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Articles from 2015 In April

Technology-driven package design innovation yields greater rewards

Technology-driven package design innovation yields greater rewards
Jim Harmon of Nielsen Innovation’s Practice in North America.

What role does technology have in packaging design and how can brand owners leverage that?

Jim Harmon of Nielsen Innovation’s Practice in North America can offer some insight. He has seen how leading retailer and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies are delivering more profitable outcomes from their brand marketing and innovation initiatives using technology like eye tracking to drive innovation in package design. Harmon, who has 25 years’ experience in this area (his bio is below), responds to our questions in a preview of a presentation he will be making at the upcoming PAC Winning by Design Summit. The Summit takes place June 17 in conjunction with the 3-day PackEx trade show June 16-18 in Toronto, Canada.

What distinguishes your process to bring science to packaging design?

Harmon: At Nielsen, we consistently see designs launched to market that have limited impact on brand sales and, in many cases, hurt brand equity. The current design process is a huge contributor to the problem. Typically, agencies generate a lot of different creative avenues for a design only to have them subjectively thrown out by the internal client team. By the time the remaining designs go to testing, consumers are only seeing what the internal team thought was best—they never get a chance to weigh in on some of the more revolutionary and riskier avenues the agency wanted to explore.

Our process is unique because it can explore large creative spaces—which means consumers can vet the full range of design options, instead of only being exposed to a small, subjectively chosen set. The technology predicts which of many design directions will perform best against competitors. One particularly interesting component of the technology is eye-tracking—during an online activity, consumers view a collection of designs in a competitive context and their eye movements are analyzed to indicate which designs capture and hold attention most successfully.

By removing subjectivity and capturing a variety of key metrics, the technology substantially improves the likelihood of identifying breakthrough designs. In fact, on average, the process results in a 15% improvement in pack design visibility and 39% improvement in consumer preference when compared to the current design.

What is the history to this methodology?

Harmon: Affinnova [which was acquired by Nielsen in October 2014] introduced the technology and executed our first design work in 2002 with a major U.S. brand owner, but its impact is greatly expanded now that we are a part of Nielsen. Nielsen is the leader in understanding consumer needs and predicting the impact of new products, advertising and promotions on brand growth. With the integration of Affinnova technology into the Nielsen portfolio, CPG manufacturers can now seamlessly track and optimize their performance across aspects of product innovation and activation, ensuring that all parts of the system are working together optimally.

What trends are having an impact on packaging design?

Harmon: The first trend we see is the focus on packaging structure innovation. In the past, brands would look to flavor line extensions as a way to maintain and advance their competitive position and relevance on the shelf. However, many brands have gotten to the point where they have an unwieldy number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) and many of them are not incremental. As an alternative, some brands have been focusing on differentiating through “experience” by offering unique packaging shapes or materials that tie into consumer use occasion.

Here’s a good example of a project we worked on for AB InBev that explored creative packaging based on use occasion.

The other trend we see is optimizing packaging by channel. Brands are coming to realize that consumers’ expectations around shopping experiences vary depending on whether they are shopping in a grocery, convenience or club store. For example, we had a CPG client who was selling their beverage product by the gallon at convenience stores. They learned that consumers don’t look to buy beverages by the gallon; if they switched to just a single-serve pack format, they could not only drive more preference for their product, but free up space for other faster-selling SKUs. It was a win for the brand and retailer.

You will be presenting on a redesign for Sprite Zero—what can you share about that?

Harmon: The Sprite brand team wanted to establish a stronger connection with global consumers. To accomplish this, they sought to identify a restage option that would be more refreshing and revitalizing, preferred by both buyers and non-buyers in their key global markets. They also wanted to understand if they could create a universal design that worked globally, which would save the cost of having local markets develop their own designs. The Sprite team leveraged Nielsen’s technology to explore and validate 37 unique design directions across the U.S. and three other markets. From this, they were able to identify a new unified global design strategy that substantially improved preference among both current buyers and non-buyers. 

What advice do you have for those involved in packaging design?

Harmon: I would encourage brands and design agencies to embrace technology to bring accountability and objectivity to the design work they are doing today. Across the industry, design is under-funded and under-appreciated, which is a function of not being able to measure and qualify its impact consistently. There are scalable and cost-effective technologies available now that empower brands to measure their design impact just as they would any other areas of marketing spend—ultimately helping to improve their brand position in the market. Moreover, technology has the power to remove subjectivity from the design process and give consumers a stronger voice in deciding what to launch to market. When brands involve consumers early, we know they are more successful and that they launch designs that are much more creative and impactful.

For more information, visit Nielsen.

For more information on the PAC “Winning By Design” conference that includes presenters from Wegman’s and Walmart Canada, click here.

Jim Harmon is vp of design solutions for Nielsen Innovation’s Practice in North America. He brings more than 25 years’ experience to helping leading retailer and CPG companies deliver more profitable outcomes from their brand marketing and innovation initiatives. Prior to his current role, Harmon was vp and early team member for marketing technology company Affinnova, where he introduced firms like Wal-Mart, Kroger, Coca-Cola, P&G, Smuckers and others to Affinnova’s optimization technology for package designs and product concepts. He has also held leadership roles at Cardlytics, Catalina Marketing, MKTG Inc, NewsAmerica and Marsh Supermarkets. Harmon is a graduate of the Haworth College of Business at Western Michigan University. 

