Innovation Abounds in ’04

By Sarah Theodore
The past year featured a number of new packaging options for beverages, ranging from very functional to just very attractive. In some cases, brand new technology found its way to store shelves, and in other cases, existing packaging materials were used to take products into new venues or to create new marketing advantages. We’ve highlighted some of the packages that stood out this year for their innovation and creativity.
Turn on the heat
In the ever-increasing attempt to make packaging more convenient, On-Tech LLC, San Diego, has introduced the self-heating can to the U.S. market, and one of the first finished beverage products to use the technology is WP Beverage Partners’ Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Lattes. To complement its line of chilled lattes, the company recently debuted the line in On-Tech cans that heat the product to 140° F in six to eight minutes.
The package is constructed as a can within a can — the inner can contains crushed limestone and the outer can contains the beverage. The package also has a sealed disc containing water that, when a consumer pushes a button on the bottom of the can, is released into the limestone, causing a thermal reaction that heats the beverage. The can has a tamper-proof overcap on the top, and when the product is heated to the correct temperature, the glue holding the overcap melts, allowing it to be turned to access the pull-tab.
In addition to the new can, WP Beverage Partners used thermal ink on the package label that changes color when the product is heated to the right temperature. Retail pricing for the new lattes runs between $2.29 and $2.79 for single cans, or $8.99 per four-pack.
The On-Tech can isn’t limited to beverages; it can be used to package soup and baby formula as well, and the company recently announced it has partnered with Lakeside Foods, Manitowoc, Wis., to process products in the self-heating can at Lakeside’s Belgium, Wis., plant.
Tracking  technology
This summer’s Coca-Cola GPS can ran afoul of the U.S. military, but we found it to be one of the most innovative packages of the year. The company merged packaging and promotion with the specialty can that featured Global Positioning System and cell phone technology. Instead of cola, the cans contained a cell phone that the winning consumer could activate to receive a Chevy Equinox SUV, and a GPS system that allowed Coca-Cola to track winners and deliver the prize right to their doors. Apparently, the technology was a little too innovative for some military officials who feared it could be used to eavesdrop. Those attending classified meetings or top-secret areas reportedly were asked to examine their soda cans before entering.
The idea for the can originated in Australia, but evolved from simply placing a cell phone in the can to incorporating the technology right into the container. “The whole theory behind the promotion is not the prize itself, but the way we find the winners,” said Brand Manager, Coca-Cola Trademark Doug Rollins. “We enter consumers’ lives and bring them unexpected excitement and adventure like they may have never had before.”
Earth-friendly bottle
Helping keep the environment strong, BIOTA Brands of America and Naturally Iowa have rolled out products in new corn-based NatureWorks PLA beverage bottles. The plastic bottles were developed by Cargill Dow, Minnetonka, Minn., for short-life, cold-fill applications, and are transparent so consumers can see the product inside. But the real benefit of the bottles is that they are made from renewable resources and recently were approved by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). According to BPI, NatureWorks PLA will biodegrade “swiftly and safely during municipal or commercial composting.” It is the first bottle approved by the association.
BIOTA (an acronym for Blame It On The Altitude) Spring Water is bottled in Ouray, Colo., and is offered in 1-liter, half-liter and 12-ounce “stubby” bottles, all made from NatureWorks PLA. Naturally Iowa, Clarinda, Iowa, has used the new material for its half-gallon grip bottle, and is working with Cargill Dow on packaging for its single-serve beverages.
According to Cargill Dow, monolayer NatureWorks PLA bottles can be formed on the same injection-molding and stretch blowmolding equipment used for PET, at the same production rate. And it has been shown to offer the same organoleptic properties as glass and PET. The bottles can be recycled through a traditional U.S. recycling stream or composted in commercial systems, where they degrade in 75 to 80 days. New in wine
Wine packaging has made great strides during the past few years, from the ubiquitous 750-ml. glass bottle to any number of sizes and material options. Fetzer Vineyards this year expanded its package offerings with the SurShot multi-layer, injection-molded PET bottle. Fetzer says oxygen barriers in the bottles, which also feature screw caps, allow the company to keep the wines preservative-free. The company has added the 187-ml. package to its Valley Oaks Merlot, Chardonnay and White Zinfandel line, and created the package for airlines, resorts and hotels, sports arenas and other outlets that prohibit glass. The bottles have a shelf life of close to six months.
