Dairy Processors Explore New Packaging Concepts

Lessons can be learned from dairy processors that are designing packages to attract kids, boost brands and deliver convenience.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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Dairy packaging used to mean one of two things: a gable-top carton or a plastic jug. That's changing, radically, as processors' emphases on the youth market, branding and convenience drive packaging in new directions.

This breakthrough Kraft product delivered a health benefit, but the packaging also had to deliver in terms of single-serve convenience.
This breakthrough Kraft product delivered a health benefit, but the packaging also had to deliver in terms of single-serve convenience.

Society's increased focus on fighting childhood obesity is creating ample opportunity for healthy, dairy-based beverages. Packaging for those new products is coming into play as a key marketing tool to attract children and teens.

Shamrock Farms (www.shamrockfarms.net), Phoenix, Ariz., specifically targeted tweens and teens when it launched its popular Shamrockers flavored, low-fat milk earlier this year. "We believe milk is an excellent choice for kids of all ages, and especially teens. Nine out of 10 teenage girls and seven out of 10 boys do not get enough calcium in their diets," says Sandy Kelly, Shamrock Farms' director of marketing.

"That's a target group that [provides] a lot of opportunity for explaining the benefits of milk, but it's also a group that has a lot of beverage choices," she adds. "We wanted to provide a product that would appeal to them on all fronts," including taste, nutrition and packaging. The Shamrockers packaging "speaks to them. They know it is for them," she concludes.

The package is a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottle with a recloseable, screw-on cap and full shrink-sleeve label, which provides the maximum brand billboard. Osio International Inc. (www.osiopack.com), Anaheim, Calif., supplies the shrink-sleeve labels.

The shrink sleeve's bright, graffiti-inspired graphics incorporate Shamrock Farms' spokescow, Roxie, wearing a beanie or sunglasses and holding an Apple iPod, skateboard or chocolate syrup bottle guitar. "It's very high-impact. There's a great impulse factor with that package. It just jumps off the shelf," Kelly says.

The 12-oz. Shamrockers currently are distributed nationally through the vending channel and in Arizona via the retail channel. The company is launching the product in an 8-oz. bottle, as well, and is considering a half-gallon size for retail distribution.

In the yogurt category, Breyers YoCrunch (www.yocrunch.com), Naugatuck, Conn., is using a seasonal packaging strategy to appeal to children. This autumn, the company created a Halloween-themed line extension.

These candy-topped flavors are packaged in 6-oz. polypropylene yogurt cups printed with orange, black and yellow Halloween imagery. The transparent dome closure holds Butterfinger, M&Ms, Nestlé Crunch or Reese's Pieces mix-ins.

Seasonal packaging, a standard tool in many food categories, is not typically used for yogurt. But now "we're bringing it to the yogurt shelf," says Shannon Daily, YoCrunch brand manager at Breyers Yogurt Co. "We've created five SKUs wearing Halloween
'costumes.'"

This holiday season, the company also will launch its first Christmas-themed YoCrunch cup, topped with M&Ms candies. Plastipak Packaging Inc. (www.plastipak.com), Plymouth, Mich., supplies all of YoCrunch's cups.

Overseas, Nestlé UK is targeting kids with its Munch Bunch Squashums strawberry yogurt. Each single-serving Squashums package is shaped like an oversize strawberry. The stretch blow-molded containers are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

The thin-walled "strawberries," which kids squeeze to dispense the product, are multipacked in a net bag; each bag holds six containers. Alcan Packaging (www.alcanpackaging.com), Paris, supplies the berry-shaped packages.

Differentiating the brand

Dairy food processors are using innovative packaging to appeal to adults, too, leveraging package structure and graphics for brand impact in the freezer or cooler.

In the battle against other beverages, especially in vending machines, milk must appeal to kids on several levels: taste, nutrition and packaging.
In the battle against other beverages, especially in vending machines, milk must appeal to kids on several levels: taste, nutrition and packaging.

When Wells' Dairy Inc. (www.bluebunny.com), Le Mars, Iowa, recently redesigned the packaging for its Blue Bunny premium ice cream to enhance consumers' experience of the product, brand differentiation was an accompanying reward.

Consumer research told Wells' Dairy that consumers wanted a package that provided a fresher and safer premium ice cream experience. In addition, they wanted a package that was cleaner, easier to use and fit more conveniently in their freezers.

To meet those needs, the dairy came up with an oval plastic container made from high-impact polypropylene copolymer resin. The package features a resealable lid with a Fresh Lock tab to enhance the product's safety and ensure that the ice cream stays fresh longer.

The shape of the container makes it easier to grip than a standard ice cream carton, and the package's wide opening allows for cleaner scooping. In addition, the new Blue Bunny containers fit into consumers' freezers better than traditional cartons.

The Blue Bunny package graphics are rich and colorful, underscoring the product's premium positioning, and flavors are color coded for ease of selection. Each container holds 56 oz. of ice cream.

As for branding, "The plastic, elliptical containers with exciting graphics immediately differentiate the Blue Bunny brand at point of purchase, since they are typically surrounded by traditional paperboard cartons," says Adam Baumgartner, senior marketing manager-retail brand development at Wells' Dairy.

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