It’s known throughout the industry that beverage packaging is of utmost importance to woo and, in some cases, win over consumers. As the economy begins its uptick, consumers continue to watch their wallets, and eye-catching packaging designs can help a consumer commit to a purchase. Beverage Industry’s best packages of the year tap into that intrigue as well as channel popular consumer trends, including sustainability, nostalgia and interactivity.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters paper-based K-Cup
Since acquiring the maker of Keurig Single-Cup Brewing Systems in 2006, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), Waterbury, Vt., has been dedicated to the research and development of environmentally friendly packaging for the K-Cups used in brewing systems, says Michael Dupee, GMCR’s vice president of corporate social responsibility.

In September, GMCR released Celestial Seasonings Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Tea in a newly designed paper-based K-Cup. In addition to making its debut on a new tea variety, the release aligned with GMCR and Celestial Seasonings’ branding, he says.

“Our partnership with Celestial Seasonings seemed to be a perfect fit for the packaging, given that both companies share a commitment to quality, integrity, social and environmental responsibility,” Dupee says.

The paper-based solution has been in development for two-and-a-half years, Dupee says, and reduces GMCR’s use of non-renewable materials. The packaging design for Celestial Seasonings Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Tea K-Cups is suited better for tea than coffee, the company says. Tea does not require protection from external environmental factors, such as oxygen, moisture and light, to the same extent as coffee does, he says.

The paper-based K-Cup includes a polyethylene layer to maintain product freshness and to make the K-Cup withstand the heat applied during brewing. The polyethylene layer prevents the paper-based cup from being recyclable, but maintains the tea’s integrity before and during brewing, Dupee says.

In addition to the launch of the paper-based cup, GMCR continues to research new options to make the K-Cups more sustainable.

“Our research has indicated additional areas of opportunity to reduce our environmental impact,” Dupee says. “We are collaborating with our packaging suppliers on more significant improvements to our portion pack materials and the processes by which the portion packs are made, and we look forward to sharing our progress.”

Dr Pepper 125th Anniversary cans
Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Waco, Texas, encouraged consumers to reminisce with the company as it celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Dr Pepper brand. Beginning in July, Dr Pepper released limited-edition Dr Pepper made with sugar in six collectible cans with nostalgic designs. The cans featured legacy artwork and popular advertising slogans, such as “I’m A Pepper” and “10, 2 and 4,” and were packaged in 12-pack cases that shared highlights from the brand’s history.

A variety of can designs were made available for bottlers to order and include in 12-pack can packages, which also showcased Dr Pepper’s history such as its 1885 origin at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, its introduction at the 1904 World’s Fair and the “I’m a Pepper” advertisements first released in 1977, says Derek Dabrowski, brand manager for Dr Pepper.

“Dr Pepper has such a rich history; it was a hard decision, but I think we picked some of the best moments to represent the brand’s 125th anniversary,” he says.

The company also chose to release the special-edition packages with limited-edition Dr Pepper sweetened with sugar. The combination of special-edition nostalgic releases channeled consumers’ passion for the brand.

“Our Dr Pepper consumers have had a great time collecting the cans and celebrating the rich history with us,” Dabrowsky says. “For those who remembered some of the iconic designs, it was a great stroll down memory lane. We’ve received many stories from consumers reflecting upon different associations and memories they had with the legacy artwork. For others, it was interesting to see how the brand has evolved, and how much there is to celebrate moving forward.”

Miller Lite Vortex bottle
In its third quarter report, MillerCoors, Chicago, reported low-single digit declines for its Miller Lite brand, but the brand’s sales have stabilized since the launch of the Miller Lite Vortex bottle, the company says. Sales have improved 5 percentage points since Miller Lite launched the specially embossed bottle, said Pat Moertl, Miller Lite brand director, in a statement.

