For Philadelphia-based branded products developer and marketer Sorbee Intl. LLC, the opportunity to launch a new syrup product into the retail market under the IHOP breakfast restaurant-chain name was a golden opportunity. “The product was developed because of the power of the IHOP brand name,” says Sorbee CEO Daniel Werther. “There has not been a new entrant into the syrup category for many years, and what better name to gain a foothold in the category than IHOP? The name indexes perfectly with syrup.”
But the IHOP brand equity proved both a blessing and a burden. The chain’s clean glass syrup dispensers are an integral part of the restaurant experience, so the new retail package had to evoke the in-restaurant version. But the bottle, with its glass construction, tapered round shape, free-floating handle, and open-spout cap, were anything but shelf- and home pantry-friendly.
In March 2010, Sorbee sought assistance from Studio One Eleven Design, a division of Berlin Packaging, for the creation of a 12- and 24-oz syrup package for five flavor varieties of IHOP at Home that could replicate the restaurant dispenser design while meeting retail requirements. “Aesthetically, the package had to resemble the look of the handled syrup dispensers found in IHOP restaurants, deliver a consistent, glug-free pour, and remain clean after pouring,” explains Studio One Eleven senior packaging consultant Walter A. Kresse.
Functionally, the structure needed to be microwavable, create a pour that was in line with the package handle, provide bottle clarity for viewing of the product, and accommodate a tamper-evident shrink band as well as a large label, Kresse adds.
Due to weight, breakage, and moldability considerations, Studio One Eleven selected a heavy-gauge polypropylene material for the retail bottle rather than glass, which also allows IHOP’s signature strawberry- and blueberry-flavored syrups to be filled at the required 180°F temperature.
While Kresse says a free-floating handle was considered, the design was later rejected for cost and assembly concerns. While integrated into the body of the bottle, the final near-right-angled handle design presented significant molding challenges, as it extends out further than the base diameter of the bottle. “The majority of molding partners we reviewed this design with said this bottle could not be molded,” says Kresse. “We did not accept that conclusion because we believe anything is possible. Our [proprietary] molding partner undertook the challenge. During the molding process, the mold is raised then angled to seven degrees to permit the handle to fully form.
“Flash trimming also posed serious challenges with this design. Major investments in downstream tooling were made to overcome the challenges with the trimming and resin drool issues.”
To allow for a clean, free-flowing pour of product, rather than squeeze dispensing, which is used with most syrup packaging, Studio One Eleven specified a Weatherchem LiquiFlapper flip-top closure. The component features a specially designed teardrop orifice that provides an even flow, a butterfly hinge that stays open when pouring, a cutoff spout that controls the flow rate and helps prevent drips, and a one-piece construction that can be opened and closed with one hand.
Cementing the brand message, a large, triangular front panel holds a pressure-sensitive label with the IHOP logo paired with the words “AT HOME” and an IHOP-blue color palette that matches the blue of the dispensing cap. The IHOP logo is also molded prominently in the neck of the bottle.
IHOP at Home, co-packed by an unnamed supplier, was launched in late 2011 in some regional grocery stores, followed by a national rollout in Walmart. Says Werther, “Most retailers have embraced the introduction with great enthusiasm. Consumers are wild over the product. They love IHOP, and this product enables them to have some of the IHOP experience at home when they can’t get to the restaurant. We think it also builds the brand, especially for the restaurants—‘in sight…in mind.’ To that end, it’s a great reminder for the restaurants every time a consumer sees the product on the shelf at their favorite grocer.”