MEXICO CITY — An innovative, 1.2-ounce package for alcoholic beverages officially received the 1997 WorldStar for Packaging Award on March 20, the same week Mexican consumer authorities pulled the shot-size product off the shelves.
``It's a paradox. On Thursday we receive the award, and over the weekend, we are publishing ads in local newspapers on why we think the action taken was unfair,'' said Enrique Zertuche, marketing director at Mexico City's Productos de Uva SA de CV. The firm uses the package for its Napoleon brandy, he said in a March 25 telephone interview.
In November, an international jury from the World Packaging Organization chose 137 entries to receive the WorldStar award. Eight Mexican companies were included, but only one was for a plastic container — the small pouch designed by Mexico City-based Pyn SA de CV.
Pyn marketing manager Fernando Ponce Vilchis said the coextruded pouch is made of PET and polyethylene film. It is used to package brandy and tequila sold at local supermarkets, corner stores, or other locations licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.
The price is low, even for Mexico, at 31/2 pesos per bag, or about 41 cents. Each bag contains a normal shot-size drink.
The government agency that took the product off the shelves is the Federal Consumer Protection Agency, or Profeco. Ponce and Zertuche both said the product was removed because the package does not include a health warning.
When the product was designed and first launched on the market, ``it was not necessary to label products that contain less than 50 milliliters of alcohol,'' Ponce said.
But Profeco spokeswoman Maria del Carmen Rivas said March 25 that the package violated other regulations for alcohol packaging, not just the labeling restriction.
One source who asked not to be identified said the product was removed because it threatened the market share of other companies — such as producers of glass bottles for alcohol, and even underground distillers who sell alcohol tainted with chemicals.
In addition, local television and radio talk shows have attacked the packaging, arguing that the inexpensive drinks may turn adolescents into addicts.
The pouch and drink manufacturers argue that stores are not allowed to sell to anyone under the age of 18. This may be misleading itself, given the ease in obtaining alcohol in Mexico.
Ponce and Zertuche said sales of the pouches have been impressive, but they declined to provide details. Two more alcoholic drink manufacturers recently decided to use the pouches for individual serving-size drinks.
Associaci¢n Mexicana de Envase y Embalaje S.C., a Mexico City-based packaging organization, also approves of the pouch.
``We studied the issue, and are supporting the new package,'' said Jorge Martinez, director general of the bottling and packaging association.