Lauren Hartman

February 4, 2014

30 Min Read
Portability, convenience reign supreme in food finds

Most food and beverage companies bank on consumers' demands for convenience, on-the-go portability and single-serve sizes to boost their bottom lines, as evidenced by products shown for the first time at the recent FMI show in Chicago. New packaging was also very much on display, for products such as olive oil in a paperboard carton, wine in aluminum bottles and powdered drink mixes in stick-packs.

Bertolli's frozen Dinner for Two meals beat eating out

Watch out, Zagat's. Even in America's culinary Meccas, most people say they prefer a romantic dinner in to having to go out, a recent survey by Bertolli Div. of Unilever, Inc. reveals. The majority of those surveyed in cities known for their culinary diversity and excellence, such as New York, Seattle and Chicago, said they would forgo dinner out for a cozy evening at home. To meet this demand, Bertolli displayed its line of frozen Italian meals called Bertolli Dinner for Two, the first, restaurant-quality, authentic Italian dinners (A) with easy, one-step skillet preparation, that go from freezer to table in 10 minutes. Bertolli test-marketed the products two years ago, and they're now going national.

According to Bertolli, the new Dinner for Two is the only frozen dinner to gain unprecedented recognition by the prestigious Federation of Italian Chefs of America (FIC). Founded to promote traditional Italian cooking in the U. S., it's a professional chefs and restaurateurs organization. FIC chefs cite the dinners' restaurant-quality, authentic recipes, professional culinary techniques and fine ingredients like aged Pecorino Romano cheese, imported Italian pastas and Bertolli extra virgin olive oil as the reasons for the designation.

Bertolli Dinner for Two is a complete, chef-inspired Italian meal—no need to add anything—that includes crisp vegetables, al dente pasta, succulent sauce and, in most varieties, chicken, sausage or shrimp. The line includes eight different varieties: grilled chicken alfredo, Italian sausage and rigatoni, shrimp scampi and linguine, spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli, chicken parmigiana and penne, chicken and garden vegetable primavera, roasted chicken and linguine and shrimp, penne and asparagus.

According to Bertolli's chef, Richard Poye, the Dinner for Two entrees are based on the high standards of traditional Italian cooking and are premium, authentic Italian meals that look, smell and taste freshly prepared. Flash-freezing seals in the flavor of the sauces and preserves the texture of the pasta. The suggested retail price is $7.99 for 24 oz, serving two.

Bags for Dinner for Two are made from metallized polyester film manufactured and printed by Printpack, Inc. ( at its plant in Elgin, IL. The bagstock is an 8-color, reverse-gravure-printed, metallized tandem extrusion lamination. In 2003, shortly after the products were introduced into test market, the package won a Golden Cylinder Award from the Gravure Association of America. The judges were unanimous in selecting Bertolli Dinner for Two for the "Best of the Best" award. The print quality, visual impact and a realistic look of the food on the packages made this entry the obvious choice as best in show, says GAA. This package was also one of two winners in the packaging/film category.

Convenient packs take the cake

Once again at this show, convenience won out with everything from portable potables to shortcut meals to cake. And General Mills' new line of Betty Crocker desserts (B) are almost too easy to prepare and impossible to resist. New Warm Delightse microwavable cakes in heat-and-serve bowls come in five varieties, including Molten Chocolate Cake and Molten Caramel Cake. Wowing tasters at FMI, the single-serve cakes take shape as a mix packaged in a polypropylene bowl that contains 3.35 oz of cake mix in one film pouch and fudge in another. The bowl and the pouches are all presented in a colorful paperboard sleeve. After removing the shrink film enclosing the bowl and the pouches inside, and emptying the mix into the bowl, the user adds 1/4 cup of water and stirs. The user then squeezes the pouch filled with fudge, tears off the top and dispenses the fudge into the cake batter. The mixture can then be microwaved on high for one minute. In practically no time, the consumer has a tasty, personal-sized cake made with little mess or prep work.

Pam Becker, a public relations spokesperson at General Mills, Minneapolis, explains that the product was in development approximately one year. Warm Delights will debut nationally in the baking mix aisle in September. She mentions that packaging specifics and suppliers are proprietary. "This new product was developed in response to consumers' need for convenience and good taste," she adds. Each pack sells for about $1.99.

"Betty Crocker has been helping consumers serve up delicious baked goods for more than eighty years," says Josh Resnik, marketing manager. "The irresistible flavors and great taste prove that Betty Crocker Warm Delights is on trend with consumer desires for convenience without sacrificing taste."

