New Packages Enliven Mature Products

Revitalizing the health of your brand or product may be only a package change away - just ask StarKist, Pringles, Corbett Canyon and Birds Eye.

By Kate Bertrand

Something as straightforward as a new package format can do an astonishing job of invigorating an established product or brand. In the most common scenario, the new package works its magic by offering benefits the original package didn't provide, such as on-the-go convenience, ease of preparation, longer shelf life, less mess or new occasions for use.

Examples of the phenomenon include: StarKist tuna in flexible pouches, Pringles potato crisps in single-serving cups, Corbett Canyon premium wine in a bag-in-box package and Birds Eye frozen vegetables in a steam-and-serve tray.

Flexing with consumer demand

Putting tuna in a pouch, a retail innovation StarKist began in 2000, seems like an obvious idea now. But at the time, replacing at least some of its two-piece tuna cans with pouches was nothing short of revolutionary.

StarKist previously had introduced a 43-oz. pouch of tuna for foodservice operators. By plotting that package concept against consumers' desire for ease of use and better tasting tuna, the smaller retail pouches were born.

"Understanding the consumer need state, we saw the pouch would translate nicely into a consumer retail proposition," says Lisa Henriksen, vice president of marketing for StarKist Seafood, in the Pittsburgh office of parent Del Monte Foods ( "It was quite a leap, putting tuna into a pouch."

The fresh, upscale image associated with a pouch package was ideal for StarKist's Tuna Creations line of marinated tuna.

The company's research revealed that canned tuna's lack of convenience and freshness were key reasons consumers did not eat it more often. "Obviously, you can't be on the go with a can that needs to be drained," she says. "The pouch was a way to directly address what we believed were limiters in the category."

Unlike canned tuna, the pouches have virtually no liquid and require no draining. In addition, the product tastes better and has a firmer texture than its canned counterpart. And of course, a can opener is not necessary to open the product. Single-serving packaging completes the array of consumer benefits.

StarKist tuna in the Flavor Fresh Pouch is available in 3-, 5-, 7- and 12-oz. sizes, as well as the larger foodservice size. Varieties include chunk light and albacore tuna as well as the StarKist Tuna Creations line of marinated tuna: Hickory Smoked, Zesty Lemon Pepper, Herb and Garlic and Sweet and Spicy.

The package is a four side-seal, pillow-style retort pouch with a tear notch. The pouch material is a lamination of polyester, aluminum foil, oriented nylon and cast polypropylene.

The success of pouched tuna has been substantial, and not only for the StarKist brand. Data from ACNielsen, New York, shows sales volume for the tuna pouch segment has grown to 11-12 percent of the $1.5 billion U.S. tuna category since StarKist initiated the pouch trend.

Del Monte has certainly felt that groundswell in its own tuna sales. Henriksen says the Flavor Fresh Pouch has been "very successful, not only in terms of causing current consumers to buy more, but also in expanding the category. It made tuna a product that consumers who were not previously using tuna could now use. People who were not in the category came into the category because of this innovation."

Del Monte has found the pouch enjoys much higher repeat sales "than is average for a new product," according to Henriksen. "It exactly hit the consumer need we were trying to target."

Pringles Snack Stacks attack

The Procter and Gamble Co. (, Cincinnati, brought a new look and feel to Pringles potato crisps when it began packaging the product in single-portion cups. Dubbed Pringles Snack Stacks, the product is packaged in multipacks of eight, 18, 24 and 32 cups. The Snack Stacks package is distinctly different from Pringles' iconic composite can — the package in which the product launched in 1971.

The thermoformed, polypropylene Snack Stacks cups are sealed with rotogravure-printed foil lidding. Each cup holds 23 g, vs. the original-size composite can's 200 g. A paperboard sleeve unifies the eight-pack, and a paperboard tray is used for the larger multipacks.

The Snack Stacks package "is really convenient for moms and fun for kids, but portion control is the driver for this package," notes Jim O'Rourke.

