifully and quintessentially: the Normbrunnenflasche.
I was wondering the other day why in Germany sparkling water is being sold in 0.7l bottles and not in 1l or 2l or whatever, like in the US (when it's sold here at all, but that's another story).
Germany had a lot of small local producers and companies. To counter the advantages of the Coca Cola Company pressing in the German market, in 1969 a conference of representatives of the local companies decided to introduce a bottle design they all would use. This decision followed a half year competition and discussion on what this bottle should look like.
Every company would use the same bottle for sparkling water and other carbonated drinks, and so no matter which one you bought, the empty bottle would afterwards be routed to the closest participating company, not back home, therefore reducing transport costs and increasing competitiveness against Coca Cola.
The bottle is full of smart features. The 0.7l were chosen to ensure that the drink remained carbonated until the last sip, because larger bottles would last longer and thus gradually loose carbonization.
The form and the little pearls outside were chosen for improved grip, but also to symbolize the sparkles of the carbonization.
The metal screw cap was the real innovation there, useful for drinks that could increase pressure due to the carbonization.
And finally two slightly thicker bands along the lower half of the bottle that would, while being rerouted for another usage, slowly get more opaque due to mechanical pressure, thus indicating how well used the individual bottle was, so they could be taken out of service in time before breaking at the customer.
The bottles were reused an average of fifty times, their boxes an average of hundred times. More than five billion of them have been brought into circulation in the fifty years since their adoption, for an estimated quarter of a trillion fillings.
A new decade?
Wired: "Wikipedia is the last best place on the Internet"