Birds Eye gets fresh with veggies

Again, convenience reigns supreme, with everything from sweet potatoes to a mixed Spanish Medley of vegetables. Bagged vegetables from Birds Eye Fresh (C), a recently created part of Birds Eye Foods, Rochester, NY, aren't just frozen anymore. Birds Eye Fresh offers a line of fresh-refrigerated products called Table Topperse that includes ready-to-prepare, fresh vegetables that have been cleaned and bagged. Suitable for retail displays and consumers with a flare for the gourmet, the branded line includes sliced sweet potato fries, fresh corn, onions, Russet Skin-On Fresh Fries, whole okra, cabbage, asparagus, celery, peppers, cauliflower, sliced zucchini and summer squash, fresh peas and carrots and assorted veggie medleys. Soon to come are mashed sweet potatoes, mashed skin-on red potatoes, diced pepper medley and a bean and carrot blend.

Most of the products are packed in film bags holding different quantities. The bags are provided and flexo-printed by Packaging Products Corp. (, which uses patented, proprietary technology to provide packaging with controlled respiration for produce. The Table Toppers bags are microperforated for breathability and help make the veggies a snap to use. Precut, sliced or diced, the products can be quickly microwaved, and they're ready to serve. The refrigerated shelf life on the vegetables, depending on the vegetable type and its specific respiration rate, is about 12 days. The products aim to add value for consumers because preparation time is reduced. Table Toppers come with cooking instructions and recipe cards to inspire home cooks to reap the healthy benefits of fresh vegetables year-'round.

Birds Eye Fresh senior marketing manager Lyn Hughes explains that the bags feature eye-catching graphics designed to showcase the vegetables and their unusual cuts, colors and combinations. The corn on the cob is tray-packed in a microwavable, film-wrapped tray that contains two, three or six ears, and takes just minutes to heat. "It's the perfect solution for time-starved consumers," Hughes says. "Best of all, Birds Eye Fresh super sweet corn is available year' round in stores across the country."

The company says the convenience line of fresh vegetables, which stems from a brand that's been around for more than 70 years in the frozen business, is quite recognizable among consumers and has some of the hottest real estate in the produce section. Some of the products are being made available in various stores throughout the country, while others will be introduced in August. Says Hughes, "The Birds Eye Fresh program is about four years old. Convenience plays a huge role in these value-added products. Things have to be conveniently packaged. We have to eat healthier, but we often don't have time, so the only way we'll eat our veggies and fruits is if it's easy to do."

Lipton shakes things up with tea packed to-go

With a surge in mini packets of product designed to flavor bottled water, Unilever Foods North America introduces three Lipton powdered tea products in stick-like packets that can be added to bottled water for a portable pick-me-up. Launched in time for summer to the "pour-and-go" crowd, Liptonw Iced Tea To Go with Lemon, Green Tea To Go with Honey & Lemon and Green Tea To Go with Mandarin & Mango teas come in convenient, stick-like packets of tea mix in a 10-packet, shiny foil carton with a film window on the front that provides a view of the packets inside (D). Containing no artificial flavors, sugar or calories, the tea mix is designed to be very easy to prepare. One 0.6-oz packet may be added to a 16.9- to 20-oz bottle of water, and after a shake of the bottle, the tea dissolves completely and is ready to drink.

The mini packets are formed from a polyester/foil/polyester laminate supplied as rollstock by Sonoco Flexible Packaging Division ( The structure is reverse-printed in seven colors by offset lithography. The foil-laminated paperboard carton is from Graphic Packaging Intl. ( Its die-cut viewing window is covered with oriented polypropylene film. The products are being copacked by Power Packaging ( in Batavia IL.

Tea has taken on a more healthful image than ever lately, and Lipton's new line is no exception. "Consumers are looking for convenient ways to eat and live healthier, without giving up great taste," states Bauke Rouwers, Unilever vp/general manager for Lipton Tea North America. "Lipton To Go sticks are a great way for today's busy consumer to get the benefits of tea, even when on the go. The introduction of new and newly reformulated products expands Lipton's portfolio of great-tasting, healthy teas."