The Miller Lite Vortex bottle is made using internal embossing technology from glass packaging manufacturer Owens-Illinois Inc. (O-I), Perrysburg, Ohio. O-I’s internal embossing technology blows grooves on the inside of the 12-ounce bottle’s neck in a pattern that is proprietary to MillerCoors.

“It’s a different way of drinking beer and nobody else in the market has ever done anything to the neck of a beer bottle,” says Carl Rooth, vice president of marketing North America for O-I.

The glass packaging manufacturer also has seen the impact the package has on consumers, he says.

“Consumers are really delighted,” Rooth says. “It’s fantastic. It’s new. It’s different. I’ve been in bars and I’ve seen people grab the bottle and look at it and kind of scratch their heads and think, ‘How do they do this?’ It’s generated a lot of buzz, a lot of interest from consumers and MillerCoors has really taken advantage of this.”

O-I developed the internal embossing technology in Germany, and the Miller Lite Vortex bottle is the first product to use it in the United States, Rooth says. Although Miller Lite owns the rights to the Vortex pattern, O-I has 25 different options for internal embossing patterns that range from lines to circles and can be incorporated into any product that goes into a glass bottle, Rooth says.

Malibu Cocktails
In time for summer entertaining, New York-based Pernod Ricard brand Malibu Caribbean Rum launched its line of premixed cocktails packaged in 1.75-liter flexible pouches with a leak-proof dispenser nozzle. Malibu Rum Punch, Caribbean Cosmo and Tropical Mojito varieties offer consumers portability and convenience for home and on-the-go occasions, says Sheila Senhouse, brand manager for Malibu Rum at Pernod Ricard USA.

In addition to being suited for outdoor occasions and offering the benefits of faster chilling, the flexible packaging was new to the ready-to-drink spirits category and helps to differentiate Malibu’s varieties, Senhouse says.

“The ready-to-drink market is not a new category, and it was important for Malibu to provide clear product differentiation with [its] entry into this segment,” Senhouse says. “Innovation is a priority for Malibu, and the flexible pouch with pour spout provided an innovative way to introduce Malibu into the category.”

Pernod Ricard supported the launch of the pre-mixed cocktails with specially designed point-of-sale materials, including display racks, cold box display enhancers and shelf talkers, the company says. Consumers have been very receptive to the flexible packaging of Malibu Cocktails, Senhouse says. The brand also is considering expansion of the product, she says.

Muscle Milk’s augmented reality bottle
This year, Benicia, Calif.-based CytoSport’s Muscle Milk brand introduced a special-edition 14-ounce plastic bottle with augmented reality technology featuring basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2009-2010 NBA season. When a square with O’Neal’s No. 33 on the bottle was held in front of a webcam, the package released an animated O’Neal on the computer screen. The package was released in Cleveland and surrounding markets earlier this year.

The limited-edition augmented reality package helped expose Muscle Milk and O’Neal in Cleveland, says Nikki Brown, CytoSport’s chief marketing officer.

“Cleveland and surrounding markets are important areas for us, and Shaquille’s move provided us a great opportunity to celebrate our partnership with a locally relevant program,” Brown says. “Shaquille is a well-known athlete who the community was very excited about. The program was a great tie back to the performance aspect of the Muscle Milk brand.”

CytoSport offered five different videos featuring O’Neal, who has the “perfect personality and sense of humor to make the program work,” Brown says. The augmented reality version of the athlete popped out of the bottle and compared himself to several Ohio landmarks, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In addition to O’Neal’s reputation, the limited-time offering intrigued consumers, and the company found the package was well-received by retail and distribution partners in the Cleveland area, Brown says. The program generated buzz and CytoSport is considering the place augmented reality technology can have in its future marketing, she says.

“We’re always thinking about what clever interactions we can have with our consumers, so we won’t rule out augmented reality in 2011,” Brown says. “But there are a lot of exciting technologies that inspire us, and as those technologies evolve, so will we.” BI

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Packaging: Rebranding, new packaging and new sizes spark sales