The reverse taper of the Yoplait yogurt container has won the company brand recognition on its package alone. It's an old example, yet a classic case, of the power of design in building a brand name.
These days, design is playing an ever-greater role in packaging, as manufacturers compete for precious retail shelf space and functionality becomes a key driver in choosing one product over the other, according to several sources in the packaging industry.
``It's customer-valued features that will make a difference,'' said Dan Abramowicz, executive vice president of technology and regulatory affairs for Crown Holdings Inc. in Philadelphia, during a Feb. 27 presentation at the Packaging Strategies Conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
``Packages that reduce the need to pump by using power dispensing technologies,'' he said. ``The ability to reseal containers so that now, you don't have to worry about spillage. A container that gives you the ability to take the product with you and use it in new occasions. Those are unmet needs. A package that protects my family and prevents me from accidentally poisoning my daughter. Those are customer-valued features.''
Jim Overbeeke, packaging business manager with Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. in Bolton, Ontario, said customers are talking about tamper-resistant containers and seeking to build brand recognition through techniques like in-mold labeling and shaping.
Husky developed an integrated IML workcell with SysTec Komplettsysteme GmbH of Bad Urach, Germany, to respond to the market needs.
Officials said the system is made up of a compact Husky Hylectric H120 machine with a two-cavity mold and an integrated SysTec IML system with force-guided label-insert technology. This uses Husky SwingChute in-mold automation to retrieve labels from a magazine, then orient and place the labels on the insert core.
Examples of the role of design in the market now include paint containers such as the Dutch Boy Twist & Pour Container. Graham Packaging Co. LP of York, Pa., introduced in February a Safe-T-Can for Basic American Foods in response to customer feedback on packaging for its brand of instant mashed potatoes. Graham designed the package for safety, ease of use and convenient storage, officials said.
The 105-fluid ounce can is made from six-layer HDPE and replaces a metal can.
``We created a container that pairs design with functionality,'' said Terry Keener, Graham's business development manager for food and beverage polyolefins, in a news release.
Two companies recently have used their plastics technology to design wine bottles. Constar International Inc. of Philadelphia introduced bottles using its PET technology. Officials said wine requires exceptional protection against oxidation. To that end, the company incorporated its Oxbar active oxygen scavenger, which can enable a shelf life of a year or more.
Ball Corp. of Broomfield, Colo., introduced stock and custom PET wine bottles that were designed using input from consumers, wineries, distributors and venue operators. Officials said the bottles are ideal for travel and outdoor venues where glass is not allowed. Ball designed a 6.3-ounce PET wine bottle for Sutter Home that preserves the look of the existing Sutter Home glass container.
Designers are being challenged to create packages that have added security but that also incorporate strength and function. In some cases, that means converting a package from one plastic to another plastic, said officials from design firm All Packaging Co. based in Aurora, Colo.
The firm has worked on several projects, including one in which a cosmetics company needed a functional and secure package solution for a line of skin cream. In that case, designers switched from polyethylene to polypropylene. Designers there currently are working on a PP gift box for wine bottles that will provide full visibility while on the retail shelf.
``The competition is so much greater on the retail shelf,'' said Ken Pepper, president of All Packaging. ``It's much more difficult to get a package seen.''