The labeling on the carton also promotes the tea's natural flavonoid antioxidant properties. Each serving of Lipton Tea To Go contains 80 mg of flavonoid antioxidants. To alert consumers, the company has adopted what it calls the AOXe seal, a proprietary mark that indicates a substantial level of antioxidants. Lipton teas are made from real tea leaves, which contain flavonoid antioxidants that can help protect the body from free radicals, or molecules that can damage cells. Issued by the Unilever Health Institute in The Netherlands, the new seal is unique to Lipton products and can be found on many of its green and black teas, tea bags, and ready-to-drink, bottled tea products.

The Tea To Go cartons are printed with the circular, green and white AOX (antioxidant) symbol positioned on both front and back panels. A flavonoid content chart is also featured on the back of the carton, coupled with illustrations of how to enjoy the tea: in the office, at the gym and on the go. A pull of the carton's handy perforated tearstrip opening converts the container into a flip-top.

Unilever says the use of the seal coincides with Lipton's packaging revitalization, which it says reflects the health and quality that consumers can expect from Lipton teas. The contemporary packaging highlights the company's "from the tea leaf" message while appealing to young-minded, health conscious consumers. Each 10-count carton is priced at $2.99 and is merchandised with water in stores, according to Lipton's Peter Waxman. "The consumer response has been very positive since the product's launch in March," he says. "We're exceeding expectations."

Wine and beer for on-the-go consumers

Convenience is paying dividends for Ball Corp ( The giant manufacturer of metal and plastic packaging products, primarily for the beverage and food industries, is supplying Strong Brands LLC, New York, with a cute, 187-mL (6.3-oz) can with a pull-tab lid for its newly introduced Floot brand of sparkling wine (E). And it is supplying 16-oz polyethylene terephthalate bottles for Coors light beer, which is being marketed this summer in an 18-pack case that can be opened and used as an ice chest. Ball produces the Floot cans at its Wallkill, NY, plant, about an hour and a half from New York City. The PET bottles are produced in Ames, IA.

The interior of the wine can is lined with a polymer coating to protect the integrity of the sparkling wine and prevent interaction between the can and the beverage, and graphics are printed directly on the can so there is no need for an additional label. The can, which is sold as a single item in two- and four-packs and in a 24-pack, is served with a mini straw to encourage sipping rather than guzzling. The straws are attached to the sides of the cans.

The Floot brand of wine is produced from a blend of wines to achieve a good, middle-of-the-road sparkling wine, and carbon dioxide is then injected," says Strong Brands marketing manager, Michael Kanbar. "We wanted to produce something unique and practical that people could take anywhere and enjoy." This package is designed to fit the lives of on-the-go people who want to enjoy fine wine in a variety of settings, from the dance club to the country club. Consumers can easily take these containers where wine in glass cannot go, including some sport and concert venues, hiking trails, picnics and on boats. People who only want one serving of wine do not have to open an entire bottle; they can just enjoy one can. The can is lighter and more portable than glass, chills faster and can be easily crushed when empty. From a retailer standpoint, it costs less to ship aluminum containers than glass, and aluminum is easy and cost-effective to recycle.

"Ball did a phenomenal job for us on this project," says Kanbar. "We flew out to their pilot plant in Denver for a pilot run, and Ball had people from the ink company there to make sure the printing on the can was perfect. It was really impressive the way they helped us, above and beyond the call of duty."

Floot sparkling wine, which is currently marketed in the northeast and sells for $3.99/can, is contract-packed at Pri-Pak, Inc., Lawrenceburg, IN. Filled cans are sent to MSW Packaging (, also in Lawrenceburg, which wraps four cans in paperboard sleeves using its proprietary VSS Multi-pack System. The sleeves are produced by Zumbiel Packaging (, located in Cincinnati.

Regardless of impending heat waves, this summer will be refreshingly Rocky Mountain cold, thanks to new Coors Light packaging (F) that delivers the ultimate in cold refreshment. A new, specially designed 18-pack case of 16-oz PET bottles that converts into a cooler will allow beer lovers to enjoy cold Coors Light. The PET bottles incorporate Ball Corp.'s Amazon HM(tm) multilayer barrier technology. This is a nylon composite material that features superior delamination characteristics and provides both an active oxygen barrier and a passive carbon dioxide barrier.

"When it comes to cold refreshment, nobody does cold beer as well as Coors Light," says Jim Sabia, vp of marketing for Coors Brewing Company. "Our commitment to cold begins with our unique Frost Brewing(R) process, continues with guaranteed cold shipment and storage and now extends to the customers' hands with these innovative new packages that allow beer lovers anywhere to experience the cold refreshment of the Rocky Mountains, even in the heat of summer."

