The Best Packages of 2007
By SARAH THEODORE
Top picks showcase visual appeal, functionality and ‘green’ trends
Mountain Dew Green Label Art Series
PepsiCo turned packaging into art with the Mountain Dew Green Label Art Series. The line of aluminum bottles feature art designed by emerging artists; apparel, tattoo and sneaker designers; and celebrity guest artists such as pop star turned painter J.T. Woodruff of the band Hawthorne Heights.
Pepsi was interested in working with the 16-ounce aluminum bottle from the start, according to Senior Marketing Manager Marisol Tamaro.
“We loved the actual package, but then we were trying to figure out what we could do on the packaging to make it interesting — what we could do to either leverage it to bring in new users to the Dew franchise or to get existing consumers of Mountain Dew to kind of experience the brand in a new way,” she says.
Artists were selected based on their ability to connect with the Mountain Dew brand and its core consumers. “In general, it was their actual approach to their art and their sensibility that fit well with [Mountain Dew’s] slightly edgier sensibility,” Tamaro says.
The new package presented something of a learning curve for the company, including determining the placement of logos and art elements to prevent distortion on the bottle’s curves. The process of working with guest designers also required the team to keep an open mind.
“We gave some pretty broad license to the artist to leverage our Mountain Dew brand ... so we had to kind of loosen some of our restrictions to allow them that creative freedom and expression,” Tamaro says. For 2008, the company plans a broader launch of the series, using it as a promotional vehicle. It has a dedicated Web site and has published booklets that are available at the point of sale that describe each design and its artist.
Nestlé Eco-shape Bottle
Nestlé Waters North America rolled out redesigned PET packaging for its bottled water brands, adding a more contemporary feeling for the package and subtracting about 30 percent of the plastic. At 12.5 grams, the new bottles reduce both raw materials and energy for transportation. In addition, the company reduced the size of the bottle labels, cutting paper use by about 30 percent.
Joe Juliano, group marketing manager for packaging innovation at Nestlé Waters, says the company began working on the package a little more than two years ago.
“We wanted to try to contemporize all of our brands, and when we looked at our packaging, we thought it was a little old and outdated and looked a little industrial,” he says. “Another reason was we were looking at ways to lighten our environmental footprint ... we looked at our packaging and said, ‘What can we do here that benefits consumers and benefits the environment?’”
Nestlé Waters’ plants are vertically integrated, producing bottle preforms, blowmolding bottles and filling them in one efficient process. The new bottles needed to meet the same standards as the previous more “industrial” bottles.
“This was a challenge trying to come up with a bottle that was consumer preferred, using less plastic, and also hit all of our hurdles from a technical standpoint,” Juliano says.
The company considered a number of options, looking both in-house and to outside sources, including Nestlé’s product technology center in France. The design it ultimately chose features angled ribs for stability and a bottle shape that helps it bounce back under pressure.
The company began testing the new bottle late last year, and rolled it out for its Ozarka and Arrowhead brands this year. It plans to put the rest of its brands in the new bottle in the first part of 2008.
Juliano says that while the design process was lengthy and required an investment in each of its production facilities, it is not the end of the company’s environmental work. “The Eco-shape bottle is a really great innovation; we’re very excited about it,” he says. “But it’s not the last innovation. There are other things we’re looking at in the future to further lighten our environmental footprint.”
Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
Brown-Forman redesigned the packaging for its Gentleman Jack whiskey brand, with the goal of giving the brand a more elegant, upscale look. The company found through consumer research that its previous packaging did not inspire consumers who were trading up to the super-premium whiskey category, says Mark Grindstaff, national brand director for Gentleman Jack.
“What we found was that they did not see Gentleman Jack in the old bottle as an aspirational brand in the super-premium segment,” he says.
The company was confident in the quality of the product itself, and through a process that took about two years, developed a look it felt was a better match for the product inside. It worked closely with production experts in its plant to find a bottle that worked from both a bottling and branding standpoint. In fact, getting the bottle to run on the distillery’s filling lines provided the impetus for one of the bottle’s most stand-out features, its sloped shoulders.
“The original design had much more square shoulders,” Grindstaff says. “We were working in very close collaboration with our production facility along the way. When we showed them that design, it brought about some major complexities to production. It was actually because of making the production easier and much more efficient that we sloped the shoulders. Once we shaved the shoulders off and made it much more graceful and much more sophisticated looking, we actually liked that look a lot better than the squared shoulders.”
In addition to the new shape, the company added Jack Daniel’s signature to the bottle, shifted the name of the product from a single line to a stacked, two-line moniker, and reduced the size of the label to allow the amber color of the whiskey to shine through.
Hennessy X.O. Collection Holiday 2007
Hennessy X.O. Cognac is celebrating the holidays this year with a collector’s bottle, marking the first time the company has altered its decanter-style bottle since it was introduced in 1947.
“As year-end gifting and promotions go, the average standard in the industry was to take your regular bottle and put it in [a gift pack] with two glasses,” says Brian Cox, prestige manager for Hennessy. The company decided to take the concept a step further and create a collectible, limited-edition bottle for the season.
“We very much went back to the source of what Hennessey and Hennessey X.O. is all about, which is rare, aged cognac ... and of course its wine and grape origins,” Cox says. “That’s why when you look at the bottle, it is adorned with a grape motif.”