Packaging design trends add value to store brands

Packaging design trends add value to store brands
Windowed carton displays Beauty 360 tools while keeping them pristine until their first use.

In the national versus store brands fight, many store-brand packages continue to conquer discerning consumers with stand-out designs that help capture profitable sales. Immersion into some of the best packaging designs of the year for store brands, as deemed by the designers, shows how these products connect with savvy shoppers.

Yesterday, my esteemed colleague Rick Lingle shared some of his favorite packaging designs seen during the judging of the 2015 Store Brands packaging competition in mid-April. Today is my turn.

(Ha! Think you know the winners by our reports? Think again. Rick and I were only two of four judges and we all had our faves, but they weren’t always the same for the category. You’ll have to wait until the winners are announced in the June issue of Store Brands.) [4-30-15 correction: The winners will be published in the July issue of Store Brands]

I start my show-and-tell with the chic carton design for Beauty 360 bamboo tools from CVS. The large window lets consumers see the quality of the tools while keeping them pristine from would-be samplers. The simple graphic of green bamboo leaves communicates the natural-ness of the product and the silver ink adds an upscale element of beauty. This design definitely resonated with me, a baby boomer. But I think it would appeal to women of all ages.


The Beauty 360 carton was one of several packages using silver to catch the light and the eye. Here are two other packages making the most of silver hot stamping: Awaken by Quality Choice (sold in various stores) and  Skin+Pharmacy from CVS. Both personal care product lines used the hot stamping judiciously, but I like the design treatment better for Awaken. It’s a bit hard to read Skin+Pharmacy text in the reflective color. However, I also liked the clean, scientific design that communicates the Skin+Pharmacy brand position.

Next, more color trends…

We saw a few packages using bold, contemporary colors as if they owned it. Abound snacks, also from CVS, took the unusual lime green and made it work in a category already awash with bold colors. They closely match/manage the color across multiple substrates, such as flexible packaging and paperboard cartons.

Next, duo-tone…

Rick showcased the elegant packaging for Irresistibles brand olive oil from the Metro store chain in Canada and referenced the two-tone sprayer trigger, which I think is one of the most impressive sprayers I have ever seen/used. The green rubber portion provides a most-comfortable fingertip control for continuous spraying that was so smooth. The ergonomics of this package make it highly enjoyable to use. Strong repurchase incentive.

Next, another functional feature…

I liked many things about the CVS Medicated Roll-On Chest Rub packaging—the hands-off roll-on applicator; the clean, white container (which you can’t see inside); and the matte printing on the carton. But the little tab at the top of the carton that gives you a thumb-hold to easily open the flap actually made me exclaim “Ah!” when I first saw it. I think all cartons should do this!

Next, another good carton design…

To me, the packaging design for Love Some frozen desserts says FUN!, which is just want you want for a product often bought for celebrations. The branding gels—from the name/logo to the contemporary colors to the clear window that showcases the yummy product.

Lastly, cue up my final packages…

Flavor and scent cues appeared on packages of several different product categories, connecting a visual to the most-compelling taste or smell. Here are just two examples.

The CVS Nicotine Gum uses high-end graphics to communicate the different product flavors, such as cinnamon sticks and mint leaves, which really pop off the matte carton with a gloss highlight. The design elevates the taste appeal of a product typically bought for less-enjoyable reasons: to help quit smoking.

In a somewhat less glamorous product tier, the Price Chopper dish soap shows a stylized picture of green apples on its label to invoke a powerful scent memory with shoppers.

Top 5 packaging developments of April

Top 5 packaging developments of April
Refills are more common in Europe than in the U.S. Will that change soon?

Developments in mystery-filled beer packaging, container refill stations, automation game changers, beverage packaging and mini packs each demonstrated maximum drawing power as the 5 Most Popular Articles at the past month based on our website metrics.

Here are the developments that your packaging peers were most interested in over the past month and you may be, too, if you missed them the first time around. Our reverse-order list begins with a sustainable strategy that has had traction in Europe that is making inroads stateside, that of refillable containers for products, starting with water.

5. Sometimes sustainable packaging has less to do with eco-friendly packaging materials and more to do with how we actually distribute product. The bottled water industry, for instances, gets hit with quite a bit of criticism for how much unnecessary bottle waste is generated when most people have access to perfectly clean tap water. However, some communities and several universities have been working toward the elimination of plastic water bottle waste by implementing water refilling stations.

How is that progressing? Find out by reading Are refill stations the answer to packaging waste?

Next: Less is more when convenience is at stake…

4. Single-serve and miniaturized packaging is hot and getting hotter, for food and beverage as well as health and beauty products. Consumer lifestyles are driving the trend toward smaller packs, with numerous factors playing a role. For food and drinks, issues like convenience, dietary awareness, freshness and reducing waste are core drivers. A growing range of eating and drinking occasions—at home, work, school and in-transit—is part of the mix, too.

