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RIT students redesign Wegmans’ packs for convenience, sustainability

Student teams from RIT redesign packaging for Wegmans’ orange juice and Greek yogurt, creating greater convenience and cost savings and using sustainable materials.

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What if yogurt cups were widened so that spoons could rest inside and not topple the container? Or, what if the tops were sturdier, ensuring that they couldn’t be punctured or open if dropped? These and other issues were solved during the 2015 Wegmans Design Challenge. The winners redesigned packages with more consumer appeal and more sustainable materials.

The challenge was part of a fall semester class in which students from the Packaging Science department in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology partnered with students from the Industrial Design and Graphic Design departments in the university’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. The multidisciplinary teams resembled those that would be found in the workplace, and the challenge provided the students with hands-on skills in project management, marketing, and incorporating sustainable designs in product development.

Each year, the design competition features different products, says Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans Sustainability Manager and one of the judges for the competition. “We know this is about design, marketability, and improving the use of products, but I’m glad the teams emphasized sustainability. Our Wegman’s customers are aware of sustainability, and it matters to them and to us. I’m impressed with the work. This was a win.”

Eight teams reworked packaging designs for two Wegmans products: its premium orange juice and its Greek yogurt. All projects had to include strategies about changes in packaging structure, the materials used, and improvements to graphic and ergonomic elements. They were also required to provide evidence of sustainable use and cost savings. Each team detailed the work in videos showcasing designs, sustainable impact, and several of Wegmans’ local stores.

“Projects like this are so important to our academic careers because they broaden ourknowledge and expand our creativity when looking at real-world problems with real-world parameters,” says Laura Hoerner, a fourth-year graphic design student on Team Moo, one of the winning teams. “We are able to work with peers in various majors with different ideas and thought processes. I have learned so much from working alongside the industrial designers and the packaging science majors. It provides a different experience than just working with other graphic design students.”

The winning Orange Juice Team 8 exchanged the traditional cardboard container with a clear, slimmed-down version that was fully recyclable. The new design allows for more products shipped on pallets, reducing the number of individual crated items and transportation impacts.

Team Moo won the Greek yogurt category with a box-like, stackable design that included a stronger lid to replace the foil usually found on the containers. Each of the flavors of the yogurt was indicated by color, and the Wegman’s Organic leaf logo was prominent.

“Thumbs up for the leaf,” says Wadsworth, who added that the company was looking to emphasize more of its organic brands, and adding the leaf to the new design was in line with the company’s future focus. “It is a great-looking package, and it would stand out on the shelf. This one has a lot of potential.”

That potential also included a return to reusable crates. Using this design, Wegmans could ship 37% more product, the equivalent, the students say, of 40,000 more cups. It could potentially mean eliminating the need for 16,000 sq ft of corrugated paperboard per truck.

“We began with problems we saw with the current Wegmans design, and tried to build from there. We wanted to keep it realistic for Wegmans, keeping in mind cost,machinery, and the currentmethods they useto ship their product,” says Hoerner. “We sought to address those issues, as well as keep apremium look to anorganic product.”

This is the seventh year for the collaborative course that has, over that time, incorporated products from Colgate-Palmolive, Sun Products, Kraft, and Unilever as well as American Packaging and Wegmans into the design competition. The latter two companies were the original corporate supporters when the student projects first began.

Winners receive a monetary stipend for the submissions from the sponsoring company. Faculty advisers are Karen Proctor, Packaging Science; Lorrie Frear, Graphic Design; and Alex Lobos, Industrial Design. During the semester, students met for project feedback with Wadsworth and Wegmans’ dairy and beverage category managers, Nate Bubb and Ron Indovina.

Team Orange Juice comprised Wentain Chen, Kyle Laidlaw, Suyue Lu, Christopher Muñoz, Greg Okolowicz, and Vienna Ziatyk. Team Moo included Brendan Babiarz, Evan Cincotta, Jay Fleckenstein, Laura Hoerner, and Abbey Phillips.

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