Reflecting a lower number of new product introductions in 2009, some of this year’s best packages actually are redesigns of existing brands. While many beverage companies held back on rolling out completely new concepts, several of them didn’t hesitate to punch up the visual appeal of the brands they already had, which gave them access to new consumers, and reinforced their space in the marketplace. Here are the packages that Beverage Industry thought topped the list this year.

DeLoach Barrel-to-Barrel
Winemaker Boisset Family Estates, Sausalito, Calif., rolled out a new innovation in wine packaging for on-premise accounts this year that allows bars and restaurants to keep wine longer and replicate the experience of sampling wine from a barrel in a winery. The wine cask holds the equivalent of 10 liters of wine, or the equivalent of 67 5-ounce glasses, and protects the wine from oxidation for six to eight weeks from the time it is opened.

The package consists of a wooden barrel on the outside, while the inside contains a 10-liter “eco-bag” similar to bag-in-box packaging. As wine is poured, the bag shrinks inside, preventing oxygen from getting into the package, which keeps the wine fresh.

A bonus for on-premise retailers, the 10-liter bags are priced at the equivalent of a typical 9-liter case, offering an extra seven glasses for the same price, the company says. Boisset says the eco-bags reduce shipping weight, required storage space and are made from recycled materials.

The company launched the Barrel-to-Barrel program with a DeLoach Pinot Noir for the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

“Our mission at the Fairmont San Francisco is to bring the Wine Country experience to our guests,” said the Fairmont’s Director of Food and Beverage Todd Nagle in a statement. “Together with DeLoach, we feel we’ve found an authentic means of presenting wines in a way that connects our guests directly to the winery. The barrel provides a visual icon that sets the expectation of the wine cellar experience for our guests, while for us, the benefits are clear: the convenient 10-liter eco-bag guarantees that every glass we pour is fresh as if we’d just opened the bottle, with no concern of possible tainted corks, and it offers added convenience of handling of the 10-liter eco-bags and the reduced storage required.”

Coca-Cola Summer Series 
The Coca-Cola Co. didn’t reinvent the wheel — or in this case, the can — with the 2009 Summer Series, but it added new graphics that reinforced soda’s place in summertime activities. The Limited-Edition Collector’s Series was designed by Coca-Cola North America, Turner Duckworth and Wieden + Kennedy, with renderings of a beach ball, barbeque, sunglasses, surf boards, and stars and stripes for the Fourth of July in silver against a red backdrop. 

Created as part of a fully integrated marketing initiative, the graphics also were featured on in-store displays and select TV spots, as well as t-shirts, hats and beach towels. Five cans were released in all, and the designs extended to 2-liter and 20-ounce bottles as well.

Pepsi Natural

When Pepsi-Cola North America rolled out its Pepsi Natural limited-time offering early this year, it sought to set the product apart through both its natural ingredient content and a premium image. The company used a 12-ounce glass bottle with simple graphics for the product that contains sparkling water, sugar, apple extract and kola nut extract.

“One of the things that is great about the idea of a natural beverage is you’re creating something that’s really based in a story of ingredients and simplicity of ingredients and what goes into the bottle,” says Nicole Flavin, senior marketing manager for Pepsi. “So what we wanted to do is mirror that with a package that was very sort of simple and honest in its approach.”

Pepsi worked with a design firm and packaging company Anchor Glass to create a smooth, contemporary design for the bottle, with an equally simply label. 

“We really did want to feature the notion of natural,” Flavin says. “So you’ll see the Natural name itself is the largest thing on the label because we just wanted people to feel like the simple form and the open honesty of the label would help accentuate the quality of the product.”

In addition, the company chose a glass bottle because it not only is popular with natural products consumers, but it reflected a premium feeling for the brand.

Pepsi Natural follows PepsiCo’s rollout of another natural soda in the United Kingdom last year called Pepsi Raw. Flavin says the company learned a lot from the U.K. launch, but saw a different opportunity in the U.S. market. 

“Their execution, right down to the name, Pepsi Raw, is an edgier articulation of a product than we were hoping to get to in the United States,” she says. “If you look at their package, it’s got that rippled glass, and the Raw is very bold, vertically positioned coming down that bottle. It feels much edgier and a bit different than the way we wanted to present Pepsi Natural here. I think that’s based on differences, not necessarily in the target consumer, but what we perceived as the opportunity among that consumer between the two different countries.”

