Pioneer Packaging Worldwide is always looking for ways to make packaging stand out in today’s world, where attention spans can be short and traditional ways of doing business can be shattered without a second thought. This month, we’re going to look at some ways that companies are using creativity to “think outside of the box”—sometimes by using the literal box in which items are packaged.

It takes creative thinking. Finding the real estate on your packaging to create real engagement with customers doesn’t always come naturally, but as you’ll see in the following examples, it can be done. While packaging purists often tout the virtues of clean design, saying that adding more elements to a product’s packaging can be counterintuitive, it can actually be quite productive to surprise, and even delight, consumers by utilizing innovative techniques. Here a few examples:  

  • Start from the bottom up. Let’s be honest—the bottom of a package isn’t always at the top of your mind. Denver-based Rocky Mountain Foods found creative ways to engage consumers with the bottom of its packaging for its line of trail foods, using lines like, “The open road is a beautiful place for those with an open mind”; “Around here all the wide-open spaces bring people closer together”; and, “The view from 14,000 feet brings new meaning to high definition.”  
  • Give consumers a great opening line. While most products use a tear strip to tell consumers to “open here,” the makers of Blue Bunny ice cream chose to build a sense of anticipation with its line, “pull slowly, drumroll please.”
  • Blow the lid off. Another ice cream maker, Chilly Cow, uses the lids of its packaging to tell a punchline to a joke or reveal a riddle. 
  • Crack the barcode. While every product must have a barcode, there’s no law that says it can’t be displayed in a creative manner. For example, the snack food company PopCorners found a clever way to have a little fun with the barcodes on its packaging. 
  • Make your first impression count. We all know the old expression, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” If your product is shipped, use its outer box to express your brand’s personality. Consumers notice this kind of marketing—it truly does make a first impression that will stick with them.

Follow examples that work. Coconut Bliss, a family-owned business based out of Eugene, Oregon, recently revamped its packaging for cupped frozen desserts. It now uses redesigned, sustainable paperboard-cup packaging protected by a biopolymer made from sugarcane husks. On its printed exterior, the packaging emphasizes the rich taste of the products contained within. Illustrations are used to depict notes on the flavoring, and to highlight the top-shelf ingredients used. 

The idea of stressing ingredients is not a new one for the company. For fourteen years, Coconut Bliss has boasted of its commitment to using certified organic and ethically-sourced ingredients. “For our first brand refresh, the goal was to push ourselves to create a cohesive new design reflecting the passion, purpose and taste of Coconut Bliss that has delighted our dedicated fans for years,” said Kim Gibson Clark, president and CEO of Coconut Bliss. “I am happy to say that we have accomplished our goal,” she added.

The refreshed graphics are used alongside eco-friendly pint packaging—an industry first—to demonstrate the commitment of Coconut Bliss to sustainability. It is the first ice cream or frozen dessert brand to use plant-based bio-resin polyethylene pint-cup packaging. Made with 97% bio-based resources, the material is made from sugarcane husks that is an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional petroleum-based PE resin. This is important to Coconut Bliss, which is proud to say it’s a USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified company, in keeping with its commitment to lessen its environmental footprint. With this new re-brand, the company’s plant-based ice cream is now served in plant-based packaging. 

The timing was right for this packing upgrade, according to Darcey Howard, director of marketing for Coconut Bliss. “The rebrand was a long time coming, 10 years in fact. The hand-packed, small-batch vegan ice cream grew to an internationally distributed contender in the dairy-free space, yet the packaging stayed the same as the category exploded around us.  What consumers will immediately notice with the new packaging is color—lots and lots of color, with complementing white space.” Howard adds that this packaging makeover was in the works for a little more than a year, with several key design goals, including extolling the value of the plant-based and organic nature of the product, and creating design elements that can be used independently or together.

The decision for Coconut Bliss to use a bioplastic-based coating in the packaging redesign was an easy one, according to Howard. She said that all of the ingredients used by Coconut Bliss are sustainably sourced and certified organic, which is part of, and always will be, in the DNA of the company. For Coconut Bliss, it was important to let consumers know its revamped packaging was designed with sustainability in mind. She said the packaging carries the Evergreen logo to identify that it is sustainable. “The significance of that will likely be lost on most consumers, but for the ones that care or are curious, we have information accessible on our website. All of our customer service team is training as part of the process,” she adds. She also said the packaging is leagues above what it replaced; for her, anything is better than petroleum-based products.

When it comes to the future of using bio-based plastics in food packaging, Howard is optimistic.  She thinks that Coconut Bliss can continue to develop ways to recycle, or educating consumers about the impact of plastic on the environment, but that unless, and until, companies begin to demand alternatives, and make it part of their corporate mission—like Coconut Bliss did—there won’t be a financial incentive to develop alternatives. They can start the process with straws, and bans on plastic shopping bags, then move on to clamshells and shrink wrap. “The more brands that make this transition to bio-polymer resin for ice cream crips, the more we all win,” the company contends. 

Coconut Bliss is counting on consumers noticing these changes. It says that sometimes customers would ask about the dichotomy of proudly manufacturing a sustainable product but then packaging it in what some termed “sustainable garbage.” The company took note of that kind of questioning; in response, it worked with firms to source and create a bio-polymer resin, derived from sugarcane husks. The cups are made of recycled paperboard, including the premade, preprinted lids.

Digital printing and digital workflows are the future. Chicago-based meal kit company Home Chef relies on digital printing and digital workflows to be able to update its paperboard packaging every few weeks, with exact ingredients and nutritional facts for its many seasonal menu offerings. This helps it fulfill the need for packaging and labeling flexibility. Each week, Home Chef prepares 24 new graphic files for the folding carton sleeves used on its fresh, refrigerated, ready-to-cook meal kits. The company then sends the art to its packaging supplier, which prints, cuts, and glues the sleeves within 48 hours. No more than two weeks later, the filled meal kits go to market nationwide. 

Company finds itself in a real pickle. Refrigerated pickle maker Grillo’s Pickles is now using unusual tub packaging. The company launched its line of Sandwich Maker dill slices in containers that lay pickles on their side; traditionally pickles are packaged in containers that stand on end. These new containers, composed of clear polypropylene, enables consumers to see the pickles and whole spices inside. In-mold labeling bears the brand name and old-fashioned graphics and allows as much of the product to be seen as possible. According to Travis Grilllo, the company’s CEO and founder, this new horizontal method of packaging helps Grillo’s Pickles to preserve quality while helping it to stand out from its competition. The company brags that with its new horizontal shape, the new packaging allows it to “keep each pickle slice fully submerged in brine at all times to keep them fresh for the ultimate crunch and flavor in every bite.” 

No matter what category your product falls in—whether it’s medical, food and beverage, cosmetic, or wine, Pioneer Packaging Worldwide offers innovative packaging solutions that will allow your company to stand out from your competition. To learn more about our time-tested, real-world approach to meet your packaging needs, contact us today.