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Butterball's butter sculpture breaks the mold in design
Butterball Farms' Butter Sculptures is an IoPP AmeriStar award winner for 2014.

Butterball's butter sculpture breaks the mold in design

Back in April, The Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP), one of the most prestigious packaging awards competition in North America, announced the winners of the 2014 AmeriStar Package Awards Competition.

Judges assessed and scrutinized packages from 13 categories in a new online, virtual judging process back in April. Criteria included package innovation, sustainability, protection, economics, performance and marketing.

Top AmeriStar winners included the Best of Show Award, the Sustainable Package Award and the Design Excellence Award. Winners were honored at the AmeriStar and Visionary Awards Reception on June 10 during EastPack in New York City.

This year's Design Excellence Award winner went to Display Pack's packaging design for the Butterball Farms Butter Sculptures packaging. As a winner, Display Pack's design will be automatically eligible for entry to the World Packaging Organization's WorldStar Packaging Awards.

Butterball Farms looked to Display Pack for a solution to its butter sculptures, and what they got was an innovative and appealing design—a package that is also a mold for the butter sculpture. The packaging structure lets Butter Ball mold the butter directly into the clamshell, process the product, and then place the clamshell in a die-cut, un-windowed carton. The molded butter is encased in the clamshell from the time it is molded until the clamshell is opened to serve the butter.

Packaging Digest caught up with Andrew Blackmore, dir. of sales and marketing, Display Pack, to find out more about this innovative packaging design.

What makes this package so unique?

Blackmore: As far as I know, there are very few thermoformed plastic packages that are an actual mold for the finished product. The ability for this mold to contain a “liquid” product during the filling process is also unique.

How did the design come about?

Blackmore: Collaboration with our customer was the key component throughout the process from concept to final design. Our customer defined three critical areas that they wanted to address with their new packaging:

  1. Ease in the manufacturing process
  2. Cost reduction
  3. Proper definition in the butter sculpture      

The customer’s previous package was a windowed paperboard carton with an insert which was the base for a mechanically formed butter sculpture. Once the product was formed it was placed on the base in the carton, handling and shifting in the package could diminish the features of the sculpture.

Butterball was looking for a package that would reduce manufacturing time. The package needed to still give detail and support to the butter structure. The previous package was a windowed paperboard carton that held the sculptures by the base only. The previous package allowed the sculpture to lose definition and easily shift in the package.

What were the key goals and requirements from a marketing view?

Blackmore: Again, there were three critical areas (key goals) that our customer defined, but two were directly related to the marketing of the product.  Additional requirements had to do with size of package and artwork.  

Beyond the goal to reduce manufacturing time, the new package needed to provide the same detail and support of the sculpture. The pleasant surprise was that this package not only reduced the manufacturing time, it also provided greater sculpture detail and provided for complete product support within the paperboard carton. The clamshell also offers easy access to the butter, by pulling the clamshell open.

From a packaging view?

Blackmore: The clamshell needed to act as the forming mold for the butter. The butter is heated to a moderate temperature and then poured directly into the clamshell. No need to handle the butter sculpture after forming, the clamshell gets packaged right into the paperboard carton. The clamshell provided protection of the butter allowing the elimination of the acetate window that was originally placed on the carton.

What challenges were encountered from a packaging production standpoint and how were they solved?

Blackmore: The challenges encountered throughout the design and prototype process were to create a package that would be able to contain the liquid butter without leakage between the mating surfaces of the clamshell. These challenges were addressed through robust button locks as well as adjusting the geometry of the mating surfaces to create a tight seal with minimal flash between the halves of the clamshell.

We ran into some challenges with the proper snap closures, we needed to make adjustments to the button locks for a robust closure. We needed a robust closure because the butter is poured directly into the clamshell and the clamshell is then packed into a paperboard carton, with the butter still in the clamshell mold.

Which of these were anticipated and which were not?

Blackmore: We were confident that the clamshell design would hold up to direct pouring of the butter and it was. We had a few tweaks that needed to be made once we got into production, but they were minor.

Were there any other unexpected results and/or pleasant surprises?

Blackmore: Our customer is a co-packer for this product. The feedback from their customer was very favorable. They were excited to get these new packages out to the market. 

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