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Super marketing through packaging

Products at the Food Marketing Institute trade show in Chicago illustrate how grocery marketers rely heavily on packaging to add convenience and sales appeal.
KraftEarthgrainsWholeSoy FoodsAriZonaPotato Products of IdahoDiamond of CaliforniaHoneyTree

The annual Food Marketing Institute (Washington DC) extravaganza proved once again to be a spotlight for the grocery industry’s latest innovations. Packaging World presents this first-hand look at packages for products ranging from bagels to walnuts. Editors singled out these packs while scouring the aisles at Chicago’s McCormick Place during the show in May.

For some manufacturers the spotlight was broad. For example prepared foods powerhouse Kraft Glenview IL introduced 30 items at the show. Indicative of Kraft’s emphasis on consumer convenience was Athenos® Travelers® Mediterranean foods launched in March in five refrigerated varieties. Produced and packaged by Churny Co. Inc. Weyauwega WI Travelers are available in two-compartment 4 ?’’-diameter polypropylene trays heat-sealed with a foil lamination. The lidding is sealed around the perimeter and along the divider that separates the two compartments to keep the food in place. One compartment contains 3 oz of hummus the other has five slices of pita bread and a plastic spreader. A colorful paperboard sleeve completes the presentation.

“The sleeve was designed specifically to allow Travelers to be vertically displayed” says Gary Carmichael associate research engineer Kraft Cheese Div. Packaging Development. Priced from $1.59 to $1.99 Travelers adapts for adults a package style Kraft and others have used previously for kid-targeted snack and meal kits such as Oscar Mayer® Lunchables®. Kraft informs PW that parents are also packing Travelers in their kids’ lunches as an alternative to classic “junk food.” “The product is the marriage of two escalating trends: snacking and Mediterranean foods” states Mark Magnesen Churny Co. president. “Because of the tray’s unique design we had to develop some specialized tub handling equipment” says Carmichael. Kraft declines to elaborate on the packaging process.

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‘Opportunistic’ zipper tops bagel bags

Packaging innovation slides conveniently into the bakery aisle atop six-count bags of bagels from Earthgrains Co. St. Louis MO. The bags are made reclosable with the Hefty Slide-Rite® zipper device from Pactiv (Lake Forest IL). “Packaging is the next big opportunity in bakery” stated Gary Jensen Earthgrains’ senior vp marketing from the floor of the FMI show.

The repackaged Earthgrains® bagels in five varieties are currently in test market in California and Texas in 19 ?-oz zippered bags. Before a bread-style bag with a bread-bag-style clip was used. Pactiv flexo-prints the premade zippered bags in up to seven colors. The 2 ?-mil low-density polyethylene bag film is thicker than the previous bag film PW is told. The bags are supplied to the bakery with the slider and tamper evident seal in place ready to

be bottom-filled and heat-sealed/trimmed. With the repackaging the bagels are displayed lying down with the top facing outward to emphasize the improved packaging. A gusset added to the new bag accommodates the 7’’-long zipper.


As of early May Earthgrains reached midway of a planned 24-week market test Jensen says. Feedback has been “extremely positive” he adds noting that consumers indicated the zipper “connotes freshness.” The company believes the Slide-Rite system is easier to open and close than competitive reclosure methods says Andre Biane vice president of bakery research and total quality. Earthgrains anticipates the package will increase marketshare enough to more than offset the premium it pays for zippered packaging. Suggested retail prices vary by flavor variety and sales region from $2.59 to $2.99 per six-pack.

Canned bottle

AriZona Beverage Co. Cincinnati OH allowed PW a sneak peak at its next offering: a joint effort with Boulder CO-based Celestial Seasonings the largest manufacturer and marketer of specialty hot teas in the U.S. AriZona one of the most packaging-savvy companies around does it again with this six-item line of premium ready-to-drink teas and related products that play off the Celestial branding while carving out new territory.

For one thing the 20-oz glass bottles are molded by Ball-Foster (Muncie IN) with ripples around the top and bottom portions. The bottom three-fourths of the bottle is wrapped in a chrome-like metallized polyvinyl chloride shrink band from Worldpack (Buena Park CA). Applied over the PVC is a paper label printed in six colors plus high-gloss varnish by Inland Paper (La Crosse WI) that picks up some of Celestial’s whimsical artwork.

The overall effect is “a bottle in a can” says Francie Patton vice president corporate communications at AriZona. “The package is a first for the industry with two labels [overlaying] on a single bottle.” Topping things off is a metal closure from White Cap (Downers Grove IL). AriZona hopes to have the products on the market this month says Patton.

Making microwaves with soy

WholeSoy Foods LLC Des Moines IA was officially launched along with several of its products at this year’s FMI show. Among the heart-healthy dishes debuted were Heartland Fields Soy Barbeque™ Soy Steak Strips™ and Italian-Style Soy Sausage™. The Soy Barbeque product which retails for $6.39 was the first available to consumers in Midwestern regional markets via mainstream grocery stores and health food stores in May. This microwaveable single-serving meal keeps for 45 days in the refrigerator.

