Creating packs with a distinctive shape may be one of the oldest tricks in the packaging design book, yet it’s still as relevant today as it was when the Marmite jar was first created in the 1920s.
“Structural packaging is a great way to stand out on-shelf,” says Kellie Chapple, MD of design agency Ziggurat Brands. “Some brands have used structure so effectively that they can even be identified from a silhouette of their packaging.”
Structural stand-out can also be achieved by taking formats from other categories?to create contrast on-shelf. In May, Alice White – an Australian wine brand on sale in the US – introduced three of its varieties in 500ml Tetra Prisma Aseptic packages, a format more commonly used for fruit juices.
Tetra Pak also says its most recent innovation for chilled liquid dairy products – the Tetra Brik Edge – has characteristics that make it stand out on the retail shelf.
Aluminium bottles such as the Fusion from Rexam are another new container shape available to beverage brand owners.
Owing to their high cost, the use of ‘alubottles’ has been confined to premium, niche products and limited editions. The Coca-Cola Company, for example, commissioned five artists from five continents to develop freeform designs for alubottles for sale in nightclubs.
Besides picking a pack shape or structure and ‘owning it’, Chapple suggests picking a colour and trying to ‘own it’ in the way that Cadbury ‘owns’ purple. This a technique Ziggurat deployed when designing packaging for Copella fruit juices and Higgidy Pies.
“Higgidy Pies really owns the dark aubergine colour and uses an accent colour to differentiate across the range, which works well in terms of shelf blocking,” she says.
There’s also a variety of special effects that can be applied to packaging to create a point of difference.
Producers of aluminium cans such as Ball and Rexam are investing heavily in researching printing and finishing technologies to enable more brilliant, eye-catching and high definition graphics.
Rexam offers ‘360° embossing’, which allows the entire can to be covered with a repeating design, as well as ‘registered embossing’, in which selected design elements can be highlighted.
360° embossing has been used by Swedish brewer Spendrups on its Norrlands Guld and Bright Blue and Premium Guld beer brands. “The embossing adds a sensory element that makes the consumer want to touch the can,” says Rexam’s Arjen Van Zurk.
Another printing technique developed by Rexam is ‘Illustration Impact’, which enables photo-like images to be printed onto cans. This technique was used by Rexam to create a new look for energy drink Mad Croc. Illustration Impact is also being deployed in conjunction with registered embossing by Latvian brewer Cesu Alus, on its premium beer cans.
Despite making every last millimetre of a can’s side surfaces work, beverage manufacturers seem to be missing a trick when it comes to the tops and bases of cans, which are usually left bare.
However, this looks set to change with the introduction of Rexam’s Printed Ends technology, which allows brands to print designs in up to seven colours on the ends of cans. Energizer Brands used this technology on its Attitude energy drink can, with the benefit that the brand could be identified even when the cans were displayed on the bottom shelf.
Food and beverage manufacturers are becoming more savvy when it comes to considering what view the consumer will have of the pack from the aisle.
When FrieslandCampina asked Plato Product Consultants in conjunction with RPC to design new packaging for 10 varieties of Milner cheese on sale in the Netherlands, the pack had to be able to display the range horizontally and vertically on supermarket shelves.
An in-mould labelled (IML) lid from RPC Bramlage Antwerpen combined with an APET tray from RPC Bebo Nederland has given Milner visibility from all angles. When stacked vertically, the cheese can be seen through the IML lid. Printing on the edge of the lid, meanwhile, prevents the potential branding loss when packs are stacked horizontally.
While physical appearance is clearly important, creating packaging that screams ‘pick me’ isn’t just about making it look different to anything else. On-shelf appeal can be achieved via other means, such as user-functionality or a ‘green’ dimension.
With fresh produce, for example, consumers don’t want to see fancy print finishes – they want to see the product itself. This means other considerations come into play when designing such packaging, such as keeping the contents fresh and responding to environmental concerns by reducing the amount of plastic used.
Linpac says its Infia K37 range of punnets for soft fruit delivers on all the above counts. They’re made from transparent, recycled PET, have a system of side wall perforation holes for air flow and come with either a traditional clip-on lid or more environmentally friendly heat-sealable film.
Sainsbury’s obviously believes that consumer concerns about excess packaging and the environment are important enough to influence product appeal. The UK retailer has recently changed the packaging of its soft fruit range from trays with rigid clip-on lids to trays with a heat sealed flexible lidding film, delivered by Amcor Flexibles. The new format, which is used for strawberries, plums and cherries, reportedly enables Sainsbury’s to reduce packaging weight by up to 87%.
For its blueberries, Sainsbury’s has broken with tradition and moved into Amcor’s PushPop stand-up, transparent pouch format. Besides reducing packaging weight by 75%, Amcor says PushPop offers on-shelf differentiation, as the entire surface can be printed. It also delivers on the functionality front, as the bottom of the pack incorporates holes so consumers can wash their fruit in the bag.
The ability to reseal packs is another function that can increase on-shelf appeal. The problem is that some resealing mechanisms such as zippers and stickers can be clumsy and require additional materials to be used. Amcor claims to have come up with a solution to this problem with its Amcor E-Close technology, which incorporates the reseal into the film and is said to be suitable for confectionery, bakery and snack products as well as fresh and chilled foods. One user is Rübezahl Schokoladen, which has introduced Amcor E-Close for its Sun Rice chocolate squares sold exclusively in Aldi in Germany.
Packaging may be known as the ‘silent salesman’, but in this era of intense competition, it needs to shout loud to be heard in the retail crowd. Those packs that combine an attractive physical appearance with functionality and strong environmental credentials are most likely to make a lasting impression.
Lynda Searby is a special technical feature writer with a broad knowledge of the food and beverage industry.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023