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Windowed gift-packs lift spirits

Lauren R. Hartman

January 29, 2014

10 Min Read
Windowed gift-packs lift spirits

Gifts are a physical expression of our feelings for others, and today consumers put more effort than ever into finding just the right gift for that special someone. They also expend an equal amount of effort in the packaging of those gifts for maximum effect. That's why E. & J. Gallo Winery, Modesto, CA, is now showcasing bottles of its distilled spirits in what it's calling "Big Window" gift packaging. Designed for the 2005 holidays, the entire package, except for a large, clear-film window on the front, is made of paperboard, though what looks amazingly like a silk liner inside is actually trompe l'oeil printed graphics. Atlantic Packaging Group (www.atlanticpackaginggroup.com), a specialty packaging converter, was recommended to E. & J. Gallo for its expertise in designing and producing windowed packages—just what the winery was looking for.

The development of the new gift-packs was a cooperative effort between E. & J. Gallo's in-house design department, which developed the carton graphics, CAG Design (www.cagdesign.com), which worked on prepress preparation and Atlantic Packaging Group, which produced the tuck-top/automatic-bottom cartons and the paperboard inserts.

The holidays are the time to create unique, eye-catching and often spectacular packaging, and packagers mainly want their holiday offerings to be remarkable because in the holiday shopping season offers such a rich opportunity to confirm the loyalty of existing customers and to attract new ones to their product lines.

For E. & J. Gallo, which markets its wines throughout the U.S. and in more than 90 foreign countries, making it one of the largest winemaking operations in the world, the holidays are especially important. Still a privately owned family business, the winery has a diverse product portfolio, encompassing a wide range of libations, fine table and sparkling wines and distilled, wine-based spirits and beverage wines. Known worldwide for its extensive selection of distilled spirits, E. & J. Gallo's E&J Brandy is one of the top revenue-generating brandies in the world. The spirits are sold under the name E&J Distillers. But the fact that "distilled spirits" isn't the first thing that comes to mind when consumers hear the name "Gallo" was part of the company's motivation for developing spectacular holiday gift packaging for three of its distilled spirits product offerings.

Robert Chin, senior marketing director for the company's spirits portfolio, says that more stockkeeping units were added to the spirits line's holiday packaging choices in 2005, to offer more gift choices for existing customers and to attract new customers to the spirits line in general and to certain products in particular. For the 2005 holiday season, Gallo prepared single-bottle packages and "gift-box," packaging that displays the spirit bottle in an eye-catching, decorated carton that differentiates it from other bottles on the store shelf and creates a ready-to-give, wrapped "present." E&J VSOP Brandy and a collection of Cask & Cream bottles were chosen for this treatment.

While all of the new gift-packs had to be eye-catching, the one for E&J XO Limited Release Vintage Reserve Brandy, a newer, premium, limited-release brandy introduced in 2004, is probably the most upscale, because it had to present the highest quality to support the image of its contents. Each carton contains a 750-mL bottle of brandy or liqueur.

Available in states that allow such combination gift packaging, a group of gift sets goes a step further with special treatments and includes value-added premiums that the winery says were designed to create a thoughtful gift that projects a quality image for the spirits. The bottle of E&J XO, for example, comes with a pair of brandy snifters etched with the E&J brand logo, while E&J VSOP includes a vintage-style, metal pocket flask that's similarly engraved. Cask & Cream Liqueur features a glass mug etched with the Cask & Cream logo.

The packaging project began with E. & J. Gallo presenting Atlantic with the bottles, the premiums and its package objectives. "Their guidelines were very simple," explains Jim Brown, Atlantic Packaging Group's vp of sales and marketing. "[Gallo] asked us to develop a package that offers maximum product visibility, holds the bottles and premiums securely and is easy to assemble and load." It was critical to E. & J. Gallo that the gift bottles be highly visible through the cartons instead of being portrayed through the graphics alone. It decided to offer the VSOP Brandy and the Cask & Cream Liqueur in a multipanel windowed package, and to present the upscale XO brandy in a dark, rich, classic-style package that matched its brand image with a single, die-cut, oval window on the front panel of the carton.

Both E. & J. Gallo and Atlantic Packaging Group went for a very dramatic look for the packaging. The packaging team set out to develop five structural designs for each package using the criteria. Able to work with various paperboard folding materials, such as SBS, recycled and clay-coated paperboard and litho-laminated corrugated, Atlantic Packaging stocks its own paper and paperboard in rolls that range in caliper from .010 to .032.

Combining strength and visibility, the "Big Window" gift cartons are made of .024 SBS and incorporate sturdy film inserts made of heavy-gauge polyvinyl chloride or acetate (depending on the package) that form the full-panel windows in oval or near-oval-shaped, die-cut openings in the cartons. For some of the packages, the PVC film (provided by Klöckner Pentaplast [www.kpfilms.com]) is also scored and folded to wrap around two of the carton panels to promote viewing of the bottles from multiple sides.

Once E. & J. Gallo saw prototype samples of the 2005 gift-packs, it says it found the dramatic brand presence it was looking for.

