Taste of the new: the spirit of innovation

27 June 2017

Innovation is a term often used in conjunction with packaging, but not necessarily clearly defined. In this article, in conjunction with Pack Track, we focus on recent examples of beverage packaging innovation with an explanation of what makes each product noteworthy.

Unilever’s Pure Leaf iced black tea with raspberry is unusual because of the use of a jar for packaging tea. The packaging consists of an injection-moulded clear PET jar, square in section with rounded corners and flat walls. There is a 63mm screwthread neck with four-point entry, and an unprinted, foil-plastic laminate lidding membrane seals the neck of the jar.

Inside there are 16 mesh pyramid teabags with string tags. The jar is supplied by Esteform and has a closure by Plasticum. The tea is certified by the Rainforest Alliance to ensure it ‘has been grown and harvested using environmentally and socially responsible practices’.

GlobalData consumer observations reveal that the use of a clear plastic jar for tea results in a premium instore presentation that is highly differentiated. Teabags inside clear jars are visible to consumers, which goes well with Unilever’s ‘pure leaf’ message. The cube shape is handy for transportation, retail display and home storage.

Rum ball

In the spirits sector, Captain Morgan rum aims to provide a unique point of difference with its Cannon Blast bottle. This comes in a spherical, clear glass bottle that has been blowmoulded with a printed plastics full-body shrink sleeve. The bottle features a matte black background with surface texturing to give a subtle, rough finish that completes the effect of a cannon ball in shape and feel. This spherical bottle shape is unusual in the spirits sector and immediately creates a strong, identifiable brand presence.

There is an image of a skull on the back of the bottle that has been printed to mimic a chalk drawing and looks as if it has been slightly rubbed away for an authentic, antique feel. In addition, the Captain Morgan image is printed with ultraviolet-reactive inks so that its skeleton becomes visible and glows under black light. This feature is likely to be seen only in a bar environment where UV light may be present, but would work as a further point of differentiation even in a crowded, noisy bar.

Vegan wine

Peter Mertes has launched an organic and vegan-friendly red wine said to be free from pesticides. Here, the packaging is formed from a blowmoulded green glass bottle with a printed aluminum roll-on screw cap, a plastics screw thread fitment, and a foamed plastics liner to the inside. There is embossed branding on the top. The wine is clearly tagged as German-made, organic and vegan on the front label (“Biowein aus Deutschland”).

Another new feature is the use of the Stelvin Lux+ closure. According to the supplier, this closure “offers a unique alternative to traditional wine closures through the use of a plastic insert inside the aluminium shell. This means no visible thread on the exterior of the closure, giving a flatter surface for graphic reproduction and a smoother opening with the ability to be embossed.”

The closure, with no visible thread on the exterior and printed flat surface, looks very distinctive on the shelf. The subtly embossed surface texture of the labels mimics cardboard, with glue-like lines adding a raw look and a pleasant tactile element to the bottle. This goes well with the organic and vegan message of the product.

Pull a pint

In the craft market, the Norwegian microbrewery Amundsen Bryggeri has used Crown’s 360 End on its cans of Barefoot beer, which allows the whole top of the can to come off when the ring pull is opened. Consumers remove the lid and then drink as they would from a glass or cup. This innovation is a major development in the beer sector. The full-aperture of the 360 End offers easy drinking and is more comparable to drinking from a glass than a pack with stay-on tab ends. This makes it easier to sell beverages at sporting events or festivals, reducing waste as no additional cups or glasses are required. The ability for consumers to drink directly from the can also ensures that product branding is visible. The can decoration is a shrink sleeve, which allows the design to be altered easily to accommodate seasonal changes, new flavours and promotions. It is also efficient in terms of stockholding since the same packaging can be used for different drinks without incurring the costs associated with direct printing on the cans.

Mini packs

Marks & Spencer continues to innovate with its drinks packaging and has recently launched a flavoured vodka selection in mini bottles. It is a similar packaging format to that seen with Absolut Vodka. The outer packaging is a three-piece cylindrical rigid display tube with a transparent plastic middle section and two silver-coloured steel end sections. Both steel sections are printed around the body as well as the top and bottom. A two-piece round foam insert sits inside the pack at the bottom of the tube, with three apertures matched to the glass bottles to secure them inside.

The Selection pack gives consumer the ability to sample a number of vodka varieties and may also be suitable for consumption on the go, notes GlobalData. The sponge foam insert is flexible and sits tightly inside the rigid pack, making the bottles secure and shock resistant. Overall, the silver pack with transparent window looks stylish, provides good shelf facing and can be used as a gift item.

A touch of coffee

In the coffee and tea category, there have been a number of recent innovations. The most recent major improvement has been by White Wave Foods with its International Delight One Touch Latte frothing coffee creamer. This coffee creamer comes in aerosol format with vanilla flavour and makes seven latte-style coffees.

