The Packaging Pitch: innovative and eye-catching ideas from Fresh Summit

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The Packaging Pitch: innovative and eye-catching ideas from Fresh Summit

By Fresh Produce Marketing founder Lisa Cork

There is no doubt fresh produce packaging is going through a renaissance, as marketers come to grips with the importance of on-pack communication to drive shopper awareness and sales.

At the recent Produce Marketing Association's (PMA) Fresh Summit convention in Anaheim, there were some great examples of innovative packaging and packaging communication. In this column, we will explore explore some of the innovations seen and discuss why they stand out in a crowd. We will also explore some packaging that could be improved and discuss some ideas for improvements.

Let’s start by talking about what makes up an effective package. From a legal and trade point of view, every pack must conform to certain legal requirements. Product identification, weight/pack size, use by or sell by dates, producer details and country of origin are almost always required on any packaging.

The details will vary by product and country but most packs have a legal requirement for information. So let’s take this part of packaging as a given. It has to be there. It is not very sexy. It's not easy to create a significant point of difference with this information but it is legally required.

Where you do have an option to make an impact with shoppers is in both a product's brand name and in the way you communicate a product’s benefits. Let me take you back a few years.

When I first started in the produce business way back in 1988, the produce packaging norm at the time was to give products a brand, but one more commonly related to a farm name or a grower name or a regional name. So way back in 1988, some of the fresh produce brands that were around in the Californian vegetable industry were brands like Foxy or River Ranch.

The company I first worked for in my first ever fresh produce job was a company called Apio Produce Sales out of Guadalupe, California. Our brands, when I started, were Irish Spring and St. Patrick's, given both company owners had a bit of Ireland in their blood. Back then, fresh produce brands did not see the need or the opportunity to talk with the consumer.

One of my first success stories in brand development was for Apio and I am proud to say I created one of the first produce brands that talked to shoppers. It was a brand called 'Eat Smart' and 22 years on, this brand is still going strong and communicating a benefit to shoppers.

Today, produce brands that talk to the shopper are far more common. Let’s take a look at a few that caught my eye at the recent PMA. Let's take a look at a few that caught my eye at the recent PMA.

Providing reasons for the basket

There has been a lot of innovation in the tomato category around the world. I know in Australasia, the innovation has driven total category growth. However, often tomato packaging has a clever product name, but no indication of what the tomato is good for.

When I think about packaging and packaging communication, I always think about what is going to make a shopper pick up a product and put it in her trolley. With tomatoes, the more you describe different uses for different types, the more reason you are creating for the shopper to put multiple types of tomatoes in her basket.

For this reason, I love these NatureSweet tomato packs. In my opinion, they have done everything right. The NatureSweet brand stands alone and talks to the shopper. The product names are catchy; not just catchy for catchy sake but they are linked to their use.

Take the Cherubs for example. They are described as Heavenly Salad Tomatoes. Get the subtle link? And then there are the Sunbursts - Sweet Golden Snacking Tomatoes. This is a great example of packaging and product range branding done exceptionally well.

Baby potatoes

One of the trends seen at the recent PMA was the trend towards microwavable baby potatoes. Whereas in 2011, there were three or four companies with a microwave potato range, in 2012, just about all potato packers exhibiting had a microwave offer. Ahhh, but not all offers are created equal.

What I like about this Honeygold Tasteful Selections pack, is they get the importance of placing key shopper information in the right place and they have also weighted their various packaging communication elements in the right way.

When I look at this pack, what stands out is the following: Microwave potatoes, 6 minute cook time. This key product advantage information is supported in smaller type by information on taste and the brand Tasteful Selections, but it is the 'Microwave, 6 minutes' which catches the eye.

Contrast the following microwave potato pack with the one above. See the difference? What is the focus of this bag? What is your eye drawn to? Your eye is drawn to the main message, which is Baby Red Potatoes.

Remember, when you re-state the obvious, you waste a powerful chance to inform and promote your product’s benefits to the shopper. Most shoppers could see the product inside was a baby red potato. I believe it would have been better to have boosted the size of the words 'Microwave Steam and Eat' and 'Cooks in 5 Minutes', while reducing the product description.

Handy Candy

One of the most clever new brands I saw at the conference and winner of a 2012 packaging award, was this vehicle drink holder shaped cup of snack tomatoes called Handy Candy.

Well done to whoever created this brand. What I like about it is the rhyme of the name and the fact the brand says it all - Handy Candy. I think it is also powerful that it challenges the perception of traditional candy as a snack on the go.

Talking with the founder, the plan is to roll out other products besides grape tomatoes. This product is targeted to sell via the petrol/convenience channel and is a great example of where a great brand meets a timely product concept.

The final product that caught my eye was reality show The Biggest Loser licensing their brand for a company's apple bags. While initially you might feel it is a bit redundant, what I like is it opens apples up and reinforces them as a healthy food to potentially a whole new genre of consumer.

Those of us in fresh produce all know apples are a healthy, low calorie and great diet food. However, for people who are extremely overweight, maybe they don't know this basic information.

What this endorsement does is remind everyone that apples (The Biggest Loser is also licensed to a carrot producer too) are a healthy, weight loss food. This is an innovative approach and kudos for leveraging the show’s popularity to sell more apples.

There were a few products that were under-marketed based on their packaging and their packaging communication. Following the potato trend, were Green Giant’s microwavable sweet potatoes. However, compared to the potato bag reviewed favourably above, what do you notice with this bag?

First, the bag re-states the obvious - petite sweet potatoes. Second, this product's key message "Steams in the bag - microwavable" is almost too small and too low to be seen. This is the product's unique selling proposition and it needs to be bigger. Anyone see what else is missing? Nowhere on the front of the bag does it tell you how long you need to microwave/steam the product for. Remember, our favourite potato bag said 'Cooks in 6 minutes' but this important information is missing here.

The other key information, almost too low to see, is the comment about triple washed. Points like this one are important when a product comes out of the soil, so it is a missed opportunity to put it so low, as it's a benefit shoppers are interested in. This bag allocates a fair bit of its best space to the Green Giant brand, which is a point we can debate in another column.

Packaging communication has come a long way since 1988 when I first started in the business. As we prepare to end the year and you are thinking about strategies and plans for 2013, build a packaging review into your planning and budget. If your bag or pack is not currently taking full advantage of the space available on your pack or you are simply restating the obvious, then maybe it is time for a change.

A packaging review is a cost effective way to see if your pack can be improved. Simply visit: for more information.

Remember, your pack is your in-store mini billboard. It can help capture shopper attention and help you sell your products, but only if you optimize the message on-pack. If you need help with this, then make contact and let us help you turn plain packaging into a powerhouse marketing tool.

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