Pine cleaner bottle: What's old is new again

By Lauren R. Hartman in Shipping Containers on March 31, 2007

King Pine disinfectant has been around since the 1930s. People still remember their grandmothers using the Black Pine-scented cleaner in its unmistakable drop-shoulder glass bottle. That's why current manufacturer Saba Chemical, Brooklyn, NY, recently brought the King Pine brand household disinfectant back to life after the cleaner had been repackaged by a previous company owner in plastic cylindrical bottles, which Saba Chemical says didn't exactly "clean up" in sales. Instead, Saba Chemical simulated the style of the iconic King Pine glass bottle from 70 years ago as part of a brand rebuilding strategy and reintroduced the familiar drop-shoulder oval in polyvinyl chloride with a 21st-century flair.

Extrusion/blow-molded by Novapak Corp. (www.pvcc.com), the new, round-shouldered containers have an Art Deco look, with all of the classic appeal of the older glass versions, which in the New York area, spark memories and prompt people to reminisce. Originally manufactured by Johnson Chemical in Brooklyn, the disinfectant cleaner line went to PVC containers in the late 1980s, in conjunction with Novapak. Soon thereafter, the original owners retired, leaving the product line to their children, who moved production, marketing and distribution to Florida. Later, the King Pine brand was acquired again by King Intl., which moved the operation to Ohio.

The new owners at the time then altered the bottle design from an oval to a very different cylindrical shape in plastic. The cylindrical bottle was decorated with a wraparound label and looked like many of the other disinfectants on the market.

Explains Jack Sabbagh, vp of Saba Chemical, "In New York and surrounding areas, King Pine was a well-known brand. But it moved to Ohio and started to evaporate in the marketplace. When a product is in the market for such a long time, changing its container radically can be a disaster." Another reason for King Pine's demise, he speculates, was the proliferation of dollar stores that offered all kinds of different products and various private-label alternatives.

Few companies have a license to produce a concentrated pine cleaner like King Pine with as much Black Pine ingredient (19.9 percent) for the retail market. "This is the strongest pine cleaner available at the retail level," Sabbagh says. "It's usually found only with industrial products. But by putting it in a cylindrical bottle, it was no longer distinctive in the market."

Our two best sellers are the original bottles. We are building our company on the familiar bottle and on memories of what King Pine looks like.

In 2005, King Pine changed ownership yet again when Saba Chemical purchased the brand, and the third-time buyout was indeed a charm. Saba Chemical made two decisions that saved the brand from the brink of extinction: It moved its production operation back to New York, where the brand was originally known, and it brought back the original drop-shoulder container shape, but in PVC. Sabbagh says while the original King Pine line included a variety of both cleaning products and insecticides, the main seller was the pine cleaner. "We wanted to take baby steps [with the line]," he says. "We have brought back only the pine cleaner product."

Rich Frungillo, regional sales manager for Novapak, explains that the drop-shouldered oval bottles in PVC have a tight radii, and their flat front and back panel surfaces sport simple, four-color, double-sided paper labels from Model Graphics and Media (www.modelgraphicsinc.com) that display original artwork created to hark back to the brand's rich history. The only major change made to the bottle graphics was the addition of the word "original" above a crown illustration on the top portion of the main label panels.

Novapak began producing the 12- and 20-oz drop-shouldered bottles for shipment to Saba Chemical in early 2006. Saba Chemical mixes and bottles the product. Brad-Pak Enterprises (www.brad-pak.com) and McKernan Packaging (www.mckernan.com) supply the threaded, opaque-white polypropylene closures for the bottles. Saba is also standardizing the cap to incorporate the King Pine logo.

The rounded, 12-oz bottle size with its new/old shape was the first to return to the marketplace in mid-2006, followed by the 20-oz size. Today, the King Pine cleaner line includes seven bottle sizes: 8-, 15- and 20-oz bottles; 12- and 20-oz drop-shouldered ovals; and 1/2- and 1-gal PVC oblong jugs with handles. Sabbagh says the cylinders sell best in areas outside the tri-state New York area, while the drop-shouldered bottle is favored there.

In fact, he's happy to report that supermarkets in the New York tri-state area as well as a number of New York-based distributors have taken the brand back into stores. Sabbagh credits the original packaging style for rekindling retailers' appreciation for the black-pine cleaning product.

Customers saw the original package shape in PVC and realized it was the product they remember and were happy it made a comeback.

Thus, the old-time King Pine brand is new again and off to a sparkling fresh start. "Our two best sellers in the line are the original bottles," says a pleased Sabbagh, who points out that Saba Chemical plans to eventually phase out the cylindrical bottle shape entirely.

"A lot of customers thought the line was obsolete before," Sabbagh summarizes. "When our customers saw the original, 'vintage' package shape in PVC and the label, they realized it was the pine product they remember and were happy to see it make a comeback to the market. The first thing everyone says is, 'I remember when my grandmother used this product.' We are building our company on the familiar bottle and on peoples' memories of what King Pine looks like and how well it works."

Frungillo adds that Novapak has noticed more packagers are requesting new bottle designs that are inspired by bottle styles of the past or original container styles because of the brand recognition they have. "Maybe it's a trend, we're not sure, but we have received other requests, and it seems to be catching on," he says.

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I too remember my grandmother using this product> I am overjoyed to see it return to my local supermarket and dollar store. I participate in a small cleaning company and my clients love it! They often comment on the rich deep aroma and ask 4 the name. It also freshens strong laundry and prevents colds and flu when diluted and used on surfaces. There is nothing like it! Its an old FAVORITE and a HOMERUN!!!
WHERE CAN YOU FIND THE KING PINE STORE IN CHICAGO WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING AND LOOKING HO BO'S HAD IT 1 TIME AND WE HAVE NOT FOUND IT AGAINPLEASE HELP THANKS IN ADVANCE LINETTE
I have used King Pine for 50 years, I have purchased several cases when i knew i was moving (from NY) to another state that didn't carry the product. I still have the glass containers. Nothing can replace the smell of a house cleaned with King pine, my friends beg me to share with them....NO WAY!!! so im glad that you have it back on the market so they can purchase their own!. Its about time!!! Im not sure the plastic bottle is GREEN minded, You should go back to GLASS.