Tin adds new dimension to specialty packaging

By Roy White

Rules governing packaging for the specialty food market may be a little different from those for products aimed at mass-market outlets, but they have the same goal in mind: reaching out to the consumer with a powerful product message. In an interview with Joseph Marlovits, VP for sales and marketing of TinWerks, the differences come out-but so do the universal packaging truths. It’s a great lesson in the power of packaging in the retail environment.

One universal truth is that packaging is of paramount importance in sending a message to the consumer about the product, its status and its utility.

“Clients frequently come to us with a basic packaging idea for their product, and right away we ask how that idea can work with marketing and sales goals.” Marlovits says. “Then we go from there. We often have to tell them that the most beautiful package isn’t the most saleable one. It’s very important to keep sales and marketing goals front and center in planning out the packaging. In a sense, we at TinWerks have a strong final say to make sure the packaging sells at retail to the specialty consumer.”

TinWerks Packaging Co., based in Addison, Ill., creates, designs and manufactures packaging for specialty food items, including confectionaries, cookies, tea, coffee and promotional items.

In addition to the broad sweep of creating packaging that will promote sales, there are a myriad of details. Seeing the tin, Marlovits notes, is really important because that is a very powerful part of the message for a specialty product, to indicate that it is indeed a special, prestige item and a great gift.

“Tin sells,” Marlovits says. “It can command a premium price that other forms of packaging might not be able to do, as tin packaging has a high quality image and reputation attached to it. This said, one of the many details in designing a package that will sell is to make sure there isn’t too much printing that might distract from the tin and dilute its message.”

Tin also has another, more subtle message: Tin-plated steel is a sustainable material and is recyclable. This is an important issue in the specialty foods market, where consumers tend to be sensitive to environmental issues.

In addition, there are other messages to appeal to the complex personalities of specialty food consumers. For example, packaging design, for this market, should allow for reuse in the home. Another issue is to ensure that the packaging doesn’t over-brand and overwhelm the retail customer. The design has to be “nice,” with the name in a discreet place.

“We package for sales in a wide variety of retail channels,” Marlovits says. “That includes mom-and-pops, individual shops and specialty retailers, and our product may appear in big-box retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods through our clients’ distribution channels. But the basic truths of working at retail are the same for both. It’s true that we coach our customers, and we don’t necessarily start the design process with retail issues. But they are a huge factor, and we bring considerable retail sensibilities to package creation. That’s how we help make a product fly.”