The innovative plastic-bottle cooler box is the industry's first ice-ready bottle package that can go anywhere. Consumers need only add ice to the cooler to enjoy the cold beer anywhere, anytime. The break-resistant, 16-oz plastic bottles mean that now, consumers can have beer where glass isn't allowed, such as the pool or the beach. According to Coors, the resealable plastic bottles keep beer colder longer than glass bottles and aluminum cans.

Fresh flavor in smaller packs

Watkins, Inc., Winona, MN, displayed new 2-oz metal cans of spices (G) and 2-oz glass bottles of flavor extracts at FMI. Both packages replicate larger packages of the same products that have been on the market for many years. "Some of our customers wanted smaller packages so the product would be fresher when they use it," says Watkins' field and public relations coordinator, Sarah De Lano. "These smaller packages give our customers more options."

Founded by J.R. Watkins in 1868, Watkins is the oldest direct-selling company in the world. "Direct-selling" means that the products are not sold in stores; they may only be purchased from a Watkins associate. While the company's products are still sold mainly through direct selling, some are now sold through various retail outlets as well. This includes the new 2-oz metal cans, which are being sold at Wal-Mart stores. The 2-oz glass bottles of flavor extract will not be on the market until this fall.

The 2-oz bottle continues Watkins famous Trial Mark(TM) bottle, which was America's first money-back guarantee. A customer could—and still can—use the product down to the Trial Mark embossed on the bottle and still return the remaining product for a complete refund.

The glass bottles are supplied by TricorBraun (, while the metal cans and the shaker tops are supplied by JL Clark (

Will dogs beg for condiments?

Condiments are going to the dogs with the new Iams Savory Sauce(TM) line of home-style sauces (H) from The Iams Co., Dayton, OH. Launched nationally in January, the vitamin-, mineral- and antioxidant-containing gravies were developed "to help enhance Iams dry products for animals that may have trouble eating due to a variety of issues that may be linked to health, age or life transitions," says LaShanna Martin, assistant brand manager for Iams.

"They also enhance the taste for many dogs and provide the human caregiver with the satisfaction of preparing a meal with additional variety for the pet," she adds.

In packaging fit for humans, Roasted Beef, Sizzlin' Bacon and Country Style Chicken flavors, each in Puppy, Adult and Active Maturity formulas, use an oblong ketchup/condiment-style bottle made from of a multilayer PP construction from TricorBraun ( Seaquist Closures ( supplies the bottles' stock, snap-style dispensing closure. Each variety is available in an 11- and a 15.5-oz size, for a total of nine stockkeeping units.

Providing a premium appearance, the bottles are stylishly sleeved in clear, full-body shrink labels supplied by American Fuji Seal ( Graphics, designed by Landor & Associates (, depict smiling pet owners and their dogs and are color-coded according to flavor and formula. Clear areas allow consumers to view the sauces, which contain real meat and vegetables.

Savory Sauce products are available wherever Iams products are sold—in grocery, pet and clubstore channels—for an average retail price of $1.79 per 11-oz bottle. The sauces also come in a three-bottle variety pack. Relates Martin, "We have received a strong positive consumer and retailer response, and are currently shipping above forecast."

McCormick perks up meals

McCormick & Co., Inc. has introduced a number of new seasoning products to spice up meals and make food taste better. These include four flavors of Skillet Pastes (I) in 4-oz standup pouches, five Grill Mates Spice Rubs in glass jars (J), comprising three dry rubs and two wet rubs and Veggie Steamers, which are plastic bags containing seasonings into which vegetables may be added before the bag is microwaved. The Spice Rubs are on supermarket shelves nationwide right now, while the Skillet Pastes and Veggie Steamers will be out this fall.

For many people, grilling is a passion. Now, McCormick(R) adds one of the hottest trends to the fire by introducing five new spice rubs that infuse grilled meats and vegetables with big, bold flavor. Grill Mates Spice Rubs (wet), which are available in two popular grilling flavors—Spicy Hickory and Mesquite—are thick, spoonable, spice pastes that lock in juices to ensure that meats stay tender, juicy and full of flavor. Grill Mates Spice Rubs (dry) are a fast and easy way to create a flavorful, char-grilled crust that helps seal in meats' natural juices while grilling. Available in steak, chicken and pork flavors, these rubs make grilling foolproof, with no marinating time required.