Carton exteriors for the two brandy packages team solid lines broken by embossed gold accents, while the premiums within nestle within specially printed, scored and perforated paperboard inserts that appear to be drapes of soft satin cloth on which the premiums appear to be floating. Cartons for E&J XO and Cask & Cream secure the bottles and premiums in place with the use of flaps die-cut into the printed inserts and a flap that slips over the bottle necks. The premium glasses or mugs are fitted under the die-cut flaps and their bases are inserted into the die-cut slots. The VSOP Brandy pack's metal flask premium sits in a die-cut paperboard pocket of the insert structure, secured firmly at the neck by a nearly invisible, transparent plastic tie.

To spike sales of the packs, E. & J. Gallo's design department created striking, distinctive and deep color schemes that differ for each SKU. Graphics for the Cask & Cream Liqueur appear in a rich brown, pearly beige and gold scheme that uses a visual representation of the creamy drink swirling on both the outer panels and the insert portions to attract shoppers. The design for E&J VSOP Limited Brandy tempts consumers with a glitzy royal blue and metallic gold palette. A bright red band on a shiny black background, accented with gold elements and red or gold type, complements the E&H XO Vintage Reserve Brandy carton.

While each graphic design is unique, all of the designs exhibit a family resemblance that leverages the E&J brand identity with subdued elements, sophisticated typefaces and fluid visuals. Atlantic Packaging Group prints and die-cuts the "satin" paperboard inserts on .014 SBS, laminated to F-flute corrugated, which it says is strong enough to hold the filled bottles and premiums securely, yet offers a smooth printing surface. E. &. J. Gallo says the reproduction of satin is so accurate that it even prompts shoppers to pick up the package for a closer look.

Jim Brown, vp of sales and marketing at Atlantic Packaging, points out that adding the large film window requires special equipment. In a single pass on a Kohmann (www.window-patcher.com) window-applicating machine, the window film is die-cut, creased and punched, which prevents the window film from awkwardly bunching when the SBS carton board is later folded during carton erection. Then, the film is glued over the window opening in the carton and adhered to the flat carton blank.

Notes Brown, "Even with the special equipment, there are several things going on at once [during this process], and only experience can prepare you for what can happen."

It was the task of CAG's imaging services group, which maintains a state-of-the-art prepress facility in the same building as Atlantic Packaging Group, to digitally prepare the sets of graphics for printing and to produce printing plates directly from final computer files. This isn't as straightforward as it sounds, attests CAG's imaging manager Stuart Swan. "The blue 'satin' graphics for the VSOP package are actually created by combining spot colors—three blues, a purple and a black. The interior uses of two blues and a purple."

Both Brown and Swan have high praise for the Gallo designers' printed simulation of a satin lining, which was developed using photography of draped material and then translating it into computer graphic images.

Using a 56-in.-wide KBA (www.kbavt.com) Planeta press, Atlantic Packaging Group offset-prints the XO Brandy carton in six custom colors and the insert in three. The Cask & Cream carton is printed in four-color process plus an extra bump of black to achieve the desired effects. Each carton also features a metallic gold ink accent color, and is UV-coated as a final finish.

One imparticular challenge arose over the gold printing on the XO carton. Lettering on the lower corners of the carton's front and side panel has very fine serifs. The serifs and the gold framing around the window required special trapping to .004 in. to achieve perfect register.

The gold framing, the E&J logo at the top of the front panel, an "Aged 7 Years" emblem below the window and the XO logo on the lid are all blind-embossed on a Bobst (www.bobstgroup.com) die-cutter/embosser. Atlantic also blind-embosses the VSOP pack's E&J crest, logo and gold "railroad track" accents that run around the top and bottom edges of the VSOP carton and the logo on five of the panels of the Cask & Cream carton.

As they have with other projects, Atlantic Packaging and CAG worked in close cooperation to achieve the desired outcome. "There were a lot of steps involved to achieve the final result," Brown says. "To oversimplify, the process involves printing, blind embossing, die-cutting and windowing in that order. Each step has its own registration and quality-control challenges."

Throughout the project, which took about four to six weeks to complete, computer files were exchanged, hard proofs were sent express mail and questions were asked and answered by phone, so the distance between the winery in California and the converter in Connecticut seemed rather transparent. After a few visits for progress reviews and final press approval, the spirits packages came together according to E. & J. Gallo's high standards. Specific sales results are not yet available, says Tony Cole, director of E. & J. Gallo's supplier development group, but the company has seen pleasing indications. "In the markets we serve, the sets have been well received," he says. "Sales indicate our goal of attracting new buyers seems to be working."

More information is available:

Atlantic Packaging Group, 860/889-1344. www.atlanticpackaginggroup.com.

Bobst Group, 973/226-8000. www.bobstgroup.com.

CAG Design, 203/913-3338. www.cagdesign.com.

KBA North America, Inc., 717/505-1150. www.kbavt.com.

Klöckner Pentaplast of America, Inc., 540/832-6000. www.kpfilms.com.

Kohmann GmbH & Co. KG, 49 2104 91460. www.window-patcher.com.

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