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.