Rock-Tenn Co., Norcross, Ga., supplies the flexographically printed paperboard sleeves and trays for Snack Stacks. In contrast to the curved face of the Pringles composite can, the multipacks offer a flat, rectangular facing that provides a billboard effect for the brand on-shelf.

The Snack Stacks package "is really convenient for moms and fun for kids, but portion control is the driver for this package," says Jim O'Rourke, purchases group manager-global snacks at Procter and Gamble. "Having the product in the cup is a great way to have that portion control. It's a bit of a dosing meter."

The package also brought Pringles into new usage occasions in which convenience is key, such as school lunches and on-the-go snacking. "Although some people might take the Pringles can on the go, the 23-g cup changes the whole dynamic," O'Rourke says.

Snack Stacks flavors include Original, Sour Cream and Onion, Reduced Fat and Pizza. In addition, a 100-calorie version of Snack Stacks is available in Wal-Mart stores; each cup contains 100 calories worth of Original flavor Pringles. Procter and Gamble plans to launch 100 Calorie Snack Stacks nationally within the coming year.

Consumers have responded as hoped. Since the product's introduction in 2002, Snack Stacks have been the fastest growing segment of the Pringles portfolio within North America, according to the company.

O'Rourke reports consumer response to the product has "exceeded our expectations. It has elicited an unbelievable consumer response and amazing feedback" in consumer panels and through verbatims on the company's toll-free consumer line.

Boxing premium wine

Corbett Canyon Vineyards (, San Luis Obisbo, Calif., took a bold step when it began packaging its premium, vintage-dated, varietal wines in a 3-liter bag-in-box "cask" in 2003. The company currently sells chardonnay, merlot, pinot grigio, white zinfandel, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon in the cask as well as in 750-ml and 1.5-liter bottles.

Although bag-in-box wine has historically suffered from a poor reputation in the U.S., that perception is fading as more premium wines move into box packaging. Corbett Canyon was one of the first major U.S. producers of premium wine to get on board with the cask.

"Packaging innovation that guarantees wine freshness is a key differentiator for Corbett Canyon," says Laurie Jones, adding that the cask has driven significant sales growth.

This package format offers Corbett Canyon's customers multiple advantages, including greater convenience for storage and transportation to picnics, tailgate parties and other events. The bag-in-box packaging also eliminates cork taint. And the cask offers consumers a significant cost advantage versus bottles.

The cask's spigot, bag and box are less expensive than corks, glass bottles and labels, and the boxes offer lower distribution costs. Therefore, Corbett Canyon can market the same premium wine in casks that it sells in bottles — at a third of the bottled cost. The cost of wine in the cask works out to $2.50 per 750 milliliters.

In addition, the cask offers much longer shelf life than bottles after opening. The company offers consumers "The Corbett Canyon Cask Freshness Guarantee," which states the last glass of wine in the cask will be as fresh as the first glass, for up to six weeks. This feature is attractive to drinkers who resist opening a bottle of wine because they only want a glass or two every once in a while.

The cask's extended freshness is possible because the package structure protects the wine from oxidation. The package's SmartTap spigot, which Corbett Canyon developed and patented, was designed to provide an oxygen barrier. In addition, the flexible bag inside the box collapses as wine is drawn out. This also prevents air from getting in.

"Packaging innovation that guarantees wine freshness is a key differentiator for Corbett Canyon. We have witnessed tremendous growth in the 3-liter cask segment with Corbett Canyon both domestically and internationally," says Laurie Jones, Corbett Canyon spokeswoman.

She credits Corbett's outstanding performance with playing "a critical role" in a recent honor for The Wine Group, Corbett Canyon's parent company: The Wine Group was lauded as Winery of the Year at the 2005 Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, the largest wine and grape trade show in North America.

Consumers have responded enthusiastically to Corbett Canyon's bag-in-box package, which is still a somewhat unusual packaging choice for premium wine in the U.S. According to the company, it sold more than 1 million glasses of wine in the cask package in the first eight months after the package's launch.

