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Converter creates a gem of a label

Diamond of California, a world leader in the processing and marketing of culinary and in-shell nuts based in Stockton, CA, has launched a treasure trove of sweet and savory snacks with its new Emerald® line of snack nuts. Meeting consumers' growing preferences for snacks that are both convenient and healthy, the 14 nut varieties are being positioned by Diamond's snack-nut division, Emerald of California, as a contemporary, mainstream munchie.

"Today's snackers are moving from empty calories to healthier snack solutions, and we see tremendous opportunity for growth in that category," says Diamond president/CEO Michael J. Mendes. "These growth opportunities are fueled by the national concern with health and obesity, the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets and the widespread publicity about the health attributes of nuts. More consumers are becoming aware that the unsaturated fats in nuts, particularly the essential omega-3s in walnuts, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. And, clinical studies have shown that eating nuts in moderation can even help people control their weight."

Supporting the new nut products' sporty, on-the-go positioning is handy, portable packaging consisting of several sizes of canisters bejeweled with emerald-green shrink-sleeve labels provided by American Fuji Seal (www.afseal.com). Fabulously recreating the facets of the green gemstones after which the snack line is named, the labels provide outstanding shelf presence, distinguishing the product from the chips, pretzels and candy with which they compete. Equally dazzling are resealable pouch packages for the line's glazed snack nut varieties.

From nuts to...nuts

Begun in 1912 by a group of California farmers who formed a grower-owned cooperative called the California Walnut Growers Assn., Diamond of California today comprises of 1,900 walnut growers in Central Valley California. Expanding from its walnut heritage, in 1997 Diamond introduced a full line of nut products, including everything from pecans, almonds and macadamia nuts to hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and peanuts, among other varieties. In culinary nut sales, the cooperative now has a 33-percent market share, which is three-times larger than its closest branded competitor, and in consumer packaged in-shell nut products, Diamond boasts an 88-percent market share. In addition to having a strong retail sales division, Diamond also dominates the ingredient nut category, supplying walnuts to 80 percent of the nation's ingredient buyers.

Five years ago, Diamond formed Diamond of Europe GmbH, based in Cologne, Germany, and now does business in more than 100 countries around the world. In 2003, its best fiscal year ever, Diamond netted $300 million in sales.

Emerald of California, a brand that has been used in Europe for several years, was formed to clearly differentiate Diamond's snack nuts, which public relations manager Vicki Zeigler says are targeted at a much younger, much broader consumer demographic, and to take advantage of the growing market for healthy snacks. According to a survey conducted for the Grocery Manufacturers of America and cited by Diamond, in 2003 consumers spent $27 billion on snackfoods. Of that, traditional snacks represented 86 percent of the market, and healthy snacks just 14 percent. However, while growth in the traditional snack market is flat, healthy snacks are growing at 13 percent per year. Diamond's success with its existing offerings in the snackfood market fueled further growth of the line.

Explains Mendes: "The idea for a new snack division grew from consumer acceptance of our glazed walnuts and pecans, which were introduced nationally in 2002."

Since Q1-2004, those flavors—Original Glazed Walnuts, Butter Toffee Glazed Walnuts, Pecan Pie Glazed Pecans and Apple Cinnamon Glazed Walnuts ‘n Almonds—have been offered under the Emerald name in 5- (Pecan Pie) and 7-oz resealable standup pouches in 2,000 supermarkets throughout California, with nationwide distribution beginning this month. In addition, two new snack-nut combinations, Backyard Grill Walnuts ‘n Almonds and Honey Dijon Walnuts ‘n Cashews, are also available in the 7-oz metallized pouch, which is flexo-printed in eight colors by TechFlex Packaging (www.tfpack.com), made into bags by Deluxe Packages (www.deluxepackages.com), and filled and sealed by Diamond at its Stockton facility. A Presto Products (www.fresh-lock.com) zipper is used to provide resealability of the metallized polyethylene terephthalate/linear low-density PE bag.

Meant to be munched on-the-run, eight additional salted varieties were also introduced to California snackers in grippable plastic containers containing 10, 11.5 or 12 oz of product. These include Deluxe Mixed Nuts, Mixed Nuts (less than 40% peanuts), Whole Cashews, Cashew Halves & Pieces, Dry Roasted Peanuts, Cocktail Peanuts, Old Fashioned Honey Roasted Peanuts, and Dry Roasted Almonds.

Diamond is also in the process of introducing all 14 Emerald products in 4.5-oz individual serving-size canisters that will be marketed primarily to convenience stores, Zeigler says.

