First Class Glass Packaging

Processors gravitate to glass packaging for branding, premium positioning and product protection.

By Kate Bertrand, Packaging Editor

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Innovative decorating techniques and structural designs are driving the creation of glass packaging that conveys product quality and differentiates the product at retail, while at the same time providing flavor protection and other functional benefits.

Organic and all-natural products are leading the movement. And processors of items conventionally packaged in glass, such as jams, condiments, water and alcoholic beverages, also are contributing to the new generation of glass packaging.

Organic and natural products, which have an affinity for glass for both aesthetic and environmental reasons, represent one of the fastest growing market segments for glass packaging. The staggering growth of the organic market - 20 percent annually in recent years, according to the Organic Trade Assn. - bodes well for glass as the organic and natural segment matures.

 

The environmental friendliness of glass appeals to organic food processors like Straus Family Creamery.

In this market segment, "The growth is phenomenal. The volume is supposed to double by 2008," says Lee Farlander, president of Vitro Packaging Inc. (www.vitropackaging.com), Plano, Texas. "What I see when I walk into Whole Foods, with its concentration on the organic movement, is a store full of glass."

These processors' preference for glass springs in part from a need for flavor protection. "Glass is inert and doesn't chemically alter the product inside," says Joseph Cattaneo, president of the Glass Packaging Institute (www.gpi.org), Alexandria, Va. "Glass says purity, premium and product protection like no other packaging material."

Glass' inert character has strongly influenced Drew Starkweather, CEO and chef of Drew's All Natural (www.chefdrew.com), Chester, Vt. Starkweather cites three reasons for choosing glass for his salad dressings and organic salsas: "It breaks down to health, quality of flavor and perceived quality" of the product.

Because glass does not react chemically to oils or other ingredients, glass packaging can deliver both health and flavor benefits over plastic packaging materials.

"The health aspect of plastic is not great, especially for a salad dressing, which is 50 to 60 percent oil. The oil will eat away at the plastic slowly," Starkweather says. Consequently, the product's flavor and purity are affected.

He adds that even water can pick up an off flavor from plastic packaging materials. "If it will do that to water, think what it'll do to a ‘like' material, an oil," Starkweather says.

The environmental friendliness of glass also appeals to many organic and natural food processors. An organic dairy company, Straus Family Creamery (www.strausmilk.com), Marshall, Calif., has used glass packaging since its founding. Currently, the company fills milk, whipping cream and half and half into glass bottles.

"Our belief in employing recyclable packaging and reusable packaging whenever possible is a cornerstone of our commitment to sustainable agriculture and high-quality dairy food," says John Stallcup, the company's vice president of marketing.

Glass provides marketing support, as well. "Straus is the original organic dairy west of the Mississippi. As the leader of organic dairy in California, we feel using glass reinforces our artisan, organic brand positioning," Stallcup adds.

Straus washes and refills the bottles its consumers return; however, many consumers keep and reuse the bottles. Straus' bottles are decorated using applied ceramic labeling (ACL), a scuff-impervious decorating technique in which ceramic ink is fused to the glass. Thus the Straus brand name lives on indefinitely in the refrigerators of its bottle collectors.

Conveying premium quality

Many consumers of AriZona Beverages' all-natural products also collect the empty bottles, thanks to the products' appealing label graphics. Lake Success, N.Y.-based AriZona Beverages (www.arizonabev.com) decorates its glass bottles with high-quality artwork printed on full-body shrink labels.

The company uses proprietary 16-oz. and 20-oz. glass bottle and always introduces new products in the 20-oz. bottle. "We do that because of the quality, premium image of glass," says Francie Patton, vice president of corporate communications at AriZona Beverages.

 

Glass Packaging: Arizona Diet Green Tea
A glass bottle with full-body shrink label makes AriZona beverages highly noticeable and unique.

The 20-oz. bottle is considered a single-serving package, a healthy serving but one that invites trial of something new. "When people try a new product, they don't want to grab a gallon of it," Patton explains.

The company's most recent introduction is AriZona Decaf Diet Green Tea with Ginseng. The artwork on the bottle's shrink label complements the imagery used on the AriZona Diet Green Tea bottle. Both feature an illustration of a geisha. She is pictured upon a cream background on the Diet Green Tea label and upon a black lacquer-look background on the Decaf Diet Green Tea label.

The premium image of glass has attracted others in the organic/natural segment, as well.

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