When portability is a priority, size still means everything—except smaller and handier is better.

See why in Mini and single-serve packs prove less is more

Next: Please do touch the packaging…

3. It’s one thing to get a feel for consumers, it’s something different consumers touch your packaging. That’s the tack for these beverage packaging designs that elicit an emotional response from their target audience, a result that generally means that these packaged goods have done quite well in the marketplace. It could be a Millennial-favored new-age aseptic carton or an electrifying label that pulses to the beat at a club. Or any of the other eight of the 10 beverage packaging breakthroughs that get touchy-feely with consumers.

Next: A mystery-shrouded product launch purposefully made on Friday the 13th.

2. On Friday, March 13th Anheuser-Busch launched a new beer, Oculto with a novel formulation and brand positioning centering on mystery and spontaneity. The packaging of carton, bottle and can brings those elements to life in a high-end look that lives up to its name, which translates from Spanish as “hidden” or “waiting to be found.”

Experience the mystery in Mysterious Oculto beer serves on-package surprises

Next: If you thought that was a surprising article, wait until you see what’s #1…

1. What is most surprising about this most popular article in the month of April is that it is for a segment that typically does not have the draw—or for that matter anywhere near the breadth of draw—of say a packaging design story, similar to those that largely characterize the previous articles #5-2. This one is about automation, providing a visually-driven virtual tour of highlights of the recent Automate show. Your tour guide is a wizard at this kind of thing: John Henry, the Changeover Wizard, who will introduce you to new kinds of robots, economic vision systems and more in 13 automation game changers that ease engineering tasks

Winning retail packaging starts with attention to detail

Winning retail packaging starts with attention to detail
Gourmet organic baking ingredients are served up tastefully in these stand-up pouches.

An annual packaging competition sponsored by Store Brands magazine provides an impressive, insider’s view of the latest and greatest new products and packaging from retail chains that shows just how far these brands have moved beyond “generic” in look and quality.

There are two main ways to assess store brands’ packaging in person, either visiting various grocery chains or somehow arranging to have the stores send the packaging to you. Packaging Digest was able to take the latter route, courtesy of our participation in Store Brands magazine’s annual Best of the Best Packaging competition.

In mid-April I joined my colleague, executive editor Lisa Pierce, along with Linda Casey of Package Design and Pan Demetrakakes, senior editor of Retail Leader, in judging the annual store brand packaging competition sponsored by Store Brands in the offices of Stagnito Media north of Chicago. The contest drew 149 entries across five key product categories of Refrigerated & Frozen; Shelf Stable; Beverages; Nonfoods; and Line Extensions. We saw many new products that we likely would not have otherwise come across. Cumulatively and in terms of the packaging, the entries touched all formats.

The winners of the competition won’t be known until Store Brands reveals them in its July issue, but meantime here are my personal picks seen in informal images taken on-site during the judging. You can read about Lisa's faves, too.

We’ll begin with packages that should resonate with one of the largest segments of our audience, that of food packaging, which starts with the pouches above.

Do you believe in love at first sight? 14-oz stand-up pouches of organic coconut products from The Fresh Market, “a chain of gourmet supermarkets based in Greensboro, NC,” won me over in short order. That instant infatuation was solidified the more I examined the packs. I loved the atypical, slightly mottled color bands across the top and bottom of the pouch front. I loved the dominating dream-quality black-and-white product photography that underscores old-fashioned “made from scratch baking” while striking a strong note of nostalgia. I loved the hierarchy organization in selecting the most crucial messaging elements on an inviting and uncluttered pouch front, especially making prominent the keyword Coconut. I loved the look and feel of the matte finish bag film. I loved…well, just about everything about these packs.


Pressurized aluminum spray bottles of Irresistibles brand olive oil from the Metro store chain in Canada stood out as "black beauties" exemplary of what a store-branded product can be when it’s done right. The bottles are decorated using striking black-printed, full-body shrink labels. I thought this color scheme that served as a backdrop to an iconic green olive on the front of the sleeve label ran counter to what was expected in the edible oils segment and adds a generous amount of premium-level distinction. The tightly shrunk sleeve conformed to the contoured bottle top-to-bottom as if it were printed on. I was also impressed by the two-tone sprayer trigger that effortlessly delivered whatever amount of product was needed and that the shaped bottle was an ergonomically designed pleasure to hold. In many ways this was an irrestistibly planned and executed design.


I was also smitten by the bold color scheme for bagged handcrafted popcorn snacks from King of Pop, Kingston, NH, to go along with a matte finish that I almost always favor. The look, the feel and the design all worked together seamlessly. I also liked how there’s just enough of the right kind of design elements all tastefully balanced including the handscript-style product line identifier boxed below the high-resolution product photography. The results made me want to open and snack on them as quickly as possible to see if they are as good as the packaging implies. I could see that these beauteous bags could likely hold their own on colorfully crowded snack shelves.


