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The ice boxes cometh with repackaged clarity

Boxed trays of premium ‘shelf-stable ice’ as purified water receive a primary and secondary packaging revision.
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Clarity in communicating what a product is about is crucial when product and category are unique. That’s the message heard by management at aquaICE, Dublin, OH, when they took a fresh look at their premium ice cubes in the shelf-stable form of purified water filled into trays and boxed for sale. At home, consumers freeze the trays as needed and use the cubes directly in beverages.

More than a year after its limited introduction, the primary and secondary packaging of aquaICE has been reinvented for 2007. In working with Artemis Creative (www.artemiscreative.com), aquaICE made the following changes:

           The box was changed from corrugated to paperboard and a die-cut, film-covered window was added

           The box and tray sealing film were upgraded with new graphics

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           The 10-count tray’s individual cell size was modified to accept a larger cube size increased from 0.65 oz to 0.95 oz

           Box count was changed from 10 trays to five to reduce the price point from $9.99 to a friendlier $4.99

Coinciding with the package improvements, aquaICE has released two flavors, lemon and lime essence, added to the original unflavored version.

“What we have accomplished in recent months has been an extraordinary effort in developing a more retail-friendly package design,” says Michael Schall, aquaICE president and ceo. “Artemis Creative has an astonishingly creative group of people that understand the consumer market and AquaICE’s features and benefits. Building around a package design that communicates what the product is, what it does, and how it works, all accomplished in a fraction of a second for the consumer, is a major improvement over what we had before.”

The products were originally launched about 18 months ago, and have been distributed in Ohio and Canada.

Trays with a view

AquaICE’s most pronounced change is the windowed box. It was felt that there could be a “disconnect” for consumers if the box is merchandised anyplace other than the freezer case, Schall says. “In our discussions with Artemis and in reevaluating our research, it dawned on us that if a window was available on the box, we could instantly communicate to consumers what this product is, what it does, how it works, and that it’s a disposable tray.”

AquaICE realized from the start that showing consumers the trays was far better than explaining it via graphics. Company founder and chairman Peter Moenickheim says, “Consumers would see the trays and then say, ‘Oh, now we get it!’ And once the trays are boxed, it becomes even more challenging to get the message across. The enclosed box was not communicating effectively this new product or this new category. After much consumer research, we felt that the window answered that need much better than any photograph or picture. We also have a picture on the box, but with the window, consumers can instantly see that these are trays. This new packaging has much more shelf impact.”

“This has been a complete redesign,” explains chief operating officer George Varney. “The logo has changed slightly, but the rest of the design—showing the tray film peeling back, showing the glass and the large suspended ice cube, the copy on the back—that’s all new. The window opens up the package so consumers can see that it’s something they are familiar with, an ice cube tray and that these cubes are for consumption.”

The die-cut window wraps from the top of the box to the front to add a dimensional aspect to the cube trays, according to Schall. “Artemis’s design effort was phenomenal,” he adds.

The box is provided by Pratt Industries (www.prattindustries.com), which did not supply the previous box. Pratt is located near AquaICE’s contract packaging operations, which it declines to identify.

Materials change

The box is made of 20-pt SBS that’s offset-printed in four colors plus an aqueous coating before the window is die cut. Pratt also glues a 2-mil polyester film over the interior of the opening.

Moenickheim says the materials change from corrugated to paperboard “was to be more consumer-friendly and mimic what the soft drink industry has done with its chipboard multipacks. Another benefit of SBS paperboard is that we can achieve higher resolution graphics.”

Box sealing has also changed. The prior box was taped shut, which required a sharp tool to open, while the new auto-bottom box is better on several levels, according to Moenickheim.

“The old box was more industrial, was difficult to open, and not at all consumer friendly,” he says. “The new box’s auto-erect format permits it to be quickly erected, quickly filled, and conveniently opened by consumers.”

The polyvinyl chloride trays are thermoformed by Clear Pack (847/957-6282) and sealed using printed polyester film from Clear Lam Packaging, Inc. (www.clearlam.com). The tray compartments remain a 5x2 pattern.

Tray requirements were that it be clear, semi-rigid, and with a low water-vapor transfer rate as with the film, according to Moenickheim. “We didn’t want the water evaporating out of the cell,” he points out. “Plus it needed to withstand several thawing and freezing cycles.”

The graphics on the tray lidding film were changed to note flavor as well as the new .95 oz cube size, nearly 50% larger than before. Moenickheim says the cube size change resulted from consumer feedback that they were expecting a bigger cube.

Currently, the film can be peeled back carefully to expose the cubes two at a time, but Moenickheim says a future iteration will perforate the film for added convenience.

Timing is good

Schall feels the product reintroduction is timely, given the backdrop of food safety concern caused by the recent outbreaks of E. coli.

“There seems to be a tremendous level of interest from retail grocers and other retailers at this time in the quality and the integrity of the food supply chain,” says Schall. “Many retailers want to talk to us about the new package.”

The product remains in limited distribution in Ohio. “We also have limited distribution in Canada in the hospitality industry, where a hotel stocks it in its in-room freezers, as a complimentary service for guests,” Moenickheim adds.

AquaICE also reports a surprising amount of Internet sales through its Web site, he says. “These recent safety issues help people understand that there are alternatives to either bagged ice or home-made ice, and that has generated a fair number of Internet sales.”

Broad-based product positioning

“The product is designed to be user-friendly, and to reach a broad audience,” says Schall. “This is not intended to be a specialty product for an elite consumer, but a product and package that appeals to a much broader audience of consumers including a cube size double that of our competition. In terms of a cost-per-serving basis, we’re half the price of the competitive product.”

Another aspect emphasized graphically is the water used is purified; its competition uses spring water.

“Graphics state ‘Purified Aqua Ice’, so consumers can’t miss the fact that this is purified water along with an on-package slogan that states ‘The purity of bottled water in conveniently sealed trays,’” says Schall.

The redesign may appear straightforward, but it culminates a complex effort in which AquaICE assessed a dozen different window variations, Varney says. “You think something is simple, but then when you get into it and through consumer tests, it’s not as easy as you’d think.

“This redesign that may appear simple took months and months, but we’re happy where it ended up, and it seems that consumers are, too. We’ll find out when aquaICE gains wide distribution.”

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