Customized packaging

Based on consumer research and the desire to establish the new Emerald nut varieties as a convenient snack alternative, Diamond worked with Owens-Illinois (www.o-i.com) to custom-design the containers. The canisters are blow-molded with a high-density PE/ethyl vinyl alcohol multilayer construction that uses a proprietary coextruded barrier to preserve product freshness.

Measuring 7 in. high with the cap for the larger version and 39/16 in. with cap for the smaller, and having a 25/8-in. dia, the green canisters (coloring from Ampacet [www.ampacet.com]) are designed with an almost hourglass contour and a visibly defined "v" shape on the front and back, making them easy to hold in one hand. The canisters can also comfortably fit in a car's cupholder or in a backpack without the snacks being damaged.

According to Zeigler, information gathered by the Consumer Research Division of Mattson & Co. indicates that "67.6 percent of those surveyed preferred Emerald's uniquely shaped blow-molded plastic canister over the leading snack-nut brand's glass jar."

Topping the canister is a green plastic closure from Berry Plastics (www.berryplastics.com), also designed specifically for Diamond, that pops off the canister when it's squeezed from either side.

Complementing and enhancing the innovative package is the container's crowing glory—an emerald-hued shrink-sleeve label designed by FutureBrand (www.futurebrand.com) and converted by AFS.

Converter optimizes design

In July 2003, AFS joined with Diamond to develop and produce a label to meet Diamond's container and shelf-presentation requirements. Recalls Peter Parker, new business development manager for AFS, "The bottle was designed to create a front and back panel area, by having an arrow shape formed into the bottle. Therefore, it was critical that the graphics be designed to accentuate those features. Providing a detailed template showing those areas was the first step in optimizing Diamond's graphics to their bottle.

"American Fuji Seal also allowed for tolerances associated with application, to ensure those graphics stayed within those front and back areas."

AFS chose a 50-micron oriented polystyrene stock for the label. "Since registration of the label to the container is critical," explains Parker, "we chose OPS to eliminate any variation in vertical shrinkage associated with other materials."

The labels are produced at AFS's 500,000-sq-ft corporate headquarters facility in Bardstown, KY. With more than 400 employees and state-of-the-art converting equipment, the facility produces a range of label formats, including shrink sleeve, in-mold, insulating shrinkable foam and wraparound, as well as multipack carriers.

The Diamond label is printed in 10 colors on a gravure press from an unnamed supplier. Graphics consist of the emerald-green, faceted background on all varieties, with an upside-down triangular "window" on the front panel that offers a different background color depending upon the variety, along with appealing photography of the nut combinations contained inside. The name of the variety runs across the top half of the triangle underneath a deep-red Emerald nameplate.

After printing, AFS slits and seams the labels, then places them on a core for machine application at Diamond's main processing facility in Stockton.

At the Stockton plant, Zeigler relates that the canister filling line, integrated by Packaging Technologies (www.packt.com), includes an Ishida scale from Heat & Control (www.heatandcontrol.com) and a Packaging Technologies filler/lid applicator/capper. After filling and capping, labels are applied using equipment supplied by AFS. The applicator is a customized Fuji Intersleeve® Model 3200-DE machine—the "DE" designating the labeler's full-body decoration capability—that completes the job with integral shrink tunnels.

Positive launch

If early sales totals are any predictor of the future success of the new Emerald line, consumers will be nuts over the "heart-healthy," totable snacks. Notes Zeigler, "In Northern California, where Emerald snack nuts were introduced in mid-January, the products have already captured more than an eight-percent market share in the snack-nut category."

More information is available:

Label converter, label applicator:American Fuji Seal, Inc., 502/348-9211. www.afseal.com.

Film Converter:TechFlex Packaging, LLC, 323/242-8400. www.tfpack.com.

Bag converter:Deluxe Packages, 530/671-9000. www.deluxepackages.com.

Zipper closure:Presto Products Co., 800/265-0750. www.fresh-lock.com.

Canisters:Owens-Illinois, Inc., 419/247-5000. www.o-i.com.

Canister coloring:Ampacet, 888/267-2238. www.ampacet.com.

Cap:Berry Plastics Corp., 812/429-9522. www.berryplastics.com.

Label design:FutureBrand, 212/931-6300. www.futurebrand.com.

Packaging line integrator, filler, capper:Packaging Technologies, 800/257-5622. www.packt.com.

Scale:Heat & Control, Inc., 800/227-5980. www.heatandcontrol.com.

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