Products under the Full Circle brand from Topco center on sustainable sourcing, products and packaging, so maybe it’s no surprise that the company’s line of fresh frozen herbs of cilantro, basil, parsley and garlic are sold in cute little paperboard cartons. Providing convenience and differentiation in a rectangular packaging format optimized for tight freezer spaces, the attractive carton is topped with injection-molded green flip-top dispenser. Consumers access the product for the first time by lifting the closure and pressing down on the perforated flat carton top.

Now onto non-food examples starting with an entry from CVS…


The Essence of Beauty line of sprays from CVS demonstrates class from top to bottom. The image doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the crystal-clear bottles and friction-fit closures that appear seamlessly matched in look and fit. A clear pressure-sensitive label film printed with an intricate, product-specific design gave each a one-of-a-kind attention that could only have come from a well thought out and executed design effort. The designers understood how to selectively use unprinted transparency and printed opacity to great effect to have one complement the other. The shiny silver-metal sprayer adds a fitting and final touch of class.

I saved one of the most suprising entries until last: A product that likely qualifies as that rarest of introductions, a category buster, solely because of its packaging: Brookshire’s trash bags are packaged in a composite can. Packaging a cylindrical product, a roll of waste bags, in a canister is ingenious. It literally fits the clichéd phrase “outside the box thinking” even though now that someone has done it, the choice seems obvious. Perforations on the canister side permit easy opening of the package. I'd suspect that the canister requires less kraft paper and would overall be a more optimized package than a box. Although the graphics design leaves a little to be desired, the startling packaging format provides a high note on which to finish our store brand sampling.

Sweet package makes Country Time Lemonade easy to prepare

Sweet package makes Country Time Lemonade easy to prepare

Making lemonade by the pitcher, or the glass, just got faster and easier, with Kraft Foods’ introduction of Country Time Lemonade Starter. The product, a liquid concentrate, comes in a rigid container with an easy-to-grip shape. The packaging design features a flip-top closure with built-in spout, for ease of product preparation, and full-body labeling, for brand appeal on-shelf.

The design takes the Country Time brand, and beverage packaging generally, in a fresh direction, offering a smaller format than ready-to-drink, multi-serve bottles and features that make the package easy to handle and pour from. Each 18.2-oz Country Time Lemonade Starter bottle makes 24 8-oz glasses or three pitchers of lemonade.

Kraft offers the product in three flavors: Classic Lemonade, Berry Lemonade, and Half Lemonade & Half Iced Tea. To make a little or a lot, the consumer flips open the bottle’s closure, pours the specified amount of concentrate into a glass or pitcher, adds water and stirs to mix. Instructions and concentrate/water amounts are printed on the label’s back panel.

Jason Braun, R&D packaging spokesperson for Country Time, shares a few details about the package.

This bottle has an unusual shape. Is it a proprietary structural design?

Braun: The Country Time Lemonade Starter bottle is a custom-designed, proprietary bottle and is patent pending.

Why is the bottle shaped this way—for easy grip, easy pouring? Other reasons?

Braun: We designed the bottle in this way for a few reasons. Importantly, because this is a new product in a new form, and to differentiate from ready-to-drink offerings, we formatted the bottle structure to be reminiscent of a modern pitcher/carafe to cue consumers that this is a product you should pour, not drink directly out of the bottle. Other contributing factors included ease of grip and use in preparation, and a contemporary, premium look and feel.

How do consumers measure the product? Or is it like MiO Liquid Water Enhancer, where you add as much flavor as you want?

Braun: There are on-pack preparation instructions and a clear view strip on the side of the bottle to help guide consumers through [the] pitcher-preparation process. 

What plastics are the bottle and closure made from? 

Braun: The bottle is made from high-density polyethylene, and the closure is made from polypropylene.

Was the flip-top closure, with spout, a custom-designed component?

Braun: The sloped back, flip-top closure with integrated pour spout was custom designed to seamlessly flow into the bottle structure. The spout was designed to provide consumers with no-drip, no-mess preparation.

Who designed this package?

Braun: The structural design was a collaborative effort by Kraft Foods, in conjunction with Graham Packaging in York, Pa. Graphical design was led by Landor Associates, in close collaboration with Kraft Foods.

Does the package have a full-body shrink label?

Braun: Yes, the label is a full-body shrink that goes over the closure to maximize graphic space and to provide a tamper-evident feature. The shrink label is perforated for ease of opening.

Who are the packaging suppliers for this product?

Braun: Our material partners are Graham Packaging Co. (bottle), Aptar Group (closure), Selig Group (induction seal) and American Fuji Seal (label).

Packaging recycling: Everything is not okay

Packaging recycling: Everything is not okay
Scott Mouw, state recycling program director, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Bob Lilienfeld’s recent rosy Earth Day article would have us sit firmly on the statistical laurels of packaging reduction and recovery. We’re done, wipe off your hands, let’s go home. But everything is not okay with packaging recycling and disposal.

