The “It” Factor
New beverage packages tap into consumer lifestyles to heighten brand experiences
When readying a new beverage for launch, manufacturers often spend as much time devising the packaging as they do the beverage itself — and if they don’t, they ought to. Packaging plays a crucial role in a marketing plan: summoning prospective customers to the retail shelf, and enticing them to buy. In the beverage segment, shelf and cold case space is limited and gaining an edge with packaging can be paramount to a brand’s success.
The Coca-Cola contour bottle is an iconic brand symbol that has been famously immortalized in the art world, most notably by artist Andy Warhol. Coke’s most recent artistic foray is a new series of impact extruded aluminum bottles designed to reflect the creativity of artists from Europe, Asia, South America, North America and Africa, dubbed M5 (“Magnificent 5”).
The aluminum bottles, supplied by Exal Corp., are the first to incorporate full-body shaping — a key development that allowed Coca-Cola to create its signature contour bottle, says Scott Biondich, Coca-Cola’s global director of packaged soft drinks. He credits the Italian company Frattini S.p.A. for developing the shaping process, adding that the printing is done on the bottles while they are in cylindrical form, prior to shaping.
“The challenge for this project was to reinvent a bottle with the benefit of the science and technology of the 21st Century, yet keeping our unique Coca-Cola shape and our heritage of collaboration with art and culture,” says Marc Mathieu, senior marketing vice president, core brands at Coca-Cola.
Segmentation work led the bottle’s development team to the world’s top nightclubs and bars. “We found that this segment had a great deal of uniformity across the globe in terms of their likes: music, fashion, art, etc.,” Biondich recalls. “The M5 aluminum bottle in the nightlife channel, with the incredible graphics, fit perfectly. The graphics change every two to three months so the bottles stay fresh with this trendy set, and we also incorporated fluorescent inks that glow under blacklights. The objective of the project was to create an experience; there is much more to it than a shaped bottle with beautiful graphics.”
The M5 bottle experience launched late last summer in several global markets and will debut in a number of additional markets this year.
Wine goes PET
Innovative packaging is playing an increasingly important role in the growing wine category as consumers seek greater convenience, variety or an easy way to try something new. In January, Ball Corp., Broomfield, Colo., presented both its stock and custom PET wine bottles, which were designed to combine the premium look and feel of glass with the modern convenience of plastic. The bottles are positioned as a vehicle for brand owners who want to target usage occasions like travel and outdoor venues where glass is not allowed.
“Sales of single-serve, 187-ml. wine bottles grew nearly 20 percent last year,” says Jerry Rosenow, Ball’s national wine category manager. “The size is just right for today’s growing portion of smaller households and consumers for whom a 750-ml. bottle is just too much for the occasion.”
Ball designed a custom 187-ml. PET wine bottle for Sutter Home Winery that preserves the look of the existing Sutter Home glass container. The winery launched four varieties in the 187-ml. PET  bottles into select markets last fall and continues to expand distribution. “We already had a single-serve size in our 187-ml. glass bottles and believed that adding PET would only increase the level of convenience for consumers and expand our package mix in line with market demands,” says Wendy Nyberg, senior director of marketing for Sutter Home.
Ball designed the Sutter Home bottles to run on the winery’s existing glass lines in order to minimize the need for changing parts and simplify filling. “The transition into PET has been very smooth overall,” Nyberg says. “We have had great support from Ball throughout the development, testing and production process.”
On-demand mixing
In addition to its PET wine bottles, Ball also developed a 16-ounce FreshCan that has found a niche in the healthy beverage sector. The FreshCan contains a plastic Wedge device that stores vitamin and mineral supplements separately in a dry state inside the can. The mixing process is initiated with the tab of the can is pulled, which changes the pressure inside the can, causing the Wedge to open and release its contents into the beverage.
Defense Effervescent Supplement, a beverage from Brain Twist Inc., is an immune-boosting drink packaged in the FreshCan. Available in orange and lemon-lime flavors, Defense contains vitamins, minerals and throat-soothing pectin and is marketed as a defense against germs like those that cause colds and flu.
According to the company, the benefit of the new package is preserving the efficacy of vitamins and minerals. The ingredients, it says, can become unstable when mixed with water, and the longer they stay on the shelf or are exposed to light, the more the vitamins and minerals can degrade.
The notion of on-demand beverage mixing also proved intriguing to Ipifini Inc., Natick, Mass., which developed a futuristic Programmable Liquid Container technology, using its Innovation Engine technology.
Ampoule-like “buttons” on the surface of the beverage container are pre-filled to allow consumers to select which variations they’d like to dispense into the base liquid in the container. For example, a cola bottle could be outfitted with buttons for lemon, lime, vanilla and cherry flavors, which would allow for 32 combinations of soda.
Ipifini’s founder and president, Tod Woolf, says consumer demand for variety within a product line has generated a proliferation of products with different additives. “The Programmable Liquid Container Technology is applicable to any liquid product with multiple varieties,” he says. “This technology simplifies manufacturing, distribution and sales by allowing a single container to replace a series of product varieties. The technology also allows consumers to select their desired variation at time of use.” BI