Birds Eye launches steam-and-serve

In the case of StarKist, Pringles and Corbett Canyon, a new package structure did all the heavy lifting in enhancing consumers' relationship with the product. The product itself didn't change at all. In other instances, a new package works with a reformulated product to bring the brand greater relevance.

Birds Eye Foods (, Rochester, N.Y., currently is in test market with its new Birds Eye Steam and Serve products. These are frozen vegetables in sauce, packaged in a steam-and-serve package. In contrast to conventional boxes or pillow packs of frozen vegetables, the 10-ounce Birds Eye Steam and Serve tray goes directly from freezer to microwave to dish.

The primary package is a polypropylene tray sealed with a proprietary lidding film that vents the steam created during microwave cooking. The consumer does not need to peel or pierce the film before placing the tray in the microwave oven; the steam automatically escapes through a venting membrane incorporated in the transparent lid stock. The vegetables cook in six minutes.

Birds Eye's new package was developed for optimal flavor delivery, explains Dave Hogberg. "Our strategy is to make it easier and more enjoyable for consumers to eat more vegetables... That's what our steam-and-serve package does."

For merchandising purposes, the tray is wrapped in a paperboard sleeve made of 18-point, solid bleached sulfate paperboard. The sleeves, supplied by Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., Chicago, are printed in six colors plus an acrylic coating for sheen in the freezer case.

"The introduction of Birds Eye Steam and Serve is part of an overall strategy to re-engage the consumer in the frozen vegetable category and Birds Eye brand. It does so by delivering tangible benefits of exceptional taste and convenience in a very innovative package," says Dave Hogberg, executive vice president-sales, marketing and business development at Birds Eye Foods.

The company began limited distribution of the product in New York and Pennsylvania last fall and plans to expand distribution in September 2005. Birds Eye Steam and Serve comes in six varieties: Beans with a Twist, Asian Vegetables with Roasted Cashews, Spring Vegetables in Citrus Sauce, Italian Herb Harvest Vegetables, Thanksgiving Carrots and Cranberries, and Lemon Pepper Vegetables.

Instead of developing the product and packaging the conventional way -- by having its food technologists develop a new product and later creating an appropriate package for the product -- Birds Eye took a different tack with the Steam and Serve line. The company developed the steamer-package concept first, then gave the package to its executive chef with the assignment of developing recipes that would work well with the package.

The goal was "optimal flavor delivery," says Hogberg. "All elements of the food, packaging and presentation were unified behind the simple concept of delivering chef-inspired, sauced vegetables in a unique steam-and-serve package."

He adds, "Our strategy is to make it easier and more enjoyable for consumers to eat more vegetables, and the way to do that is by providing something that delivers a much better eating experience. That's what our steam-and-serve package does."

Clarence Birdseye, who pioneered quick freezing for food in the 1920s, would be gratified both by the new technology and by how it puts a new spin on his namesake brand.


For Procter and Gamble, designing a thermoformed cup that would protect Pringles Snack Stacks crisps was essential. Unbroken potato crisps represent an important part of Pringles' brand equity. Breakage is not acceptable.

Thus, the company designed a saddle-shaped cup that cradles the nested crisps and prevents them from breaking. The next step was creating a mold for its suppliers' thermoforming equipment.

For this phase of package development, Procter and Gamble developed a cup delivery team that included its own product development managers as well as representatives from its two cup vendors and from the mold makers that supply those vendors.

The cup vendors are Winpak Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba, which thermoforms the cups at its South Chicago Heights, Ill., plant. Winpak also is the lidding converter for the cups. The other Snack Stacks cup supplier is Printpack Inc., Atlanta. All members of the cup delivery team worked collaboratively, sharing non-competitive and non-proprietary information to create the mold Winpak and Printpack use today.

Free Subscriptions

Food Processing Digital Edition

Access the entire print issue on-line and be notified each month via e-mail when your new issue is ready for you. Subscribe Today. E-Newsletters

Receive updates on news, products and trends that are critical to the food and beverage industry. Subscribe Today.