Should we applaud the progress made in the last 20 years? Absolutely. We have built a foundation for packaging recovery in the U.S. that diverts millions of tons of commodity material from disposal back into productive use. Source reduction, lightweighting and other packaging design changes have indeed reduced the waste burden of these materials.

But using the same statistical source as Mr. Lilienfeld, we find that 36.48 million tons of packaging are still entombed in U.S. landfills each year, along with all of the embedded energy therein. That figure includes 5.68 million tons of recyclable PET, HDPE and PP packaging, 1.33 million tons of metal containers, 6.18 million tons of glass bottles and jars, and 6.42 million tons of paper containers and packaging. It also includes currently unrecyclable packaging and emerging packaging formats whose only practical option at this point is a trash can. For most common household recyclables profiled in the EPA data, recycling rates are hovering around 30 percent or lower. Are we ready to call that success?

A few years back, it looked like the U.S. packaging industry was ready to take on recycling issues with aggressive action. But since then, with some notable exceptions in the Carton Council, Foodservice Packaging Institute and funders of the Recycling Partnership, key industry associations have abandoned work on the critical needs of infrastructure development. And their laudable focus on recycling policy has yet to yield even one introduced bill in any state.

So, where do we go from here? First, we must acknowledge that, for all of our accomplishments, we are still woefully underachieving in packaging recovery in the U.S. We are far, far from optimizing the system, with negative consequences for everything from corporate sustainability goals to recycling job creation. If we make a sober analysis of the current system, we will discover wide-ranging issues of inadequate infrastructure, mediocre programs and under-investment. Under those circumstances, the fate of most packaging will be a landfill. One must wonder where the material will come from to meet the ambitious recycled content goals of major retailers and brand owners.

The one industry that could arguably make the most consequential positive impact on this picture is the packaging industry. And there are leaders in the industry who have shown the way. But the general mentality of “everything is okay” will not get us there. Pats on the back, well deserved as they may be, should not distract us from the work there is still left to do.

Scott Mouw is the state recycling program director for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He is a member of the board of the Southeast Recycling Development Council and has been an active participant in numerous national and regional packaging recycling initiatives. Contact him at 919-707-8114 or [email protected].

Consumers crave value and mobility from health and beauty aids packaging

Consumers crave value and mobility from health and beauty aids packaging
Packaging matters to consumers shopping for beauty, fragrance and personal care products. Best packaging designs are ones that make it easy for consumers to get the "last drop out," as well as those packs that travel well wherever consumers go.

When it comes to beauty and personal care products, 37% of consumers participating in MWV’s Packaging Matters survey say packaging is extremely impactful when deciding whether or not to purchase products. Here are two main “wants” they expect to be fulfilled.

Consumers rely on health and beauty products in their daily lives. They expect these products to help them look better, feel better and improve their overall cleanliness and confidence. And while most products do deliver against these expectations, how each brand conveys the promise of their product to the consumer is what differentiates them on store shelves.

That promise starts with the product’s packaging. Without packaging, many brands’ health and beauty products would look indistinguishable—a gel, a powder, a liquid, a paste. But with packaging, brands can draw consumers in and communicate the product’s promise directly to them. Nailing the packaging is critical to success.

Our new Packaging Matters research shows that consumers feel packaging has a significant impact on their decision to purchase beauty, personal care and fragrance products. In fact, when it comes to beauty and personal care products, 37% said packaging is extremely impactful when deciding whether or not to purchase products. For fragrances, that number is 36%.

Consumers place great personal importance on health and beauty aids (HBA). They make these products a part of their daily ritual, and trust them enough to ingest them or rub them on their face and skin. Because of this, expectations for these products are sky-high. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that consumers are not completely satisfied with the packaging these products come in. Only 12% of consumers report being completely satisfied with beauty product packaging. That number climbs to 13% for personal care products and 17% for fragrances.

Clearly, there are major opportunities for improvement in the HBA packaging space. While three out of every four consumers agree packaging is headed in the right direction, still one quarter of all consumers are unsatisfied with beauty and fragrance product packaging.

To combat this, brands need to innovate. But they must do so sensibly. Consumers are looking for packaging that provides a positive experience with no pain points from purchase…continuing on through the journey home…during each use…and all the way through discarding the package.

For some brands, innovation can mean implementing a dispensing system that can get every last drop of the product out. According to our research, “last drop out” is one of the many issues consumers place a great deal of importance on, yet they’re continually unsatisfied as many brands fail to provide packaging that solves this problem.  And it’s understandable too—consumers spend their money on often-expensive HBA products, and they want to be able to get their money’s worth.

High consumer expectations extend beyond the in-home experience: Consumers also expect packaging to fit seamlessly into their busy lifestyle. Along with innovation comes the necessity for packaging to move as we move. We live in a mobile world where, unfortunately for consumers, not enough thought has been given to developing HBA packaging that is designed to work well on-the-go. Too often, a product’s packaging is designed for in-home use, with only small travel sizes available for mobile use. These travel sizes usually come equipped with uninspired packaging. An enhanced on-the-go experience is rare.

