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Innovation Survey: Innovation is a 360-degree Approach

Latest innovation survey rewards great graphic design work that tells a compelling story when combined with a smart structure.

The new Shelf Impact!/Dragon Rouge survey of innovative packaging awarded products that looked, felt, and communicated the part: an on-the-go portable water enhancer, a “pop-able olive that is unstoppable,” and retail-ready asparagus.

With a composite score ranging from 3.5 to 3.7 on a five-point scale, the three packaging innovations that led our third quarterly report are Kraft’s MiO liquid water enhancer, Mario Camacho’s snack-portion olives, and Gourmet Trading Company’s innovative retail-ready shipper. All three scored at the top in both structure and graphics.

The nation’s largest food-maker, Kraft Foods, is once again leading the charge with the development of a new beverage category—liquid water enhancers. The new MiO liquid water enhancer is packaged in a sturdy silver, droplet-shaped container, fits comfortably in the hand or pocket, and is easily opened with one hand using an integrated flip-top cap. With six fruit-flavor varieties, the line is differentiated on shelf by splashes of color on the front panel label, including a portion of the “M” in MiO. The uniqueness of the portable pod structure caters to convenience on multiple levels with graphics that are powerful yet visually organized, clearly communicating the benefits and value of controlling and customizing the amount of flavor in each sip.

The convenience and portability attribute is further emphasized with Mario Camacho’s new snack-portion olives, “packed loose without the juice.” The new snack-size olive portions packed in portable, single-serve, stand-up pouches were introduced last year to satisfy consumers’ salty cravings with a healthy alternative. Pouch graphics include larger-than-life photography of the green or black pitted olives along with bright bands of purple, yellow, or red that distinguish the three flavor varieties. With many consumers frequently on-the-go, the new snack-size format and structure allows mess-free, portable convenience, communicating freshness through the combined use of the pouch and taste-appealing graphics.

Rounding out the top three is The Gourmet Trading Company’s new asparagus retail-ready shipper. The two-piece format allows in-store personnel to easily convert the shipper into a consumer-friendly display tray that holds bunches of asparagus vertically to enhance display appeal and to keep the bottom ends in contact with a water-saturated pad. More often than not, asparagus is typically merchandised on its side; the retail-ready packaging structure and design aids in product freshness while providing a point of differentiation to the brand simply based on the vertical product positioning and display.

Innovation is only as effective as its execution
Irrespective of average or above-average scores in structure and graphics, our three lowest scores are evidence that innovation is only as effective as its execution.

In the multi-serve category, the shift from a pillow-style bag to a resealable pouch is giving an iconic American candy a whole new shelf presence. The candy is Sweethearts, made by the Boston-based New England Confectionery Co., better known as Necco. The challenge of the redesign was to balance the integrity of the brand that consumers know and love from their childhood while giving the new package a fresh, high-impact look. Although the pouch facilitates ease of storage and distribution, the actual materials and production of the new packaging did not match the new high-impact look, which likely is a result of the specific production method utilized.

A geometrically pleasing package for Dial NutriSkin marks Henkel’s entry into the hand and body lotion category. To differentiate its brand on-shelf, Henkel opted for a visually distinctive bottle that works seamlessly with a custom flip-top closure. Satisfying two key marketing objectives, the package overall is functional and approachable. And while the new packaging structure enhances the overall functionality of the bottle, the materials were ranked quite low, working against the design intent to elevate the premium image of the overall pack.

Bringing up the rear after two short years on the market is Honeydrop. A new custom-designed glass bottle intended to simplify the brand message, provide differentiation, and connect with the natural beverage consumer fell short. While the intent was to provide Honeydrop with a more natural and premium feel and signify that Honeydrop is made with real honey, the materials used did not capture respondents’ imagination. This, in turn, yielded unfavorable reviews that overshadowed the strong design elements, including a clear label to allow for product transparency and a simple color system to aid in flavor differentiation.

When embarking on your next innovation adventure, always keep this guiding principle in mind: Innovation is not just about a cool, distinct structure or design, but also how it’s executed. Therefore:
• Be diligent in every step of the process, from inception
to execution.
• Push for innovation that requires a different type of interaction with the product (i.e., transition to a convenient, on-the-go type product establishing new usage occasions for the product).
• Keep it simple. The best innovations are those that do not have all the bells and whistles, yet accomplish the task at hand in a clear and direct manner that ranks user friendliness first.

The author, Eric Zeitoun, is president of Dragon Rouge USA, an international brand and design consultancy. Contact him at or 212/367-8800.

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