Hartz Mountain Corp., Secaucus, NJ, relaunched its top-selling Groomer's Best line of shampoos for dogs in late 2012 in redesigned 18-fluid-oz high-density polyethylene bottles. The line consists of six shampoo formulations that are sold in nearly every food and mass retailer across the U.S. and Canada.
The development was highlighted in a Packaging Digest webinar "Sustainable Packaging: Building a strong strategy" on Dec. 3, 2013, available online at www.packagingdigest.com/webinar.
Nicole Tom, Hartz's director of packaging engineering, and Vitor Oliveira, packaging engineering, elaborate in this exclusive interview about the packaging development they championed in making a good package better.
What prompted this concept and project?
Tom: As the No.1 pet shampoo brand in the market, we wanted the Groomer's Best line to stand out on shelves—more so than it did before. This prompted us to look at redesigning the bottle not only for appeal, but also for sustainability.
The shampoo bottles stand tall and confident on shelf. There is a pop of modernization and, of course, color that gives it a more contemporary look.
What was the timing for key steps in the project?
Tom: Concepts were created and vetted out in the spring. Those concepts turned into models and prototypes about four months later. We were trialing and testing at the manufacturing site by the end of the year. By the following year we launched. We had a team dedicated to making this launch happen in less than two years.
The redesign was done in phases over several months. An important principle of ours was to relate to our consumers with a modern, yet softer appeal. We tested different resins to help us determine the proper shape and look of the finished bottle. There were a lot of material formats we looked into for the label as well. In the end, it gives a noticeable look on shelf that's pleasing to the eye.
This was not a project that could be done overnight. We put the right team in place, with our external experts to develop the proper timeline. It was and is important to us that we don't skip on critical steps to ensure quality is not compromised.
Inclusive of the timeline, we made sure a consumer was able to use the bottle with no complications, as we know it's not easy to wash a dog sometimes!
What were the key goals?
Tom: As a team, we had objectives that we needed to meet. They are as follows:
• Reinvigorate our branded shampoo line by redesigning the look and feel of the bottle and cap.
• Improve sustainability;
• Provide a more modern and softer appearance;
• Improve shelf impact and performance;
• Create a larger billboard for imagery; and
• Improve supply chain and distribution.
Across 10 million bottles, 220,000 pounds of polymer is saved. The new shampoo bottle's footprint allows for a 1.5 percent more efficient pallet pattern, which permits fewer trucks to be on the road.
The previous design led to manufacturing challenges causing minor, but poor aesthetics. The new geometry of the shape eliminated this issue while serving a functional purpose. The label graphics blended well with the shape and color of the HDPE bottle, providing a softer look. The shape also provided a larger billboard for branding and creativity.
How would you compare this redesign effort to others at Hartz?
Tom: Like all of our product launches, we commit ourselves to promoting the sustainability of our resources, making sure our consumers are safe while enjoying our products. When we look at a new launch or redesign, we have principles that we adhere to: The new packaging needs to easy for the consumer to use, better for the customer and better for the environment. Last but not least, the pet needs to love it!
Our packaging team is already working on the next generation products for our future which will leave a smaller footprint in the waste management system. For example, for our dog treats line of products, we will be launching with a flexible bag that is easy-to-use, but more importantly, is more recyclable.
What departments were involved?
Tom: The coupling of Hartz Mountain's packaging engineering and our valued external technical expertise helped deliver the overall project.
In addition to our packaging expertise, this redesign was also driven by our brand team and creative services department. As an organization, we believe structure and graphics need to work together to appeal on shelf.
Each project we launch is supported with the right resources for a successful execution.
Without the support of our packaging suppliers, we would not have been able to deliver a superior bottle. Ocean State Packaging LLC supplied the bottle, Multi-Color Corp. printed and supplied the label and Berry Plastics Corp. supplied our Hartz-orange, polypropylene flip-top closure.
What packaging components are custom?
Tom: When redesigning the shampoo bottle for our consumers, we wanted a unique look that differentiates us on shelf. However, it was important that we kept functionality as top priority to make it as easy for our consumers to use.
The bottle is a custom design that lends itself to differentiation, but still easy to hold, grip and pour.
We've looked at different closure formats, everything from custom to stock, but found a stock design that worked really well with our bottle and for the consumer.
Who handled the graphics design?
Tom: Hartz Mountain has a strong and valued internal design group that was heavily involved in the graphics and appearance of the bottle. The creative group's vision was to ensure modernization and appeal during the redesign stages.
What was the effect on secondary packaging?
Oliveira: Adjustments had to be made to the secondary packaging components to allow for the new design to fit and protect its contents properly. The carton required adjustments to height, width and depth. We also shrink wrap our bottles in increments of three. We did not need to change the count or increase the amount of shrink wrap. This allowed an easier transition for our customers in terms of count per master pack.
What challenges came up during development?
Oliveira: During our development phase, we conducted numerous trials to ensure accuracy. We noticed that the closure-to-bottle alignment was not producing consistency. Together with our engineers and plant personal, we studied the cap geometry for conformance. This helped us determine the best location to trigger the rotation mechanism to best orient the cap. Of course, this unexpected performance led to some minor changes to the tooling and computer programming.
In hindsight, this was a good experience because we learned the limits of the machine and bottle. Now we have made significant improvements since our earlier development stages.
Were there any other unexpected results or pleasant surprises?
Oliveira: We like to innovate with our packaging. We've tested multiple resin grades, shapes, sizes and formats and were pleasantly surprised that all of them worked well with our robust formulas. Through diligent testing, we were able to come full circle with this slender, well-rounded body of a bottle.
How did the new design impact packaging production operations?
Oliveira: As with any rigid container change, there are handling parts that need to be replaced to match the new geometry of the new parts. The parts that were changed, but not limited to, were the index wheels, label peel plates, pusher assemblies and adjustments to conveyors.
What has been the reaction from the trade and from consumers?
Oliveira: Our customers and consumers were accepting of the new bottle design. We wanted to demonstrate to our customers and consumers that being No.1 in the marketplace is something you work at and earn. These sustainable changes are just one example of Hartz's contribution for our consumers.
What lessons were learned from this experience?
Tom: The cross-functional team had several objectives to meet for the shampoo redesign. These include: reinvigorate the brand, improve sustainability, provide a more softer/modern appearance with a larger billboard while improving our supply chain needs. Oliveira and I are proud to say that the team accomplished all of our objectives.
Balancing between functionality and sustainability was a significant lesson for us. We could have changed the closure design so it uses less plastic, but in turn it could have been less functional for the consumer.