Tetra Pak helped Canandaigua change the shape of its wine business, with the 500-ml. Tetra Prisma Pak used this spring for Almaden Red Sangria, and more recently, to package four varieties of Vendange wines. While the Almaden package used a pull tab opening, the new Vendange Prisma Paks feature StreamCap screw-caps that are tamper-evident and allow the package to be resealed after opening. The line includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Shiraz, and each variety is color-coded for easy recognition.
MeadWestvaco this year developed a new three-pack wine carrier for the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, which wanted a promotional package that local wineries could use to display and sell take-home mix-and-match packs of wine. The company’s Forte solid-fiber board provided the strength needed to hold the wine bottles, and a smooth printing surface for photographic printing on the carton’s exterior. It also helps inhibit curl and wave problems associated with dry climates such as Colorado’s. The wine development board replaced the fluted packaging it previously used with the new Forte material, and it hopes the new carriers will promote more trial and repeat purchases of Colorado wines. Cans take a new shape
Aluminum is expanding from traditional soft drink cans to tall bottles and creative cans such as Jolt Cola’s new resealable “Battery Bottle,” created by Rexam Beverage Can Americas. The 23.5-ounce package is the first resealable aluminum container of its size, according to brand owner Wet Planet Beverages, Rochester, N.Y. In addition to the new can top, the package incorporates thermo-chromatic ink that changes color when the beverage is chilled. As the cola is consumed, the ink returns to its original color, showing the consumer how much liquid is left in the can.
Cans also were a new package option for trendy Jones Soda, which like home and runway “fashionistas” Isaac Mizrahi, Michael Graves and Cynthia Rowley, signed on with Target stores for an exclusive product offering. This fall, the company rolled out “interactive” 12-ounce Fridge Packs that feature photos submitted by consumers. The gourmet soft drink company is known for using a multitude of bottle labels with photos submitted by amateur and professional photographers alike. According to the company, it receives thousands of photos at the Jones Soda Photo Gallery at  
The Target Fridge Packs feature seven photos per box, and will rotate photos over time. Varieties offered in the Fridge Pack include Green Apple, Blue Bubblegum, Strawberry Lime, Cream Soda, Root Beer and Sugar-Free Black Cherry.
“We are very excited about the new packaging and the fact that we are bringing something new to a traditional CSD category,” said Peter van Stolk, president and chief executive officer at Jones Soda, about the rollout. “The beverage industry is competitive, so we at Jones Soda strive to connect with our consumer in a way that no other company can.”Plastic makes inroads in tea
Honest Tea, Bethesda, Md., took organics to new places this year with the rollout of new PET packaging for its teas. The company used new filling technology that eliminated the need for expansion panels and ribs, creating a smooth, sleek look for the package. Instead of panels, the bottom of the bottle expands, popping out during the hot-fill process, and popping back into place when the product is cooled to shipping temperature. And keeping with Honest Tea’s sustainable philosophy, the bottles are 100 percent recyclable.
“We wanted to develop an exciting package that complements our glass line while allowing people to enjoy our tea in new places,” says Seth Goldman, president and “Tea-EO” at Honest Tea. “And we wanted to do it in a way that didn’t compromise our brand or our commitment to sustainability.”
Describing sustainability as “not an end-point, but a journey,” Goldman says, “We will continue to search for ways to reduce our impact on the environment while creating delicious, healthy products.”
The company’s first PET recipient was new Independence Airline, and the line includes Green Dragon Tea, Lori’s Lemon Tea, Peach Oo-La Long and Black Forest Berry.
Also offering unique and attractive tea packaging this year was Revolution Tea, Tempe, Ariz., with new plastic bottles for its white teas. The shapely bottles are wrapped in white shrinkwrap with colorful photography of each of the fruits used in the tea blends. The line contains no sugar or sweeteners and no preservatives, and is available in Key Lime, Tangerine, Blackberry and Raspberry flavors.Shelf-appeal
Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages introduced Rose’s Cocktail Infusions this summer in a set of three curvy glass bottles that fit together to create a display piece. Rose’s is best known for lime juice and grenadine, but Infusions are flavored martini mixers intended to streamline the cocktail-making process. Aimed at female consumers, the mixers can be used to create Appletinis (Sour Apple Mix), Cosmopolitans (Cranberry Twist Mix), and Raspberry martinis (Blue Raspberry Mix), or any number of other drinks that can be created with the three flavors. While the bottles retail individually, they’re at their best when placed together to show off their wavy design. BI