Brands that can deliver an enhanced, more convenient experience for today’s busy consumer will win in the marketplace every time. Through research and focus group testing, we found that consumers use a number of personal care and beauty type products throughout the day. It’s not unusual to find hand sanitizer, lotion, face cream and even toothpaste in desk drawers, purses, backpacks and in the car. In fact, many consumers describe their on-the-go use of these types of products as more frequent than their in-home use. That’s why brands can’t only focus on enhancing in-home packaging, but also packaging made for the mobile consumer.

It’s these types of considerations that packaging developers need to be thinking about when deciding how to approach the packaging solution they choose for their brand.

Health and beauty aids are a part of a consumer’s every day routine—at home and on the go.  A brand’s promise to the consumer begins with how they package and display the product inside. Packaging choices are key. They offer subtle cues about the product, they provide reliability on the go and will help a brand to build a positive relationship with the customer.

John Ferro is vp of marketing for MWV's Home & Beauty business, which provides dispensing packaging solutions to help great brands improve consumer experience across multiple categories, including skin care and cosmetics, air care and hard surface cleaning. Before joining MWV, Ferro held increasing roles of leadership responsibility with Kellogg's.

Jack Link’s jerky and packaging changed from the inside out

Jack Link’s jerky and packaging changed from the inside out
Jack Link's brand refresh centers on increased visibility and a cleaner label.

A brand refresh for Jack Link’s Protein Snacks that was a long time in the making includes a new package design with an updated logo and a cleaner label done in concert with a product reformulation. A fun back panel is added, too.

Over the past five years, segment leader Jack Link’s Protein Snacks, Minong, WI, has spearheaded the 40% growth of the +$2B meat snacks category. In fact, the company reports that it has added more dollar growth every year than all competitors combined. To keep that front-running momentum going, the company is introducing a multifaceted brand refresh that includes an updated logo, package design and product formulation to create an even more compelling choice for consumers.

“The meat snacks category is on fire and so is Jack Link’s,” says Jeff LeFever, vice president of marketing. “We want to continue to push the category to new levels. As the category leader, it is our mission to provide our retail partners with a brand, product and package that will continue to drive their sales.”

“Consumers want cleaner labels and healthier snacks without sacrificing taste,” adds Mike Gerber, vice president of research and development. “That is precisely what we deliver with our new product formulation.”

Changes include a new logo positioned for new consumers, occasions and innovation; a new design to improve visibility and purchase intent as well as a matte finish on the bags; and a product reformulation for a simplified label without sacrificing flavor.

It was all done with a purpose. “Our purpose for the redesign was to continue to delight our existing consumers, while attracting new category users,” Mike Seepersaud, director of product marketing, informs Packaging Digest.

It is a change that was a long time in the making—and yielded gains in purchase intent by consumers.

The spacious, uncluttered back panel includes a wry comment and a horizontal bar of iconic callouts culled from key Nutrition Facts data accompanied by a Smart Snack product logo.

"We have been in the planning phases of a brand refresh for quite some time,” Seepersaud explains. “When our research and development team discovered a cleaner label for our jerky that didn’t compromise taste or quality, our plans went into high gear. Our consumers are very passionate about our brand, so we wanted to make sure that our new design would evoke the same level of passion while creating a better shopping experience.

“Our testing proved that consumers could easily identify different proteins, flavors and key nutritional facts 12 percent faster and their purchase intent increased by 11 percent over our existing design. As the category leader, it’s our mission to provide our retail partners with innovation to drive the category to new levels.

“We focused on four key areas that we knew were important to consumers: flavor, protein type, nutrition and our quality signature. Our previous package design also had nutritional callouts, but the new design makes those easier to find.”

The spaciously uncluttered back panel includes a wry comment, as seen above; other sayings include “Go ahead, make my jerky.” and “No more cheesy fingers.” 

In fact, “the back panel strategy was all about showcasing our Feed Your Wild Side motto on-pack,” Seepersaud points out.

As is also noted on the back panel, the “Fresh-Lock” press-to-close reseal is from Presto Products Co. An Ageless brand oxygen scavenging packet from Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America, Inc. is included in each pouch to maintain a high-quality shelf life.

“We worked with Davis Designs in Ontario, Canada to help bring our vision to life,” says Seepersaud. “This was our first time working with them, and we are very pleased with their work.”

Experts to examine critical issues in food and beverage packaging

Experts to examine critical issues in food and beverage packaging
Packaging Digest’s 2015 Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit tackles today’s hot topics for food and beverage packaging engineers and executives.

From grocery ecommerce and production platform shifts to size trends and consumer preferences, Packaging Digest’s 2015 Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit tackles today’s hot topics, as well as provides astute direction for the future for packaging engineers and executives.

Did you know…

  • PepsiCo doesn’t want “monster machines” for its packaging lines.
  • Ecommerce economics are transforming the food and beverage markets. For example, direct-to-consumer sales let wine makers keep the entire margin instead of having to share it with distributors.
  • Elderly consumers find water bottles and cereal boxes among the most frustrating to open.
  • Smaller packs that are easy to carry and store are key to unlocking sales in mega-cities.