"Spice rubs are the hottest thing that's happened to grilling in recent years," says Laurie Harrsen, public relations director at McCormick. "We created new Grill Mates Spice Rubs to deliver the ultimate in convenience and flavor for grilled foods." The suggested retail price for new Grill Mates Spice Rubs, which are packaged in glass jars, is $2.79.

The secret to perfectly seasoned, steamed vegetables is in the bag. The steamer bag, that is. New McCormick Veggie Steamers (K), which allow you to cook tasty vegetables in less than eight minutes, are available in two popular varieties: Garlic & Basil and Cheddar Cheese. Just add your choice of vegetables and water and let the microwave do the rest. These items contain everything you need in one convenient package. Vegetables cook perfectly, while retaining their flavor, vitamins and freshness.

With so much focus on the new U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, Americans are looking for easy ways to add more vegetables to their meals. Veggie Steamers are a tasty way to ensure that the entire family enjoys doing just that. Their suggested retail price is $1.69.

McCormick, the flavor expert, has the secret to spicing up ordinary weeknight meals. New Skillet Paste is a thick, cooking sauce that turns vegetables, meat and chicken into a delicious, home-cooked dinner in 25 minutes or less. Four great tasting sauces—Thick & Spicy Pork, Teriyaki Beef, Sweet & Sour Chicken and Country Herb Chicken—make extraordinary dinners a snap to prepare. Simply cook the meat, stir in the rich seasoning paste and simmer. Dinner is served in just three steps.

Skillet Paste is packaged in a 4-oz standup pouch with a suggested retail price of $2.39.

Aseptically packed olive oil and dressings stay fresh

Packed in gorgeously printed Tetra Pak ( Prisma and Brik aseptic cartons, ArteOliva olive oil, sauces and dressings from Spain (L) strike a contrast with the bottled and canned products with which they compete. However, says Alejandro Lucaya, president of Brooklyn-based Barcelona Import Co., which sells the products in the U.S., to view the olive-oil-based products' uniqueness only by their packaging is to underestimate their true value.

There's a perception that we are all about packaging," he says, "and that's not true. Packaging is just a means to an end. We are all about quality and freshness. In order to accomplish this, we need to use this packaging. It's not that we are offering the same-quality olive oil in different packaging, it's that we are offering a different olive oil because of the packaging."

According to Lucaya, the deleterious effects of sunlight on olive oil as soon as the product is manufactured cause it to begin oxidizing, losing its freshness and health benefits. During distribution, presentation on the store shelf and consumer use, bottled olive oils continue to degrade. Likewise, traditionally packaged sauces and dressings often lose much of their freshness and flavor through the pasteurization process. "Our sauces are chef-quality," Lucaya says. "You cannot pasteurize them."

Barcelona Import offers ArteOliva olive oil in 0.5- and 1-L Tetra Prisma aseptic cartons, which offer a unique, grippable shape and a resealable screw cap, custom-designed for ArteOliva with an anti-dripping mechanism. While most olive oils offer a one-year shelf life, the ArteOliva brand maintains its freshness for up to three years.

Among the other ArteOliva products distributed by Barcelona Import are mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, tomato sauce and salad dressings, among others, made with extra virgin olive oil. For these products, which have just a 15-day shelf life after opening, square Tetra Brik Aseptic cartons are used in a 1.25-mL size.

The eye-catching carton stock, with rich imagery against a metallized background (for the olive oil) is supplied preprinted by Tetra Pak as rollstock, and cartons are formed and filled by ArteOliva in Spain. In the U.S., the products can be found in specialty food shops as well as in some regional grocers. Lucaya says that acceptance of the products has been slow but is gradually building. "It seems that in the U.S., people are not used to buying things in aseptic cartons. I think this is because they are not as aware as Europeans are of the effects of light, but business is picking up," he says.

Cleverly converted coffee beans pouch

Espresso Royale premium coffeehouse beans from Espresso Caffé Corp., Ann Arbor, MI, are roasted in small batches to guarantee high quality. Filled and packed in an exclusive, 16-oz zippered, valved, standup pouch (M) displaying elegant artisan woodcut graphics, the coffee beans in seven blends include a House Blend boasting a true Italian Roast flavor, Decaf Italian Roast and Solidario Organic, a medium organic roast.