Amundsen Bryggeri have used Crown’s 360 End to their cans of Barefoot beer, which allows the whole top of the can to come off.

Packaging for the One Touch Latte comes in the form of a steel threepiece seamed aerosol can with straight walls and rounded shoulder. The top is domed to accommodate a snap-fitted dispensing closure. There is a dispensing nozzle with an aerosol actuator. The nozzle is shaped like a cobra head, its back moulded as a wavy fingerpad for convenient onefinger operation. The product is dispensed through a narrow aperture at the top.

According to GlobalData observations, the product is patent pending, but there are other examples of aerosol formats in the beverage sector. These include No More Tea Bags instant tea and Turbo Tango foaming soft drink. Here, the main innovation factor is the application of an aerosol spray format with unusual dispensing nozzle for a coffee creamer. The aerosol format with the elongated and wavy nozzle gives good control over dispensing.

Bibita in the Czech Republic has combined weights and water into its Dum Dum fitness water. This is a non-carbonated, mint-flavoured sports drink in a dumbbell-shaped bottle.

Additionally, the spray format for coffee creamer creates an easy way for consumers to enjoy the beverage, transforming any cup of coffee into a ‘deliciously frothy latte with the simple press of a button’. The pack can be perceived as a time-saving innovation – there is no need to froth the milk and add flavour syrups to achieve the same result.

Another coffee-based innovation is Raw Bean Coffee’s Bean Bags, which consist of ten single-serve pyramid coffee bags made with single origin 100% Arabica coffee sourced from El Salvador. Packed in printed cartonboard, the coffee bags are made of biodegradable non-woven fabric material with strings and printed paper tags.

According to Raw Bean Coffee, the bags are likely to appeal to consumers who typically drink cafetiere coffee and who have ‘traded up to better quality coffee’, want the proper coffee experience at home or in the office, and are looking for a quick, easy and tasty option. It is currently sold exclusively in Waitrose supermarkets and on the Raw Bean website.

To use, consumers are advised to squeeze the bag immediately after adding hot water, brew for three minutes, then squeeze the bag once more before removing. The main innovative feature of this pack is the introduction of the pyramid bag format for ground coffee. As with teabags, the pyramid shape of this coffee bag allows better infusion than traditional square formats. Raw Bean Coffee says that 12g of ground coffee is required to make a good cup of coffee. Each Bean Bag contains 12g of coffee compared with around 7g in typical square coffee bags. The format would be ideal for on-the-go use, trips away from home, and other occasions when traditional coffee equipment may not be practical.

Magic straw

A major beer innovation in metal cans has emerged from Poland, where Cornelius brewery is the first to use Ball Packaging Europe’s ‘magic straw’. The magic straw technology consists of a straw that pops up automatically from inside the can upon opening. It can be applied to other categories of alcoholic beverages as well as the non-alcoholic beverage sector. The can is a standard aluminium slim-line beverage can on the outside. Inside, there is a threepiece plastic mechanism that releases the drinking straw once the tab is opened. The straw is fixed into an aperture at the lower piece of the mechanism that holds it in the exact centre of the can. Once the tab is opened, the release of pressure causes the ejection of the straw.

This launch signals the official debut of Ball’s integrated straw solution on the global market. The straw pops up automatically from inside the can when it is opened and any other attachments to the sidewall are thus unnecessary. This makes the entire packaging solution convenient and hygienic. Cornelius beer is primarily targeted at women and the new packaging solution can make it attractive to consumers who may not be comfortable drinking out of a can. It can also be convenient for parties and multiple on-the-go occasions.

Fit for purpose

In a bid to match health and wellness with convenience, Bibita in the Czech Republic has combined weights and water into its Dum Dum fitness water. This is a non-carbonated, mint-flavoured sports drink in a dumbbell-shaped bottle designed to be used during fitness workouts.

The bottle is PET with a pearlised plastics screw cap with narrow grip ridges. There is an auto-break tamperevident band on the base and a sealing ring on the underside.

According to Bibita, the product is made from “high-purity water, with added L-carnitine to help reach your fitness goals”. It is described as a delicious, softly flavoured drink that ensures hydration before, during and after workouts.

GS Retail’s new You Us Smart Cleanse Smoothie also comes in a dumbbellshaped bottle, although this one is almost three times smaller than Bibita’s, which can be used as a real dumbbell at 710ml. The bottle can be topped up with water when the drink is finished and used for future exercising.

Amundsen Bryggeri’s beer cans can be turned into cups.
Cornelius beer comes with a straw.
The One Touch Latte allows consumers to spray frothing creamer into coffee to create latte-style drinks.

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