These were just some of the many insights revealed at the 2014 Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit. Which is why I’m excited to share details about the line-up for this year’s event.

We put months of research into the program for the 2015 Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit (July 7-8; Chicago) to make sure we tackle today’s hot topics, as well as provide astute direction for the future. Attendees—an exclusive group of packaging executives and engineers—will hear from their peers and industry thought leaders, such as Kraft Foods, MillerCoors and Mondelez Intl., on innovation, sustainability, economics and more. The program starts with keynote and plenary presentations then splits into two tracks with sessions for Marketing & Branding Strategies and Technical Intelligence for Manufacturing Production & Engineering.

Among the topics on the agenda are:

  • Smart Technologies, Intelligent Labels & Sensor Development: Tools to Help When the “Best By” Date May Not Be Enough
  • Weighing the Impact of the Growing Direct-to-Consumer Delivery Movement
  • Single Serving Portion Packaging to Satisfy the On-the-Go Consumer, Smaller Families and Impulse Buyers
  • How to Stay in the Game with a Rigid to Flexible Conversion
  • Clean Label Design in Response to the Demand for Healthy & Honest Products
  • Lightweighting without Sacrificing Shelf Life & Product Performance

New this year is an Exhibitor Showcase where attendees can meet with leading and entrepreneurial packaging suppliers that have unique solutions for the food and beverage markets. Also, a new mobile app for various electronic devices puts a convenient event calendar, a real-time community activity feed and more at your fingertips. Participants can see who else is attending and create a personalized schedule of conference sessions and meetings in advance (the app goes live about four weeks before the event), as well as on the spot.

Another plus: The Summit is ideally located in downtown Chicago, my hometown and a vibrant city that offers much in the way of entertainment, good food and friendly people.

Registration is now open!

I hope to see you at the Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit in Chicago, July 7-8, at the Intercontinental Chicago Magnificent Mile.

Is your brand packaging properly aimed at a moving target?

Is your brand packaging properly aimed at a moving target?
Packaging for Hanky Panky panties lets a woman define herself in her own way rather than based on a label, such as “Mom” or “Single Working Woman.”

Consumers can’t be pigeon-holed any longer. Large numbers of them are responding to packaging that feels personal, fits their lifestyles and inspires them. The secret? Speak to and be in sync with your audience, while making each person within the group feel like they are the only person you are speaking to.

It seems that the nature of marketers is to try to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, to the detriment of the brand in the eyes of their target audience. This leads to a watering down of brand values and the lack of a unique brand personality. Package design that tries to be all-inclusive turns brands into commodities.

This discussion isn’t about package segmentation—where a specific branded product line offers a number of varieties to meet various consumers’ needs. This is about developing overarching package design systems to appeal to specific target audiences who are defined not by age groups or stage of life but by the interests of individuals within those groups as well as their lifestyles. Conventional wisdom about demographic groups has to be challenged to package effectively now.

An audience of one

Consumers are responding in large numbers to packaging that feels personal, that fits their lifestyles and inspires them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that packaging has to be designed so that it can be personalized although that is definitely a consideration. Advances in digital printing technology make it possible to use short runs to personalize packaging as a core brand value for consumers—so expect to see more of it in future. Jones Soda created a fan following in a tough category by personalizing its packaging out of the chute. Instead, some brands choose to offer seasonal or limited editions of packaging that delight consumers. Orla Kiely’s designs for Method and Betsey Johnson’s for Kleenex are good examples.

Click the red View Gallery button above to launch the slideshow.

Yet, even without that, packaging can offer a customized experience central to individuals’ lifestyles; that make them feel that they are directly being engaged due to shared values. Accomplishing that necessitates a deep understanding of the brand and its attributes to hone in on the right audience. This takes many hours of research but is well worth the effort.

Research leads to the designer’s ability to translate the specific drivers of the brand’s audience in visual and verbal communication that resonates on packaging. The secret: to speak to and to be in sync with this audience, while making each person within the group feel like the only person in the world with whom we’re speaking. This begins a relationship and a deepening level of engagement, followed by undying love and loyalty that brand owners dream about, as long as the brand delivers on its promise. Hasbro’s Nerf Rebelle, Monster Energy Drinks, Knob Creek Bourbon Whiskey and AXE men’s personal care are examples of successful brands with unique personalities that speak to an audience of one while building a community of fans simultaneously. They aren’t for everyone, but everyone who loves these brands is a rabid fan. That’s the point.

Package design elements that are driving today’s consumers

Color and compelling visuals make a significant impact when they tell a story; typography can accomplish that, too. Exciting new fonts look handwritten and expert package designers can create uniquely-designed, handwritten logos and key verbal communications to go to the heart of a one-of-a-kind brand. Think: Ben & Jerry’s and Mattel’s Barbie signature. Like a handwritten note to a friend, typography can feel personal and that is emotionally connecting and satisfying. Icons can have the same effect. What does the Apple icon mean around the world to early adopters and the tech savvy? 

