Innovative package design — both structural and graphic — continues to bubble up for products ranging from ready meals to award-winning wines.
In some cases, the package structure is the hero. In others, bold graphics are turning consumers’ heads. And for a few, it’s the combination of structural and graphic design that makes the package pop on-shelf.
William Saurin Group, Lagny-sur-Marne, France, focused on structure when developing packaging for its Les Cocottes (“The Casseroles”) single-serving, heat-and-serve meals. The retorted package, which is plastic, looks like an enamel casserole dish with a lid.
William Saurin uses the shelf-stable, microwavable package for a range of traditional recipes. These include Seafood Paella, Coq au Vin, Duck with Olives, Pot-au-Feu, Lemon Chicken, Stuffed Tomato and several other fish, poultry and meat dishes. The colorful casserole packs come in yellow, red and blue.
The packaging’s bright colors and unusual, appealing structural design work together to catch shoppers’ attention and differentiate the products from those of competitors.
One of the design goals of the project was “to recruit new customers from other markets, such as fresh prepared food, by offering a premium product in an original and aspirational plastic [package],” explains Philippe Lalere, marketing director at William Saurin. Les Cocottes products are sold in primarily in France and Belgium.
The custom-designed tubs are made of a multilayer material in which ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) copolymer is sandwiched between layers of polypropylene (PP). RPC Bebo Plastik, Bremervörde, Germany, thermoforms the tubs; RPC Bramlage, Lohne, Germany, injection molds the color-coordinated polypropylene lids.
The PP/EVOH/PP material used to form the tubs “allows the packaging to be retorted and microwaved … and has a high barrier to oxygen,” says Benjamin Bourbon, key account manager and technical assistance manager with RPC Barrier Containers. “In between the layer of PP and EVOH, you have a tie layer to bring the overall structure together. This allows … the product to reach a shelf life of 18 months, at ambient temperature.”
On William Saurin’s packaging line, the tubs are filled, sealed with a barrier lidding film and retorted. Lids are attached to the tubs, and a paperboard belly band printed with brand and product information is applied. Each package holds 370 or 400 grams.
The RPC groups worked closely to engineer the tub and lid for a secure fit. “This was one of the technical challenges for this concept, as the pot is smaller … after the retort process,” Bourbon explains. “The lid has to fit on the retorted pot.”
A flexible approach
A very different but equally innovative package design — a flexible, box-like structure — found its first commercial application with Flavor Tree Premium Dark Chocolate Pretzels from John B. Sanfilippo & Son Inc., Elgin, Ill. The product was a limited-edition offering for the 2013 holiday season.
The pretzel pack is formed from a multilayer film lamination of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene, and it is flexographically printed. Package graphics make the filled package look like a gift box tied with a bow.
Clear Lam Packaging Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill., developed the six-sided package format, which it markets under the PrimaPak trade name. Clear Lam also supplies the form-fill-seal equipment and film used to create the package.
The package provides a lighter-weight, more environmentally friendly alternative to rigid packages like jars, tins, trays, composite cans and cartons. It’s also stackable and reclosable. Roman Forowycz, group president and chief marketing officer at Clear Lam, describes the package as a “pop-up box” with an integral open/reclose feature.
Regarding sustainability, Forowycz says: “Since the PrimaPak package begins as flexible roll stock, we’re able to get more packages onto a truck … and into a warehouse … than the containers it replaces. This benefit translates into tangible supply-chain efficiencies and greenhouse-gas emission reductions.”
For example, replacing a 401 composite can with a 12.5-oz. version of the flexible package could reduce truckloads to the point of saving 237,000 fewer gallons of fuel, 5.5 million pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions and 81,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space. Forowycz says these figures are based on a case study projecting freight and weight savings for 100 million packages.
From the perspective of retailers as well as consumers, the Flavor Tree package is easier to handle than rigid packaging because it’s lighter. In addition, retailers find the stackable package easier to display and store. The pack’s rectilinear shape also provides ample billboard space for brand-building on-shelf.
For consumers, the reclosable feature, which is built into the roll stock, provides ease of use. “We’ve eliminated the separate lid found on rigid containers. The open/close technology enables us to provide a hermetic seal that is intuitive and easy for the consumers to use,” Forowycz says.
“Consumers open the package by grasping the tab and gently peeling it open. To reclose the package, the consumer simply lays the lid back down, and it reseals to [the] top of the package,” he adds. There’s “no need to reposition or align the lid.”