Packaging That Works Beyond the Store Shelf

by Andrea Allen
Marketers increasingly want packaging that sustains its appeal after the sale. Here are three ideas that originated by looking to other categories.
Where does the product end and the package begin? Rather than making a distinction, you may want to focus your thinking instead on blurring this defining line.
Aaron Keller, Managing Principal of Capsule, a Minneapolis design firm, cites one reason why. Marketers bombard consumers with as many as 3,000 brand messages daily, yet they only mentally process 5 percent of those messages.
What consumers really want, besides a good product, is packaging that fits their lifestyle and helps them save time while avoiding the “hassle” factor.
Keller suggests a strategy that makes packaging appealing to consumers after it has cemented the sale. Look beyond package graphics, copy points and advertising and study how consumers use your product.
Smart marketers are going beyond the store shelf to learn how packaging meets consumer desires for time-savings, ease of use and convenience. Their observations are helping them to deliver packaging that:
- Meets a previously unaddressed consumer need.
- Conveys old-fashioned attributes like quality and value in new, cutting-edge ways.
- Speaks to the consumer’s desire to simplify their life by making the package part of the product.
How can a plastic bottle
accept a pull-ring?

Evidence is accumulating that consumers prefer pull-rings on beverage containers. Consumers give them high marks on gable-top beverage cartons, where the pull-ring lifts off a spout attached to the container.
How can a pull-ring work on a plastic bottle? One example comes from Portola Packaging. The pull-ring is a component of a one-piece snap-on unit called the “SC III.” It includes an inner safety seal.
Inside the recloseable screw-top lies the pull-ring seal. With the pull-ring removed, the package is ready for use.
The snap-on screw-cap works with either a PET or an HDPE bottle. A bonus for your budget: The cap’s design enables it to run on most existing capping equipment.
A ‘Megaphone’ in Lubricants
Packaging that solves consumer problems grew from this thinking at three well-established marketers—WD-40 Co., SouthWest Dairy and Hormel. Each marketer used the same tactic: They found that a package can work for the consumer by adapting popular components in another category to their aisle in the store.
For these three marketers, this solution emerged as the best answer after examining the end-use possibilities beyond the store shelf.
WD-40 Co., San Diego, took its well-known namesake brand of lubricant to new heights by introducing cans featuring a wide-spray nozzle. The “megaphone” shape overcap holding the nozzle is from SeaquistPerfect Dispensing, Cary, Ill.
Consumers know the wide-spray nozzle well in hair spray and insecticide sprays. But WD-40 marks this component’s entry into lubricants with a product it calls “Big Blast.”
This tactic presents two marketing pluses. First, it delivers a “new” product in the lubricant category. Second, consumers continue to perceive WD-40—the leading brand in lubricants—as innovative in what consumers view as a mundane, middle-of-the-store category.
Big Blast marries a well-known brand with wide-spray nozzle technology that’s been around for years. It creates a new product that satisfies a consumer desire to cover larger surfaces, says Helen Way, WD-40 Brand Manager.
The wide-spray nozzle distributes lubricant faster and more efficiently over a significantly wider area than its standard WD-40 can, she says.
An insert in the cap is configured to produce the wider spray pattern. The overcap’s megaphone-like shape gives consumers a visual cue of the package’s performance benefit.
“Consumers recognize the cap as wide-angle,” alerting them to the applications possible with Big Blast, Way explains.
Point-of-purchase displays, insert cards, posters and “PDQ” cartons present further information about the product and its uses.
How did WD-40 determine that the need for a wide-spray nozzle existed in lubricants? It listened to consumer feedback, Way says. Consumers indicated they were lubricating tools, equipment and vehicles with WD-40, but they needed help covering more expansive surfaces.
The right fitment…and strong sales
SouthWest Dairy, Tyler, Texas, made orange juice containers easier to use upon entering the not-from-concentrate (NFC) market. As a result, early sales of its NFC juice, marketed under the Dairy Pride brand, are 40 percent ahead of company projections and 94 percent of consumers rate the product positively.
The dairy, looking to build sales, wanted to expand beyond from-concentrate orange juice in HDPE jugs. But a move into NFC juice required the right package. Mike Giles, SouthWest’s Director, explains that consumers associate NFC juice with high quality. The dairy met that standard by adapting a fitment to the standard HDPE jug.
SouthWest selected a snap-on screw-cap from Portola Packaging, Batavia, Ill. The cap contains a pull-ring, which is prevalent in gable-top juice cartons.
This enables SouthWest to save money in entering the NFC juice market using its existing filling equipment and, in some cases, existing capping equipment. The savings are significant since SouthWest supplies 152 Brookshire Grocery stores throughout eastern Texas and the South.
Giles adds that by adapting the fitment to the standard HDPE jug, the dairy can offer the product at a value price to consumers.
Consumers get three additional benefits from the pull-ring cap. First, in follow-up surveys, they cited easy opening as their favorite attribute of the cap, compared with a standard screw-on cap. The pull-ring works easier than puncturing a foil seal to open the package, consumers said.
Second, the pull ring provides tamper-evidence. Third, consumers perceive that the pull-ring cap keeps the juice fresher than a foil seal.
While the pull-ring cap is a little more expensive than the standard screw-on cap, even with a foil liner, consumer response has made the investment worthwhile, Giles says.
Roy Robinson, Portola Vice President of Market Development, sees an upside for the dairy aisle as a whole, too.
“The dairy industry hasn’t had a lot of innovation in packaging, except on the single-serve side,” he notes.
While the pull-ring cap might seem humdrum to a casual observer, Robinson says this fitment has opened new markets to the dairy industry. It gives the standard HDPE jug an aura of quality, freshness and convenience.
Convenience in deli meats
Hormel Foods Corp. multi-use deli-meat packages, which feature the Hefty Slide-Rite Closure, also exhibit those three key attributes—quality, freshness and convenience—by adapting a popular closure.
The slider-zipper comes from Pactiv Corp., Lake Forest, Ill., and has been a familiar closure on multi-use cheese packaging for 20 years. Now, Hormel, Austin, Minn., adapts it in deli meats.
This is an early application of a slider-zipper to a product that’s packed on a horizontal thermoform form-fill-seal (HTFFS) machine, representing the joint research of Hormel, Pactiv and Multivac Inc., Kansas City, Mo.
Consumers have responded well to the Hormel package.
- It heightens their perceptions of product freshness.
- Consumers can determine easily when the package is closed, even after multiple uses.
- Consumers say the slider-zipper is easier to close than press-to-close packaging.
Larry Rebodos, Pactiv Marketing Manager, says the zipper can increase production costs by up to 5 percent. But Hormel reduced production time about 10 percent by filling the packaging on a Multivac HTFFS machine.
Hormel adapted a popular closure that conveys freshness and ease-of-use—and avoided raising prices at retail.
The author, Andrea Allen, is a writer and communications consultant in Dallas, specializing in packaging, nutraceutical, regulatory and nutrition issues. E-mail her at