Tactile substrates prompt targeted consumers to notice and pick up packaging, too. Expensive materials suggest exclusivity. Hasbro’s Transformers Platinum Edition Year of the Snake collector’s packaging features gold foil shields with snake insignia. The figures of Transformers like Optimus Prime are superimposed over the shields and there is great attention to detail, which thrills fans of the brand. The packaging speaks: these are premium-priced collectors’ items. It also says that the packaging is integral to the value of the toy; it’s a keeper and should be kept in pristine condition.

Connectivity can be achieved via quick-response (QR) codes or cool augmented reality on packaging that enables consumers to use their smartphones to engage with brands in a personal manner. Unique brand personalities, tones of voice, originality and humor can be leveraged and stories can be told; real stories that appeal to its audience’s personal stories and lifestyles. When brands build special cultures that engage their fans to interact with them and with each other, magical things happen. Human beings have a powerful drive to make meaningful connections.

Focusing on the ritual of unwrapping packaging can be a brand focal point, as Apple and its fans understand well. This is another opportunity for connectivity and sharing confirmed by the growing volume of online “unboxing videos” which has been explosive as enthusiastic consumers regularly shoot videos of themselves opening packaging. Since 2010, the number of YouTube clips in the "unboxing" category has increased 871%. According to CNN, in 2014, 2,370 days (6.5 years) of unboxing footage was uploaded on YouTube.

When the pleasure of peeling back layers of packaging is shared within a community as an event, something great has been achieved for that brand, going to the heart of customer experience. Each aspect of interaction should reinforce the brand and provide value, including the opening and use of packaging. Thus, attention to package design structure, closures and functionality should also be considered and leveraged to fit the unique personality of the brand.

Dr. Martyn Newman, a London-based doctor, consulting psychologist and expert in emotional intelligence and leadership, and author of “Emotional Capitalists—The New Leaders,” states: “Ultimately, the only way to create real profit is to attract the emotional rather than the rational customer by appealing to their feelings and imagination.” Packaging plays a large role in accomplishing that for consumer product brands.

Shifting demographic targets

Consumers have dramatically changed; they can’t be pigeon-holed any longer—hence, the need to challenge conventional demographic wisdom. A global study called Female Tribes compiled by JWT London in April 2014 found that 70% of women feel alienated by marketing, despite their purchasing power and their decisive role in making purchase decisions.

The research recommends that brands should stop defining women based on their responsibilities, age groups or life stages such as working moms, retired grandmothers or single working women and start focusing on their lifestyles and ambitions. This understanding should help marketers and package designers to address women’s emotional drivers to engage them in a meaningful manner.

Brands like Dove, LUNA Bar and Hanky Panky get it and that’s why they’re so loved. Extrapolating this data, and knowing what we do from our own research, we should consider this when packaging products for targeted adult groups for all consumer and licensed product brands.

Kids are a different matter. By the time they reach their tween and teen years, they respond to influencers within their groups who gravitate to brands in a more discerning manner than younger children. Brands must uncover the drivers for these influencers, rather than trying to appeal to all kids within these age groups.Forward-thinking graphics, color combinations and punchy verbal communications should hone in on what they respond to: unconventional package structures with interesting closures and cool unwrapping experiences are a plus.

The major toy companies are experts at targeting kids who are the fans of each of their brands, yet their audiences also are in transition. Kids are engaged with technology at a young age, leading to flagging toy sales. But Lego is showing the way forward by taking an anthropological rather than the usual marketing approach. The company’s marketers study kids at play and that’s not all. Lego studies the cultures in which children live around the world, their interactions with their parents and how they use social media.

Lego has reaped great benefits from these insights by tapping into the sustained play patterns necessary to master the skills to build increasingly sophisticated structures. While many toy brands struggle to make and keep fans, Lego’s website enables kids to share what they’ve created and enjoy other kids’ creations, merging real and virtual worlds in a seamless manner. We could argue that kids’ obsession with pads and smartphones actually increases the likelihood that they will embrace Lego due to the strength of their experiences with the brand.

Packaging for the Lego City series demonstrates why kids are so attracted to the brand. There is the promise of excitement, and accomplishment, for younger kids who love helicopters, police vehicles, motorcycles and ATVs as they test their skills to build these structures. Older kids can see plenty of challenges and attainable satisfaction with “expert” level kits. Let’s remember: Plenty of parents remember and love the brand, too. They can engage with their kids and Legos and thoroughly enjoy the experience. Even if they don’t, parents feel good about endorsing Legos as desirable toys for their children because of the educational and developmental values that they offer.

Lego surpassed Mattel as the No.1 toy company in the world in 2014. What’s even more striking is that Lego was named the most powerful brand by Consultancy Brand Finance, which publishes an annual ranking of the top 500 global brands.

This isn’t about being the most valuable brand in monetary terms but about being the highest in customer satisfaction and loyalty. Proof that delivering to an audience’s emotional needs, making the brand part of their lifestyles, committing to keeping brand values and ensuring quality experiences lead to love and undying loyalty.

Ted Mininni is president of Design Force Inc., a leading package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. He can be reached at 856-810-2277. Mininni blogs about package and licensing program design at