Secondary packaging adds value

Good things come in small packages — if you’re talking about diamonds. But bottles or cans of beer need bigger wrapping than those precious gems, and packaging suppliers are using that wrapping to their advantage. They offer the retailer and consumer added benefits in secondary packaging, from containers that serve as coolers to casing that conveys a message.
“There have been some innovations with shaped containers that make the packaging more than just a container — they add value,” says Kurt Kane, brand director for Molson USA in Golden, Colo. Molson’s 55-pack Pre-Gamer has a special lining that allows consumers to add ice to the pack to create a single-use tailgating cooler. In essence, the package itself becomes valuable to the consumer, beyond what’s inside. This year, the Pre-Gamer comes packed with two-thirds Molson Canadian and one-third Molson Canadian Light instead of just Canadian.
For 2004, Molson upgraded last year’s popular 36-can summer Chiller Pack. Similar to the Pre-Gamer, the pack includes a combination of Molson Canadian and Molson Canadian Light, and is packed in an insulated collapsible bag that can be reused. This year, the bag is 20 times stronger and has Velcro handles.
“There is extra value in the pack because it simplifies the life of the consumer by offering two different kinds of beer in a ready-to-go pack, and because it can be reused,” Kane says.
Additionally, a special Detroit Red Wings Pack with 28 Molson Canadian bottles touts Molson as the “Official Import of the Red Wings” on its packaging. It displays Red Wings’ logos and includes a special “Get in the Game” booklet featuring Molson hockey gear and tips for the game-day party.  
And it’s not only game-ready packaging that attracts beverage fans. In some cases, consumers are inspired to buy as a result of unique display packaging on the retail floor.
According to Bryan Semkuley, vice president of marketing for Labatt USA in Norwalk, Conn., “Labatt Blue, the No. 1 Canadian beer in the United States, has started a new trend in packaging innovation with its triangular Mountain Pack. The 20-pack of Labatt Blue or Blue Light cans is designed to stack creatively into various mountain displays and features convenient slots for carrying and dispensing cans,” he says.
“The Kokanee Mountain Pack is among a number of recent innovations,” notes Nigel Miller, director of public affairs at Labatt Breweries of Canada in Toronto, Ontario. “The packaging is a corrugate container with a preprinted coated liner.”
Success means convenience
Convenience is a highlight of most secondary packaging. If the package can offer an easier way to carry, pour, dispense or store product, it will be a success.
George McClory, field marketing manager of ITW Hi-Cone in Itasca, Ill., says the company provides consumer-friendly multipacks of PET bottles with Hi-Cone side-lift and top-lift ring carriers. Zipper bottle release makes it easy to remove carbonated soft drinks, water and non-carbonated products. The company also offers a Slim-Pack Hi-Cone multipack with a carrying handle for PET and metal beverage containers as well as carriers for 8-ounce metal beverage containers. These come with or without Colorpak and a pre-labeled merchandising panel for promotional messages.
 “Hi-Cone has been an advocate for balanced package mix (BPM), a package management tool focusing on retail mix and pricing architecture,” McClory says. The BPM hypothesis suggests offering a combination of package sizes and containers to maximize margin contribution. He says the challenge for the beverage industry is to be in tune with consumer demographics, trends and demand. He points to the 8-ounce can aimed at the light user, noting that Hi-Cone ring carriers were a logical choice for the package.
McClory observes a trend that provides consumer-friendly packages with easy portability and opening, flexibility in size and configuration that suit light users and stock-up occasions.
“The pressure is on margin and growth in a very competitive environment. Our challenge is to find innovative packages that meet our customers’ needs and provide the opportunity to maximize margin and profitability. That is why we feel a small-pack strategy makes sense,” he says.
In many cases, it’s competition that spurs new development. Companies on the leading edge of beverage packaging, such as MeadWestvaco and PakTech, keep consumer needs in mind to devise award-winning innovative package options.
At the 60th annual carton competition in 2003, the Paperboard Packaging Council presented MeadWestvaco Packaging Systems LLC, Atlanta, with the President’s Award for outstanding design and performance for the DuraLift handle on 12-packs created for High Falls Brewery in Rochester, N.Y.
PakTech of Eugene, Ore., develops new handles weekly, says Director of Sales and Marketing Amie Thomas. These include “no-clank” TwinPak handles for wine bottles, tub container handles that offer alternatives to paperboard and double UniPaks, which are single-bale handles that connect two large bottles but allow consumers to break away the two pack and leave bottles intact with bale handles for pouring and carrying.

Thomas reports that multi-packaging, or packaging multiple items together for sale in club, warehouse, or big box discount stores also is a hot purchasing item these days.  

Labels in unlikely places
In an effort to get their message to consumers, suppliers leave no surface unadorned; labels and even substrates, or the base materials, of secondary packaging hold product pictures and statements.
According to Nigel Miller, director of
public affairs at Labatt Breweries of Canada in Toronto, Ontario, Labatt recently created the beer industry’s first personalized labels on Labatt Blue and Blue Light. “Last year, we also introduced washable ink technology on several of our brands,” he adds.
Molson USA’s Kurt Kane, brand director, says labels have become more of a focus in packaging. “They offer another way to speak to the consumer and enhance their experience with the brand. In some cases the labels themselves market products.”
He cites Molson Twin Label Technology: On Molson Canadian and Canadian Light bottles, a label on the back contains one of 232 flirtatious, funny and sometimes provocative statements such as ‘You Can Get My Number,’ ‘Guess Where My Tattoo Is’ and ‘Help Me Christen My Hot Tub.’
“It makes it easy for consumers to start a conversation,” he explains. “Finding out what the next label will say also adds incentive to order another beer.”