The history of Espresso Royale dates back to the coffeehouses of North Beach, San Francisco, and the early coffeehouses of Berkeley. The emphasis on great coffee is evident in the unusually printed pouches, which the company says generate immediate interest and a positive consumer response. Their black-on-black background and unusual woodcut artwork helps the pouches stand out. "Customers quickly recognize the value in our generous, sixteen-ounce package and appreciate the shopping convenience that it offers," states a company brochure.

The ambiance of espresso bars in the early '80s sparked the interest of Marcus Goller, the company's president and CEO, who helped open a coffeehouse in Davis, CA, in 1984 and then in Santa Barbara, Seattle, Berkeley and Boulder. As it opened more coffeehouse shops in college towns across the country, Espresso Royale continued to evolve, with new stores, products and packages for its crafted coffee beans.

Designed in-house, the artwork for the gusseted pouches includes distinctive graphic designs centered on each pouch. The House Blend coffee flavor is depicted on the pouches with a lush, colorful, tropical scene of coffee beans, toucans, mountains and flowers, while Sombrio coffee is depicted with a cup of coffee and aroma swirls ascending into a Vincent Van Gogh-type background. Espresso Royale merchandise from the stores includes coffee by the pound, made with Arabica and Robusta beans. Launched in the coffee shops recently, the new, patented vacuum pouches, made of a four-layer smooth-matte-finished film printed in six colors, are sold at Kroger, Spartan, Heller Brothers and other supermarkets, Goller says. The pouches are provided to the coffee company through Pack Plus Converting (, Chino, CA.

Miracle cherry drink chooses aluminum 'bottle-can'

A small company with big packaging ideas, Leland Cherry Co., Leland, MI, has introduced its Michelle's Miracle(r) Tart Montmorency Cherry Concentrate in a striking silver aluminum "bottle-can" (N) that is making a splash with health enthusiasts. Founded in early 2001 by Michelle White, Leland Cherry is a privately held company that promotes the health benefits of the tart Montmorency cherries produced by Northern Michigan farmers, through its tart cherry concentrate, Hip Bones(TM) cherry dog treat and other cherry-based products, such as dried cherries, sauces, jams, jellies and skincare products. Tart cherries are said to act as an anti-inflammatory and offer a significant amount of antioxidants, melatonin, potassium, cancer-preventing compounds, vitamin A and beta-carotene, compared with other fruits.

According to White, sales during the company's first year totaled $64,000 and have doubled every year since, resulting in expected sales of $1.5 million this year. Indicative of the company's innovative spirit, in 2002 Leland launched its cherry concentrate in a 45-oz EZ Measure plastic container with a six-month shelf life that prevents oxidation and enables the consumer to easily measure the desired amount of concentrate. The container, from a supplier that Leland declines to identify, offers a standard rectangular body that leads to a segmented neck. Divided into two separate sections, each of which is topped by its own screw-cap closure, the container has a cylindrical neck, joined at the top by a separate inverted-triangle-shaped measuring feature. The concentrate is measured by tilting the container so that the liquid flows into the measuring cup—marked off in 1-oz increments—then back-pouring it until the desired level is reached in the cup. Concentrate is then poured from the opening at the top of the measuring cup. For larger volumes, the main pour spout can be used.

In Q2-2004, Leland introduced a smaller-size version to encourage new consumers to trial the product. The 16-oz size continues Leland's use of unique packaging, comprising a resealable aluminum bottle printed with a refreshing splash of color, along with images of juicy, red cherries. The lined aluminum bottle with a twist-cap closure is produced by Exal Corp. (, with graphics designed in-house by Leland. White says that bottle, offering an enhanced shelf life of one year, has received positive feedback from retailers and consumers alike.

Currently, Leland's products are sold direct from the company via phone or the Internet at ( and at more than 200 independent health food, pet supply and retail grocery stores across the country.

Packs that can douse a backdraft

The Firefighters' Brande of food and beverage products (O), including soft drinks, energy drinks, high-performance trail mix, chili, potato chips and other salty snacks, jerky, salsa, BBQ sauce, coffee and more, is described as "Better tasting," "Better for You" and "Better for America." A most unusual and heroic brand tie-in, the Firefighters Brand originated in 1993, when a firefighter in Tennessee and a beverage bottler in Indiana created the concept. In 2003, the pair approached a group of former SoBe Beverage Co. and National Football League executives with the idea of expanding its proven, yet small local concept on a national scale, and a national Firefighter food and beverage brand was born.