The company retained its classic decanter shape, and added gold Swarovski crystals to accent the grapes on the bottle. It also numbered the bottles to emphasize the limited-edition quality of the package and add to its collectibility.
“Each decanter is a limited edition,” Cox says. “We’ve got about 10,000 bottles in the United States.”
In addition to the bottle itself, the company developed a special textured gift box for the product. Where the bottle takes its cues from the product’s grape origins, the box is inspired by the shape of the crystals.
“It’s definitely a contemporary take on a classic cognac gift box,” Cox says.
Heineken Premium Light slim cans
This year, Heineken USA added new can packaging for last year’s stand-out introduction, Heineken Premium Light. It chose a 12-ounce slim can that conveys the light aspect of the product, while maintaining a relationship with Heineken Premium Light’s glass bottle and the Heineken franchise overall.
“With the development, concepting and launch of Heineken Premium Light, the intent was to leverage the equity, the cache, the premiumness and sophistication — all the equities of the Heineken brand — but create a liquid that would appeal to the light beer drinker,” says Brian Citron, Heineken Premium Light senior brand manager.
The glass bottle the company developed last year was slimmer than the original Heineken bottle, but with the same trademark green color. The logo also got a slim-down by being turned it on its side in a vertical shape, and the addition of silver to complete the light imagery. The company carried the slimmer profile and logo to the new can, which is a preferred package for light beer drinkers and takes Heineken Premium Light into venues that do not allow glass.
“When we looked at our consumer target, almost 60 percent of domestic light beer is sold in cans,” Citron says. “So it really offers up — within the context of opening up new occasions for the brand — new opportunities through the introduction of a new package.”
While the package was developed by the American team for use in the United States, close communication with the Heineken brewery in the Netherlands prevented technical challenges. “We had our experts over in Amsterdam and our brewery personnel involved from the start in terms of development,” Citron says.
Honest Kids pouches
When Honest Tea launched new kids’ fruit drinks in pouch packages this year, it didn’t just choose the package because it was a tried-and-true kid favorite.
“We’re very mindful of looking at that ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra, and the first thing you try to do is minimize the amount of packaging you use for the amount of product you’re selling,” says Honest Tea president and “TeaEO” Seth Goldman.
The fact that kids already liked the format made the decision even easier. “If there’s already strong acceptance of the package, then that makes it easier if that seems to be more environmentally efficient,” Goldman says.
But the pouch does have a drawback in the “recycle” aspect of the three Rs.
“So we found a way to reuse it,” Goldman says, explaining that the company developed a partnership with New Jersey-based TerraCycle, which puts drink pouches, yogurt containers and other items to new use. Honest Kids pouches, for example, are made into pencil cases. The company has about 500 collection sites, mostly through schools, and has another 500 on the way.
The company chose clean, simple fruit graphics for the pouches rather than cartoon characters to appeal to a broad age range, and like the company’s tea line, each package features a famous quote.
Evian Palace Bottle
The on-premise channel requires a little more elegance from beverage packaging, and was the inspiration for the Evian Palace bottle, says Jeff Caswell, vice president of marketing for Evian.
“The bottle itself is really a representation of the French Alps, and the way it’s shaped is a tall, mountain-esque bottle, with mountains actually cut into the sides of the bottle itself,” Caswell says. “That’s really what we wanted to bring to life — to present the Evian brand in a luxury way that links back to the source in the French Alps where it came from.”
In addition to the bottle itself, the Evian team wanted to create a “pouring experience” so it developed a stainless steel coaster and a pouring spout to fit the top of the Palace bottle.
“Every touch point that the consumer in the restaurant has really is a premium experience around the brand and the bottle,” Caswell says. He adds that the company worked closely with the technical team in France to make sure the concept was feasible from a production standpoint. “They were involved in the process from the beginning and ensured that it was not only a good strategic idea, but one that we could actually execute and produce effectively,” he says.
The company followed the elegant theme of the Palace Bottle with a new bottle it introduced last month that was designed by fashion icon Christian Lacroix.
“This is a continuous process for us as we think about our packaging and how consumers interact with our packaging,” Caswell says. “We’re continuously asking questions about how we can bring more premiumness and luxuriousness to our brand.”
Juice-maker Frützzo took a stab at creating its own bottle design and wound up with a Clear Choice Award from the Glass Packaging Institute this year for its organic pomegranate juice. The glass bottle features an hourglass shape, embossed graphics and an applied ceramic label (ACL) for its artsy mosaic pomegranate logo.
While the bottles are eye-catching, the company decided to make yet another packaging innovation this year to differentiate its organic line from its naturals line and target two different consumer groups, Frützzo President George Xanthos says. Today, the organic line maintains its distinctive ACL look, while the natural line uses a wrap for two striking looks in the product lineup.
“We have organics, which are higher-tier, and then we have our natural line,” Xanthos says. “What we’re trying to do in the marketplace is create a greater differentiation between our organic line and make that a more pinnacle product. Our natural line will be more accessible, a little bit less expensive.”
The wrap allows the company to be more flexible in its production of the higher-volume natural products and keep less inventory on hand. In addition, the wraps give the company more space for graphics and product explanations, including more literal photographs.
“We thought that was an educational opportunity, especially in the naturals,” Xanthos says. “...There might be a lot of people who still have not heard of a pomegranate ... We expect people that are buying the organic [line] to be a little more up to date with those super-health fruits.”