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Smart Balance gets square

In May 2013, Smart Balance, a division of Boulder Brands, Boulder, CO, began market introduction of redesigned packaging for all of its 13 popular, heart-healthier buttery spread products.
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FILED IN:  Package design  > Structural

The company has been switching over from 4.5-in.-dia round polypropylene tubs to 4-in.-wide square PP tubs. The changeover should be completed in all national markets by summer 2013. No alterations in the product volume/weight (13 and 15 oz), ingredients, or price are accompanying the packaging redesign.

Smart Balance evaluated the current round tub it had been using and determined that conversion to square tubs could free up valuable refrigerated warehouse storage space as well as optimize in-store shelf display space. The company calculates that the switch can increase warehousing efficiencies by up to 60% and shelf efficiencies by 50%. Grocers should be able to stack 60 square units on a refrigerated shelf in the same space where only 40 round units could have fit. Also, the product shelf facings, typically expanding from 10 rows for rounds to 12 rows for squares in the same space, are much more prominent with the new container style.

Steve Hughes, chairman and CEO for Boulder Brands, notes, “We are committed to creating innovative, solution-driven products for grocers and consumers. If our leadership motivates other producers of spreads and dairy items to go square, larger grocers can gain 30 to 40 feet on the shelves. This will allow retailers to introduce more new foods, including a wider selection of our own Smart Balance and Earth Balance products. We expect this packaging initiative to strengthen our retail partnerships and drive incremental business gains.”

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As part of the conversion, Smart Balance also decided to do some labeling upgrades. John Becker, Smart Balance executive vice president and general manager, reports, “The company is transitioning from dry, offset printing to in-mold labeling that allows for bolder, more realistic, more appetite-appealing graphics. Also, new filling and membrane-sealing equipment has been installed at the company’s copacking facilities to accommodate the square tubs. Our packaging materials and systems suppliers and partners are considered proprietary at this time.” Also not available as of this posting is the identity of the company that makes the new tubs.

A study conducted for Boulder Brands by sustainability consulting firm Renewable Choice Energy found that the new square tub design can reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the products’ packaging and distribution and the retailers’ energy usage by 18%. 

Renewable Choice vice president Matt Wood reports, “The new Smart Balance package design reduces the amount of space occupied by each product and also requires less material to produce. These improvements generate significant carbon savings. The Smart Balance 15-ounce packaging could reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 700 tons.”



The new square tubs are horrible for the consumer. The lid is much slower to open than the old circular lid. Once open, it's difficult to swipe your knife in a circular arc and shave off a thin slice of margarine. Can't wait until the container is almost empty and I have up fish the last bits of margarine out of the corners of the tub. Whoever decided to change to a square tub did not have the end user in mind. I have been using Smart Balance for years but will be looking for a new brand in a circular tub for my next purchase.

Is the new tub recyclable? I like that it fits in my fridge butter area better but I will be disappointed if it is not recyclable.

As a prior poster stated, "Did you not have the end-user in mind"? Back in the 1950's, home-delivered butter was in circular containers. Why? Throughout the years since, tubs were used, why? Because it allows the user to easily remove the product. With your new square, once I use it for a couple of days, I have to chase the product in circles. How totally inefficient. In your ads, you say how great that we save refrigerator space. Like who cares, really. It is you and the others mentioned that benefit, not the consumer; what a lie! I've used you for years but now, after purchasing your new square a few times, I give up. I'm finding another product and I now stopped talking about how great Smart Balance is. Tubs have been used for years for a reason. Once upon a time, manufacturers cared about the consumer; you obviously don't. I wonder how your sales will be affected?

I could not better express my feelings about this terrible change than the comments that were previously submitted. Don't try to fool us into thinking you care about the consumer! So, it frees up warehouse space, and grocers' shelf space, but you wonn't need space to supply me any longer. I am definitely going to switch to some other brand of spread even though I have extolled the great taste, etc. of Smart Balance for years. Another case of the consumer being at the mercy of "progress".

I don't like the square much either but don't care as much about the shape or cover or the removal of product. What does concern me is the container I emptied yesterday, does not have a recycle symbol on it. So it is trash rather then reuse it seems. Oh yeah, great idea.

I don't know what everyone is getting all up in a twitter about, but I like the new design. I enjoy the product and the containers are perfect for use afterward for storing small items as well as a bunch of other things. I just was wondering if anyone knew how to cleanly remove the label when it's done so I can reuse. Thanks.

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