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Ergonomic package design

A package designer of award-winning containers suggests that ergonomic considerations could help lift your packaging above the competition.

Pw 12158 6 Nl Pi Rl Ergomayo

Design expert Bryce Rutter, founder and chief executive officer of Metaphase Design Group, is a proponent of the integration of ergonomic considerations into package designs. His approach, called the “Ergonomics of Living Design Process,” has worked for companies like Kraft, Kellogg’s, The Solo Cup Co., and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.

Rutter divides consumer packaged goods companies into the following camps:

1. The Believers Companies that understand the direct linkage between ergonomic design and financial performance and know that good design is good business sense.

2. The Trapped Companies who have seen their business be reduced to a commodity where price becomes the defining factor. This group has heard that design makes good business sense, but have never thought strategically about design and now believe “they need some.”

3. The Unconverted These companies have heard of ergonomics and design, but have not heard the foundation to the story. They are inquisitive, but have not been exposed to the depth and detail required for good design. But they are game to try!

Based on an effort with Kraft, Rutter places the CPG company somewhere between a #1 and #2—depending on which person he happened to be working with. That relationship led to an award-winning effort for Kraft mayo built on a solid ergonomic foundation that exemplifies this methodology.

Kraft’s ergonomic mayo

Kraft Foods improved the 1-gal foodservice size of its mayo by redesigning what had been a “standard foodservice container,” according to Rutter, helped redesign the 5-pounds-plus packaged product. Prelaunch research meant visiting quick-serve restaurants to watch operators using mayo containers. Now the 1-gal mayo bottle is an ergonomically designed wonder with the following features:

  • Balanced design means it is naturally in the horizontal “ladling out” position when held

  • A wider, approximately 6’’-dia opening for easy access also prevents operators from getting mayo on the back of their hands when reaching down into the container

  • Curved edges in all corners permit spatula scraping of every possible ounce of product to reduce waste

  • Solid—not hollow—handle prevents product accumulation and waste

  • Translucency with limited opacity permits view of product level without seeing messy details

    “The design balances the container naturally when used into a comfortable dispensing position and prevents operators from having to torque their wrists,” says Rutter. “A complaint from operators was that they had to ‘wrestle’ with the previous container to get at the mayo.”

    Strength in numbers

    Rutter says that collectively, these small improvements can build brand loyalty. “In a commodity market where price is the driver, Kraft felt that if the package could solve problems for operators, then users would perceive its value as higher and thus embrace more customers,” he says. “It’s been very well received—restaurant operators love it.”

    The Kraft mayo package won an IoPP 2003 AmeriStar Package Award.

    Metaphase also handled the design for a 2.1-L Listerine bottle from Pfizer Consumer Healthcare for club store sale that was launched in 2004. Rutter says the design was driven by the ergonomics of handling larger and bulkier products.

    The company also handled the design for Kellogg’s Drink’n Crunch on-the-go cereal cups, which he describes as an “ergonomic cup within a cup design that delivers cereal and milk to your lips at the same time, so your mouth is essentially the bowl.” The innovative design puts an end to soggy cereal, he points out.

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