Here’s a tip: Don’t take a package away from your customers that they love.
For 20 years, consumers enjoyed the convenience and luxury of being able to quickly heat up their Hungry Jack syrup in the microwave—thanks to ingenuity in packaging. But earlier this year, brand owner J.M. Smucker replaced the squat container with a tall bottle similar to all the other ones out there. Frustrated Facebook fans were quick to speak up about the change; and the fervent complaints continue.
Lane Crouch posted this on the Hungry Jack Facebook page two days ago (on Nov. 4): “All breakfast syrup tastes the same. I used Hungry Jack only because of the bottle. I could easily tell when it was hot, and didn't have to dirty another container to heat the syrup. Now I can't do that, because you chose to change the bottle. I haven't seen a single person on the Internet who approves of this. I stopped using Hungry Jack syrup when the bottle was changed, and switched to Aunt Jemima. Getting me, and a lot of other people, back is easy: just go back to the old bottle. I don't believe for a second that consumer preference caused you to change it.”
The Washington Post columnist John Kelly got wind of the brewing storm and dived into the debate.
Is there a conspiracy? What’s the real reason behind the decision? He speculates “that corporate explanation—‘a shift in consumer preference’—sounds fishy.”
Kelly asked me if I knew of any other well-loved packages that were discontinued and I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head (and still can’t). Can you?
In 1994 when then-brand owner General Mills introduced the microwavable bottle, it was hailed as a marvel of packaging engineering with its differentiated shape and size, stay-cool handle, patented thermochromatic label that indicates when the syrup was hot and no-drip closure. I can’t remember if this won any packaging awards at the time and couldn’t find any information about that on the internet (yes, I did click through more than just the first page of results). But I would be surprised if it hadn’t.
I, too, lament the loss of Hungry Jack’s microwavable bottle because it seems like a step backward. And it sends the wrong signal to all you hard-working packaging professionals who want to leave a legacy of innovation. I’d love to hear from any of the dozens and dozens of people who developed the original container to see how you feel now. I'd also like to know what other packaging designers and developers think. Is this a step back or does the new container have equal merit? Leave your comments below.