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.”
The Flavor Tree package has a target fill weight of 11 oz., but the package format can be used to pack products weighing from 5 oz. to 3 lbs., according to Clear Lam.
Power to the purple
TriVita Inc., a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based nutraceutical company, went with a combination of bold structural design and intense graphics for its Adaptuit stress-relief drink, which launched in 2013.
The Adaptuit package is a 32-oz., high-density polyethylene bottle with a sculptural geometric shape and monochromatic purple graphics. The easy-to-grip bottle features a rounded hexagonal shape.
TriVita worked with TricorBraun, St. Louis, to create the package structure. One of the design objectives was to differentiate the Adaptuit product from TriVita’s Nopalea supplement drink, which is packaged in a shapely pomegranate-pink bottle.
“While the Adaptuit bottle shape still retains the ergonomic factor of a pinched waist for grip-ability, it is a more angular shape, giving it a different energy and edginess from the Nopalea product,” explains Suzanne Fenton, director of marketing at TricorBraun.
Enhancing the distinction between the two products, the Adaptuit color scheme is shades of purple with the brand name printed in white. The bottle is decorated using lithographically printed full-body shrink sleeves, and a color-matched purple cap completes the visual effect.
Last year, the package design was among the winners of the annual American Graphic Design Awards contest sponsored by Graphic Design USA magazine.
Another award-winning package comes from family-owned Okanagan Villa Estate Winery, Kelowna, B.C. The Canadian winery won packaging and tasting awards in the most recent World Beverage Competition, for Vibrant Vine wine. The Vibrant Vine labels are rendered in 3D.
Vibrant Vine products and packaging are truly a family project. Wyn and Marion Lewis own the winery; their son Anthony Lewis is the Vibrant Vine winemaker; and another son, artist Phil Lewis, Boulder, Colo., creates the label art and the 3D artwork hanging in the winery’s Vibrant Vine Tasting Room.
To appreciate the colorful, dreamlike, nature-based artwork on the Vibrant Vine labels and tasting room walls, each visitor “is greeted at the door and given a pair of 3D glasses,” says Wyn Lewis. After entering the tasting room, “everything you see from that moment on is in 3D.”
To provide a 3D experience for shoppers looking at Vibrant Vine bottles in stores, the winery provides retailers with 3D glasses that they can attach to the doors of their refrigerated display cases. The 3D effect has a noticeable effect on purchase decisions.
“It has an enormous impact on sales,” Wyn Lewis says. “We have another brand, which is the Okanagan Villa Estate Winery brand, and that does not have the 3D labels. We’ve done many, many tests in stores where we have the Okanagan Villa and Vibrant Vine [bottles] right next to each other. We watch customers come in, and the hand goes instinctively to the Vibrant Vine, not to the Okanagan Villa.”
The Vibrant Vine label’s appeal is also a tactile issue. “People are amazed that the shrink wrapping can produce such a smooth surface over the glass. It’s indistinguishable from the glass,” Wyn Lewis says. “It’s as if the glass has been printed.”
TricorBraun WinePak, Fairfield, Calif., supplies the Vibrant Vine bottles, which winery employees label by hand prior to filling. The label is a full-body shrink sleeve.
A happy labeling mistake led to the winery’s “Oops?” wine, when employees accidentally applied the label upside-down on a number of bottles of 2012 vintage Vibrant Vine white wine blend. The resulting bottle looked so interesting that the winery ultimately labeled 8,000 bottles that way and named the batch Oops?
What was inside the bottle was apparently quite interesting, too: Oops? won the Platinum/Best of Show award in the white wine tasting category of the 2013-2014 World Beverage Competition. Vibrant Vine 2012 Gewürztraminer took a bronze award for packaging and tasting in the same competition. The 2013 vintage of Oops? — to be called Woops? — was to launch on March 1.
Whether the Vibrant Vine labels are right-side-up or upside-down, they will continue to be printed in 3D, and the art will be the work of Phil Lewis. So far, five of his artworks have been used on Vibrant Vine labels. Referring to the many pieces of art Phil has created, Wyn Lewis says, “We’ll work our way through that over the next 10 years. That’s going to be our brand signature.”