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Bottles get custom sleeves vending-style

In the heart of Paris, at Galeries Lafayette, one of the city's grandest department stores, luxury, selection and the latest trends are de rigueur. So it seems fitting that an innovative, new sleeve-label option from Sleever International (www.sleever.com) should have made its commercial debut at this renowned store, in a 2004 holiday promotion that put package decoration into the hands of the customer.

Running through December 2004, Sleever's MySleeve® program at Galeries Lafayette gave holiday shoppers the opportunity to personalize labels for a 20-cL (6.76-oz) bottle of Pierrel Champagne Brut. Through the promotion, not only were customers able to add their own greeting to the front of the sleeve label, but they were also given a choice of four festive Christmas and New Year's label designs from which to choose.

But the pi?ce de la resistance of the program was the CustomPack® sleeve applicator from Sleever, an on-site "vending machine" that applied the custom labels to the bottles of bubbly within seconds. "Serving the customer is all about giving them what they want," says Eric Fresnel, CEO of Sleever. "With MySleeve, they get to choose the appearance of the bottle they take home."

During the course of the campaign, the CustomPack applicator produced 300 custom-sleeved bottles that were then placed in presentation boxes from Priplak SAS (www.priplak.com). "This champagne bottle, rendered unique, could be offered as a very distinctive gift or ?greeting card' bottle," relates Fresnel.

The MySleeve concept was first launched by Sleever last November at the French packaging exhibition Emballage 2004. According to the company, the program was developed to meet what Sleever sees as a growing demand for customized products. "Many international top brands are already working with this concept," explains Fresnel. "As a leader in sleeve-packaging innovations, Sleever invented the first one-to-one, customized sleeving concept."

The machine, engineered by the company's SleeverMachines® division, has been designed with a standard vending-machine footprint of 5 ft wide by 6.5 ft high and can accommodate several container sizes, including 20-, 37.5- and 75-cL (6.76-, 12.68- and 25.36-oz) bottles. The sleeving machine can also be used for a variety of container shapes and beverage products such as mineral water, energy drinks, cola and more. In fact, says Fresnel, "the possibilities are endless."

"For example," he says, "we can create items for sale at events like football matches. We can produce short-run labels aimed at creating excitement around a collectors' market. Or, we can give food and beverage companies a risk-free way of trying out exciting, new labeling ideas on their customers."

Serving the customer is all about giving them what they want. With MySleeve, they get to choose the appearance of the bottle they take home.

For the Galeries Lafayette application, the machine parameters were programmed to accommodate only the specifications of the 20-cL champagne bottle. In the future though, says Sleever, a second-generation machine under development, the CustomPack® 2, will allow product settings to be changed in minutes through a laptop plugged directly into the machine. However, Sleever emphasizes that the concept is intended for specific promotions and, as such, is meant to be displayed with only one item at a time.

Just as with most typical vending machines, operation of the CustomPack requires no more than the push of a button. Notes Fresnel, "The CustomPack sleeving process is fast and easy to operate. We've tried it out with a large number of ordinary customers, and everyone has found it straightforward." For the champagne bottle application, customers chose one of four label designs printed digitally by Sleever (the company also offers gravure-printed sleeves), wrote their personalized message on the front of the label using a ballpoint pen, placed the sleeve around the bottle, put the bottle in the CustomPack machine and voila!?within 15 seconds, the sleeve was shrunk to fit the contours of the bottle.

And, also as with most vending machines, Sleever says the CustomPack requires little maintenance.

With the success of Galeries Lafayette's MySleeve promotion, it appears that Sleever has popped the cork on a new generation of packaging, where one-off packaging design is a reality.

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