The brand includes assorted package configurations and sizes, such as bags, pouches, glass bottles, PET bottles, metal cans, vacuumized bags and more. Firefighter Brands LLC and Firefighter Beverages LLC, both independent companies based in Norwalk, CT, say they are dedicated to creating and marketing products that benefit firefighter causes on a national and a local level. Portions of the profits go to essential firefighter apparatus and equipment.

Notes Bruce Burke, cofounder, CEO and president of Firefighter Beverages, the products showcased at FMI, such as the chili and soft drinks, will be expanded to include three varieties of chili, kettle potato chips, water (aptly dubbed Hydrant Water) and sodas free of high-fructose corn syrup. There will also be foods formulated without trans fats, hydrogenated oils and preservatives.

Burke and SoBe founder John Bello believe that consumer interest in firefighters is so hot, especially bolstered by their selfless efforts on 9/11, that the brand will spark plenty of sales. They plan to take the brand nationwide to supermarkets and C-stores in select cities this summer. Select Wal-Mart and Publix stores have also been test-marketing the product line.

All of the packaging, which is provided by several sources, including but not limited to Printpack (, Amcor (, Rexam Beverage Cans America ( and several others is emblazoned with a red, blue and white Firefighters logo and graphics designed in-house. Elements in the logo can be found in or near a fire station. The 1.2-million-member American Firefighter community and families, which represent nearly 5 percent of the American population, will be active participants in the company's growth and success.

"In the case of the beverages, there is a different, real-life firefighter pictured on each label," says Burke. The rollout will take place mostly at supermarkets. The products are contract-manufactured in several locations and are contract-packaged by assorted companies, depending on what they are, says Brett Cody of Firefighter Brand Products.

Shake your booty with Smirnoff Signature cocktails

Smirnoff Signatures is a new line of prepared, vodka-based cocktails (P) marketed by Diageo North America. Utilizing Smirnoff 21 vodka, the line initially offers two flavors in 750-mL and 1.75-L bottles—Screwdrivers made with orange juice and Cape Codders made with cranberry juice. Seeking a variation of the Smirnoff icon bottle for the new premade cocktail drink, Diageo wanted something creative without compromising the distinctive look of the original bottle. Ultimately, they decided to spray a silver-colored coating onto the outside of the Signature bottle to give it the appearance of a metal shaker, representing the premade cocktail product inside.

The glass bottles are manufactured by O-I ( at its plant in Zanesville, OH. They are then sent to Serigraphie Richford, Inc. ( in Montreal, which specializes in glass decorating and printing, including screen printing, powder coating, ceramic spraying and frosting. Serigraphie sprays a silver-colored powder coating onto the Smirnoff bottles, after which they are heated in a lear (oven), where the coating is cured onto the surface of the bottles. After the bottles have been removed from the lear and are cooled, a clear shine-coat is sprayed onto them. They are then shipped to Diageo where they are filled, and labels are applied.

Reclosable grape bags feature hook-and-loop fasteners

Table-grape growers and distributors in California are showing growing interest and placing orders for VELCRO(R) reclosable grape bags (Q) from Velcro USA, Inc. ( The demand has been primarily driven through the acceptance of the bag from major U.S. grocery chains, one of whom expressed its preference to growers to have table grapes arrive at its stores prepacked in these bags. Utilizing patented technology, VELCRO reclosable grape bags provide numerous benefits over grape bags that use traditional reclosure methods, the company says. They are fast and easy to close, providing the ultimate in convenience to both in-store merchandisers and consumers. In addition, because they do not utilize any moving parts like a slider zipper, grocery retailers can be confident that the bags will remain in good working condition, without any parts missing, from the time they are packed in the vineyard to the time when they're disposed of by the consumer.

There are several different configurations of VELCRO reclosable grape bags available, and all can be custom-printed, based on customer needs. Further, both the closure and the bags are manufactured in North America, allowing Velcro USA to react quickly to the needs of the market as the harvest season progresses.

The VELCRO reclosable grape bags are part of a complete line of reclosable bags that utilize VELCRO hook-and-loop closures. The bags can be used for other types of produce in addition to grapes, as well as fora host of other grocery and nongrocery items, where providing consumers an easy, quick and economical reclosure method on the package is important.

"All it takes is for the customer to tell us what they need," says marketing communication manager Lorrie Piper. "From there, our team of packaging engineers and sales experts work directly with customers to design and develop reclosable bags that meet specific customer and product needs."

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