The story: Obentec, the brand behind the Bento-Ware Laptop Lunches, came to McDill Associates with both a messaging and packaging issue. The company makes a waste-free meal packaging product line, but there was confusion among both trade customers and end consumers about what the company actually produces. This confusion extended to the company’s packaging, which didn’t communicate points of difference or engage shoppers. The company needed to protect market share and expand its customer base.

The challenge: The redesign targets moms who care about purchasing products that reduce waste in their family’s on-the-go meals and snacks.

“Packaging our product has always been a huge challenge for us,” say Tammy and Amy, co-owners of Obentec’s Laptop Lunches. “We needed a fun and eye-catching design while keeping in mind retailers’ need for a small footprint and ease of merchandising, which McDill was able to create for us.”

“We strove for a balance in the look and feel that primarily appeals to moms but is also intriguing to kids,” says Melissa McDill, president and creative director of McDill Associates. “The graphics are purposely not kid-centric because Bento-Ware is just as much for adults as it is for kids. Even though kids can heavily influence purchase decisions, we know moms have to see the value in this type of product.”

The solution: “We collaborated with Amy and Tammy on a messaging and positioning process to get a solid consensus on what sets the product apart,” says McDill. “We then took those differentiators and implemented them in a consistent line of packaging. For retailers, this creates a high-impact display when they carry multiple products. For consumers, the consistent look, feel and messaging reiterates the mixing and matching of products to create a total solution for packing meals and snacks.”

“The new packaging is full of key messages that were not clearly identifiable in the previous design,” McDill continues. “New and existing customers are more visually engaged with the product — it demands a second look.”

Simple sleeves, boxes and hang tags are utilized with graphics that reflect the fun and eco-friendly nature of the products, which capture the essence of a bento — the Japanese single-serve takeout or packed meal served in a box.

“We created a revamped brand to keep the focus on the Bento-Ware name — and downplay Laptop Lunches — to address the confusion surrounding the products’ use,” says McDill. “These products are not just for lunch; they’re for any meal or snack on the go. And ‘Bento-Ware’ covers many of the key attributes we want to resonate with consumers — mixing and matching, easy portion control, versatility, etc. — which made more sense to highlight.”

Each package allows for product visibility without potential handling that could damage the contents. Digitally printed cardstock was leveraged for cost and time efficiencies. Imagery of product color options is also incorporated on appropriate packages to reassure consumers of what is inside, saving the company from printing multiple packages for each product. By using graphic images of plastic bottles, the package effectively communicates sustainability in an easy-to-understand fashion.

“We also moved the outer packaging from flexible plastic to paperboard to provide a bigger billboard for messaging,” says McDill. “It serves as its own point-of-sale on the shelf and gives retailers a variety of merchandising options. The paperboard better protects the product while still offering the consumer a peek. This new packaging format supports the quality of the product inside and the retail price point.” 

The updated packaging feels almost like a cereal box that a consumer wants to flip around and read. Handles on the primary products also encourage consumers to pick up and experience the product.

“The handle is also a functional and fun addition that we know women can appreciate,” says McDill. “We’re big fans of creating packaging that you’d want to carry like a handbag.”

While the original packaging made use of an additional pamphlet about nutrition and meal planning, the new packaging uses the entire surface area (and in some cases, QR codes) to inform consumers and direct them to go online for these details and more.

“Now, the packaging keeps the focus on key selling points and drives consumers to to get engaged in deeper content,” says McDill. “The leaflet was also an added expense that wasn’t offering ROI.”

“McDill’s expertise and creativity really knocked it out of the park,” say Tammy and Amy. “Once our new packaging hit the stores we saw an immediate improvement in sell-through — up to 20 percent. The bright colors really catch the shopper’s attention, and McDill Associates was able to hone in on the right messaging to convert the sale.”