The meal comes fully cooked in a 16-oz black polypropylene tray from Rexam (Union MO). At a cost of 40¢ per package WholeSoy Foods spends about half what it would have had the company chosen a dual-ovenable tray says Teresa Dunbar director of marketing for WholeSoy Foods. A red PP film heat-sealed to

the tray is removed prior to microwave heating. Slipped over the tray is a 15-pt paperboard sleeve offset-printed by Watt-Peterson (Minneapolis MN).

The sleeve is interesting says Dunbar because of its C1S boardstock chosen for its upscale look. The stock allows for a vivid product photo she says.

Eyeing vend sales

Even the humble potato has received a value-added makeover. And that’s the whole potato in a tray not a precut pouched version. Potato Products of Idaho Rigby ID is introducing for vending machine and convenience-store sales a modified atmosphere version of its “MinuteBaker” potato. The 8-oz refrigerated kit includes a bagged prebaked Idaho Russet Burbank spud unit packs of sour cream and butter and salt and pepper packets. All items are packed in a clear tray and are heat-sealed with clear DuPont (Wilmington DE) nylon-barrier film. Retail price is $1.59 to $1.99. A pressure-sensitive label provides product and nutrition information.

The potato is first sealed in a barrier film says PPI vice president John Ricks. For consumption the bagged spud is removed from the tray the barrier film is pierced and the potato is microwaved in the bag for 3 minutes or less. Due to pricing concerns and resin availability PPI switched in late May from a polystyrene tray to a PP tray from Anchor Packaging (Fenton MO) which is identical to the PS tray shown in the photo Ricks tells PW. Sales and marketing head Michael Degn says the gas-flushed product’s shelf life is 18 months frozen and 30 days refrigerated. In addition to a black tray retail version PPI is also launching a no-frills spud-only item for retail sale at Albertsons chain of supermarkets for 99¢.

Pooch packaging

When Shelley Gunton founder of Castor & Pollux Pet Works Clackamas OR began thinking about clever packaging for a new line of all-natural pet products she tried to create something that even a dog could love. Instead of using a standard container for the Head to Tail Melatreat Shampoo Castor & Pollux chose a red fire hydrant-shaped bottle.

The HDPE bottle is distributed by Pennco Container (Dallas TX) which created the custom mold in conjunction with molder Polytainer (Simi Valley CA). The black-ribbed disc-top cap on the hydrant-shaped bottle is supplied by Stull Technologies (Somerset NJ). Screen printing directly onto the bottle was a bit of a challenge. Because the printing is on the flat portion of the container positioned between the top and bottom lips of the bottle Pennco had to build a special frame to hold the irregular-shaped bottle during printing.

Screen printed in two colors on the front and one on the back the bottle is also practical. According to Gunton the two hydrant “knobs” on the side of the bottle aid in gripping especially when bathing a wet and slippery pup. Available in some grocery and specialty stores throughout the Northwest Head to Tail retails for $9.99.

Winnie the Pooh

Another unusually shaped bottle was shown by HoneyTree Inc. of Onsted MI. The company debuted the first-ever Winnie the Pooh®-brand honey said HoneyTree president Robert Olney Jr. from the FMI show floor. Details such as a honey bee molded onto the honeycomb container and the black printed facial features on the Pooh bottle made the Pure Clover Honey an eyecatcher at this year’s show.

Three different sizes (a 24-oz honey pot a 12-oz Pooh-shaped bottle and a 16-oz honeycomb- shaped container) are blown in-house using polyethylene terepthalate resin from Eastman Chemicals (Kingsport TN). Bottles are decorated with shrink labels from American Fuji Seal (Bardstown KY). Winnie the Pooh Pure Clover Honey will launch in Wal-Mart Supercenters and Stop & Shop stores.

Nuts about standups

Diamond of California Stockton CA unveiled new stand-up packaging with zipper reclosure for two new products: Harvest Reserve Halves premium walnut halves and Sesame Glazed Walnuts. Although both packs are nitrogen flushed each features a different film structure and shelf life. The 6-oz pouch of walnut halves which retails for about $2.99 uses a two-layer film from Printpack (Atlanta GA) that provides a 9-month shelf life. The structure is 48-ga polyester/3-mil polyethylene and printing is in eight colors. An unprinted section provides a view window. The zipper is from Presto (Appleton WI). “Ours is the first stand-up application for culinary nuts” declares Michael Friedman vice president of marketing. “[We] are making it easier and more convenient for consumers to enjoy the health benefits of walnuts.”

The moisture- and oxygen-sensitive glazed walnuts are packed in an 8-oz stand-up pouch. According to Diamond’s Fred Jacobus director of operations the Printpack film structure is a 3-layer lamination of 48-ga PET/metallized 36-ga PET/2-mil linear low-density PE. It provides the product a two-year shelf life. Due to supply limitations the product is sold only in New York and California markets for $3.49; a 24-oz club size is priced at $7.99. With the exception of the contract-packaged club pack the pouches are produced on Diamond’s own machinery upgraded with change parts Jacobus says.

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