'Markaging': Your in-store salesman

Today's packaging must not only protect products and enable distribution--in its role as point-of-sale advertising, packaging can also increase brand awareness and capture consumers' attention

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What's on the outside counts. While your food product inside the package is your pride and joy, the outside of the package goes a long way toward selling the food to consumers. It's your front-line salesman, the only one you have in the grocery store aisle.

Today's packaging must do more than merely protect products and enable efficient and effective distribution to customers and end users. With 70 percent of consumer buying decisions made at the retail shelf, according to the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI), packaging also serves as critical point-of-sale advertising, helping to increase brand awareness and grab consumer attention.

PMMI has coined the term "markaging" to describe this combination of creative package design with advanced packaging technology. The association calls it "the critical closer at the retail shelf." As a result, markaging will be one of the key topics at PMMI's Pack Expo International, Nov. 7-11 at Chicago's McCormick Place.

Dare to be different

Some recent, highly successful "markaging" approaches could serve as inspiration for a range of different product categories. Sometimes spin-offs of great ideas evolve into products that stand on their own in the marketplace. Consider the marketing impact of the following packaging approaches that have dared to be different.

Sherwin-Williams had great success with its revolutionary Dutch Boy paints in the square footprint, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) Twist & Pour container. Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble adapted the idea for its 2003 introduction of Folgers Coffee in reclosable AromaSeal HDPE extrusion blow-molded canisters with molded-in hand grips.

Supplied by Plaxicon/Liquid Container, West Chicago, Ill., the canisters feature injection-molded snap-on lids supplied by Erie Plastics, Corry, Pa., and easy-peel metallized polyester membrane under-cap seals supplied by Amcor Flexibles, Gloucester, U.K., which incorporate one-way degassing valves. Consumer reception to the new coffee packaging has been positive, and P&G's long-term plan is to phase out all its conventional three-piece steel coffee cans and replace them with HDPE containers.

Alcoa Flexible Packaging, Richmond, Va., is working on ways to help beverage companies who use PET bottles gain greater distinction on crowded store shelves. The company has developed a prototype 50-micron PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol) reverse-printed shrink sleeve label using interference "flip" ink that changes color as the label is tilted. The label also features pearlescent white surface printing to add graphic depth.

These specialized printing techniques can be supplied for PETG, OPS and PVC substrates. Also, custom services can meet specific labeling requirements and concepts. The company also offers closure expertise, including translucent blue linerless closures from Alcoa Closure Systems International that eliminate the need for closure liners and operate well on high-speed capping lines, plus under-the-cap laser marking for special promotions.

Seal-It Inc., Farmingdale, N.Y., also offers color-changing printing technologies for shrink sleeve labels. The company has developed thermochromatic ink printing, which enables label inks to change colors when exposed to hot or cold temperatures. This option provides a range of marketing/promotion ideas, such as game-winning secret codes that are only revealed when containers are placed in a freezer or heated environments.

First in their categories

When Hershey Foods Corp., Hershey, Pa., formulated its new Swoops potato chip-shaped candy slices, the company wanted equally innovative packaging to launch the new product. Hershey chose thermoformed oval polypropylene cups supplied by Rampart Packaging Div., Williamsburg, Va., of Printpack Inc. of Atlanta. Three cups are contained in each contoured, one-side-coated
paperboard carton supplied by the Custom Packaging Group of Caraustar Industries Inc., Austell, Ga.

Each 1 5/8-in.-high cup is logo-embossed, filled with six stacked candy slices and sealed with printed foil laminate lidstock supplied by Alcoa Flexible Packaging. Hershey uses customized, robotic carton erecting/loading equipment from Gerhard Schubert GmbH, Addison, Texas, to perform the combo packing.

The Hershey Swoops application combines an interesting new product with unique, high-profile packaging and has resulted in a considerable amount of attention on store shelves. That's exactly what marketers want and need to entice initial purchases by consumers.

Another first-in-its-category package holds Church & Dwight Co.'s Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. While still marketing the long-established and highly recognizable small cartons, Church & Dwight decided to add a 12-lb. zipper-pack stand-up pouch to meet demand from club stores and foodservice users for more convenient, resealable packaging.

Made of durable, high-gauge polyethylene film, the new pouch features a zipper from Zip-Pak, Manteno, Ill. The Powder-Proof zipper includes perforations along the zipper tracks, which provide channels through which powdery residue can fall back into the pouch, preventing zipper jams.

Zip-Pak worked with Robert's Packaging Inc., Battle Creek, Mich., to adapt its C-1500 vertical form-fill-seal machine to the Arm & Hammer application. The machine now runs the rotogravure-printed, laminated polyethylene roll stock film to produce the large-format, resealable bags.

The same solution worked for Arctic Glacier Inc. The West Point, Pa., ice packer worked with Zip-Pak and form-fill-seal machinery manufacturer Hamer LLC, Plymouth, Minn., to incorporate customized zippers into 5-lb and 7-lb ice bags. Hamer adapted its Model 535 horizontal form-fill-seal bagging machine and engineered a zipper application system to automatically apply the Ultraseal zippers during the form-fill-seal process.

"Adding zipper resealability has given us the competitive advantage over other ice brands packaged in traditional non-resealable bags," explains Deina Merschbrock, Arctic Glacier's director of sales and marketing. "We gained increased market share because consumers prefer the convenience of easy storage. And managers of supermarkets, convenience and grocery stores quickly recognized the greater sales impact afforded by incorporating functionality into our packaging because entire bags of ice are seldom consumed in one sitting."

Heed the Environment

According to a study recently conducted by marketing research firm Grapentine Co., 59 percent of European consumers and 41 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed ranked the concept of purchasing fresh food in nature-based packaging as very desirable. Cargill Dow LLC, Minnetonka, Minn., responds with its NatureWorks PLA (polylactide resin) packaging material.

The material is 100%-derived from annually renewable resources such as corn, is compostable and adaptable to a range of packaging applications, including both thermoformed rigid structures and flexible wrapping films. The finished containers are crystal clear, non-fogging, high-strength, highly printable and cost-competitive with more traditional packaging.

"Packaging can be one of the most important branding tools produce suppliers can use to differentiate their products and gain advantage in today's ultra-competitive fresh food industry," says Lisa Owen, Cargill Dow global business leader. "Consumers believe clear packaging derived from a natural source makes fruits and vegetables appear more fresh, wholesome and convenient."

NatureWorks PLA also has potential for salads, deli items, baked goods, dairy products, pastas and candies. JoEL Inc., Elizabethtown, Pa., has adopted twist-wrap film made from NatureWorks to package its College Farm brand organic hard candies. Notes JoEL President David Deck, "Nature-based packaging is an easy and satisfying way to do something good for our customers and the environment."

Wilkinson Manufacturing Co., Fort Calhoun, Neb., also adapted NatureWorks PLA to thermoform compostable food containers from sheet. Called NaturesPLAstic, the line includes various sizes/shapes of clear containers with matching lids.

Earn a 'Markaging' Degree

Mastering the art and science of "markaging" may be key to the success of the products and brands of today and tomorrow. Brand managers and marketers will learn much at Pack Expo International, which will feature more than 1,900 exhibits.

The year's most innovative and award-winning package designs will be on display at The Showcase of Packaging Innovations. Designs to be featured include winners of the Glass Packaging Institute's Clear Choice Awards, the Institute of Packaging Professionals' AmeriStar Awards and the National Paperboard Packaging Competition sponsored by the Paperboard Packaging Council.

For more information, or to register for Pack Expo, visit www.packexpo.com or contact PMMI at 703-243-8555; email expo@pmmi.org.

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