Nutrisoda redesign

PepsiAmericas and its subsidiary Ardea Beverage Co. decided to redesign the packaging for the Nutrisoda brand this year, and found they had a number of things to communicate in a small amount of space. The brand, which is a sparkling beverage that contains 11 vitamins and nutrients, offers both refreshment and functionality, and the design needed to reflect both.

The first thing to go was the brand’s 8.4-ounce can, which has become synonymous with the energy drink category, in favor of a 12-ounce soft drink can.

“We started with a strategy that said ‘embrace the fact that you’re a soda,’” says Josh Smerick, director of strategic planning at design firm Hunt Adkins, Minneapolis. “Nothing about the packaging in its former execution said soda.”

In addition, Smerick says, research showed that the product’s previous brightly colored cans communicated a sweet message as far as consumers were concerned. Depending on variety, Nutrisoda is a low- or no-calorie beverage, and the impression of high sugar content was exactly what it wanted to avoid. 

The companies chose a silver can “to communicate diet, without saying diet,” and added subtle bubble graphics to play up the carbonation, Smerick says. 

They knew the slim bubbles would connote effervescence to consumers, but their study group research provided insight into exactly how consumers perceive those graphics.

“To a T, every single group, male and female, every time we had this grouping of bubbles horizontal, and particularly at the mid-section, people were saying ‘that makes me feel fat in the waist,’” Smerick says. “So we quickly made note and said bubbles go vertical rather than horizontal.”

The resulting open, airy — and vertical — bubble graphics managed to reinforce the no-sugar message of the brand, as well as the flavor through the choice of color.

A final, but essential, element of the design was to connect that flavor and effervescence with the nutritional content of the beverage, and the company literally connected the two with the S in the brand name. 

“On the brand mark itself, there was a lot of discussion of what was going to be the most important component — the Nutri component, or the Soda component,” Smerick says. 

Soda won out, and received a bolder treatment. The S is slightly larger than the rest of the letters, extending above and below, and connecting the flavor name at the top of the logo with the words “+11 Vitamins+Nutrients” below the logo. 

“It emphasized soda, but also communicated the nutritional component of it,” Smerick says. “The S became a device for us to carry the eye and take them to this information.”

The companies also dropped the previous “Airforce” part of the brand name, feeling that it created confusion and prevented a clear hierarchy in the brand name. In the end, the companies felt the redesign had extended the brand to more consumers, both male and female, and broken free of the energy drink confusion.

“It became soda with the right kind of pop,” Smerick says.

Crystal Light’s new canister 

Kraft Foods reinvented its Crystal Light brand this fall, with a new, more environmentally friendly makeover of the powdered drink brand. Packaged for years in small cups that reconstituted to 2 quarts of finished product, Crystal Light moved into easy-to-open stick packets that now are available in smaller 1-quart as well as 2-quart sizes.

“We had several goals when redesigning the Crystal Light packaging,” says Nicole Tom, research and development packaging engineer at Kraft Foods. “We wanted to create a modern, fresh look that would be eye-catching on store shelves — to provide consumers with convenient new features — and, since Crystal Light has made a commitment to sustainability, we wanted the new packaging to be more environmentally friendly.”

The new packaging features a fresh, modern Crystal Light logo, Tom says. The canisters also changed to a sleek, oval shape that helps them stay facing front on store shelves. The company also simplified the design, making the overall effect cleaner and more contemporary.

In addition, the new packaging has several new features that make it easier to enjoy the product, Tom says. The new canister now contains easy-to-open packets rather than the small cup, and the new secondary packaging has a clear window at the bottom that allows consumers to see when packets are running low. The new one quart packet inside the 8-quart canister also helps people easily customize the taste of Crystal Light, while the 12-quart canister provides packets that makes 2 quarts each, Tom says.

Kraft says that on a finished case goods basis, the new design will use 250 tons less packaging a year than the previous design.

“The changes we made to the shape and materials used for the canister, as well as changing to packets rather than the old tubs, helped us use less packaging overall,” Tom says. “In addition, the new canister footprint allows for a 33 percent more efficient pallet, which we expect will result in greater outbound transportation efficiency.”