A glimpse at producing and marketing club store items.

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Club store packaging faces different challenges than traditional packaging for grocery stores. Consumers analyze items for a shorter period of time in a club store and rely more on imagery to capture their attention. Packagers must realize these differences and fine tune the package and display for bulk items.

According to Dana Terrill, creative director forLC Marketing(www.lcmarket.com), “The average club store customer makes a decision whether or not to buy your product in four seconds from six feet away. Does your product tell your story from a distance? The customer is not going to turn over the carton to try to figure out what your product is; he or she will move on to the next one. You just lost your opportunity.”

So how do you make the most of the small opportunity you’re given? The package itself is not the only thing that consumers see at club stores, design elements must carry on to the tray and sometimes display, too.

Terrill adds, “The club store environment gives you additional components that need to be designed and thought through. Warehouse clubs do not have traditional shelving displays. You must design the packaging as well as the outer case, tray, or skirt. This acts as your billboard. The warehouse clubs sell most of their items in full pallet displays, usually in a tray or carton. Most trays have a standard three-inch lip, so make sure the graphics are centered in the part of the box that is not taken off. Every product in the aisle is fighting for the same customer to buy their product. It is important to keep in mind, the warehouse clubs do not sell lines, they sell items. Each item has to stand on its own. Packaging can be a key component to a new product succeeding or failing.”

With club store packaging, packages have more real estate to convey the product message. And a powerful way to do that is with imagery.

The package design for Wells Enterprises, Inc.’s 22-pack of Weight Watchers frozen ice cream treats, fromGreat Northern Corp. (www.greatnortherncorp.com), earned top honors and a Gold award at the annualPaperboard Packaging Council’s (www.ppcnet.org) fall meeting by doing just that.

The StrataGraph® brand of laminated paperboard product used in the ice cream package and tray combo feature matching graphic elements on both pieces, creating seamless graphic elements and providing the product with strong in-store differentiation. The tray’s low wall allows for more product visibility and product attainability, creating the highly visible image of the tempting ice cream.

A customized formula of high-gloss, low-slip UV coating was developed to enhance the visual impact of the package and keep unitized products intact on pallets throughout the supply chain. Great Northern’s laminated formula, with strong moisture holdout properties and freezer-grade glues, provides superior performance in freezer conditions and a sustainable solution with the elimination of master packaging.

Sustainability in big item packaging

According to Costco’s 2011 annual report, sustainability is a very hot topic in club stores, so much so that the store, working with vendors, is attempting to eliminate all polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic in its packaging and aims to replace it with recycled or recyclable materials.

Costco is working toward greener pastures as it switches from rigid plastic to resealable pouches and bags, as in some of the store’s snacks and household items, which in turn has allowed for an increase in items per pallet, resulting in fewer delivery trucks on the road.

BJ’s Wholesale is also swapping out containers and opting for flexible packaging for its Berkley & Jensen 100% Columbian ground coffee. The Fres Bag, designed by coffee packaging innovator Fres-co (www.fresco.com), will help BJ’s significantly reduce the cost of materials.

“Compared to cans, and even other bags, our Fres Bag has a lot of benefits,” explains Chris Burger, coffee market manager at Fres-co. “Our original one-way degassing valve better preserves the coffee’s flavor while the Corner Seal® technology gives the package a firm, compact feel that ships efficiently and looks great on store shelves. Combined with a wide-mouth opening and less expensive materials, Fres Bag offers major gains as a can replacement.”

Moen Industries(www.moenindustries.com), a designer and manufacturer of quality corrugated Bliss box formers, tray formers, top sealers and top cap lidders, stays ahead of the sustainability curve with the Bliss line, which is designed to reduce scrap and material usage (in most cases compared to regular slotted containers).

The Bliss box designs offer various tray styles that offer product displayability, top-to-bottom compression strength and stacking strength for end cap displays without sacrificing the ability for good graphics.

Club stores face the challenges of grabbing the attention of customers, while considering the environment in its packaging. Similar to traditional grocery store packaging in that these stores face these challenges too, club stores feel the pressure on a bigger scale. Bigger products, bigger packages and bigger displays all mean bigger challenges…and bigger opportunities.

Glass to PET = Grocery stores to club stores

A change in materials led to a change in venue

Heritage Family, with the help ofAmcor Rigid Plastics(www.amcor.com), has entered the club store market after a big material change. The company’s Brack Ranch sweet pepper glaze is now offered in a 32-ounce decanter-size polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle. The move from glass to break-resistant PET allowed the company to sell the item at Costco throughout the Southwest.

The stock PET bottle, weighing in at 50-grams, was chosen over alternative packaging options thanks to its premium look and sustainability benefits. Most important was the PET container’s ability to deliver cost benefits and improved manufacturing efficiencies for club store distribution, according to Michael Moss, Vice President of Marketing for Heritage Family Specialty Foods. “If we hadn’t found an acceptable bottle like Amcor’s we would have been forced to use two shrink-wrapped 16-ounce bottles which would have added cost and increased production time,” says Moss. The final product would have required twice as much packaging and increased the cost for consumers, he adds.

Moss noted that PET meets the growing sustainability requirements of the packaging and retail industry, resulting in greater penetration in retail/club store channels.