Appealing from within

There was a time when the only thing vending machines were good for were housing candy, soda or cigarettes, but innovation in vending technology, combined with creative thinking by savvy corporations, have made automated branded retail an attractive sales channel for an array of different products.

BestBuy is now offering some of its most popular electronics in kiosk vending locations in malls; Benefit Cosmetics is selling beauty supplies through its Cosmetics Glam Up & Away Beauty branded retail machines in more than 30 airports; and Beverly Hills Caviar allows people to purchase fresh caviar through three automated machines in California.

Arthur Rumaya, co-creative director for Christie & Co., notes that with today’s lifestyles focused on customized convenience, vending machines fill this lifestyle need in similar fashion as such service and shopping innovations as Uber, the conversion of Starbuck’s walk-in only cafés into drive-thru locations, and Amazon drone delivery. Plus, vending machines require a very small footprint, and little management, and as such are more easily placed in areas where brick and mortar storefronts would not otherwise be possible, e.g. airports, hospitals, schools and health clubs.

“They are even showing up more and more in conventional spaces such as shopping malls and unconventional spaces such as offices,” he says. “If used properly, vending machines can open up an entirely new sales and marketing channel for a consumer packaged goods brand.”

In the eyes of the beholder

The secret to success, in many cases, comes down to the packaging. It is often said you eat with your eyes. This applies to not just food, but to all kinds of consumer goods.

“As consumers, we make most of our decisions based on what we see. This is even truer in a vending machine environment as it is impossible to touch, feel, smell or taste the product,” Rumaya says. “It is therefore even more important that the packaging substitutes for that experience. Packaging must by less cluttered, as it sits in a space with multiple other products and cannot be picked up to be reviewed individually. Type must be bold and visible. Callouts have to be at a minimum.”

Also, it is important to either show an image of the product contained within, or somehow show the product itself.  In one glance, the consumer has to know what it is, what it does for them, and why it is better.

Kelly Stern, co-owner of Beverly Hills Caviar, helped design the look of the packaging for her product, knowing that the outside needed to speak to the consumers looking in. The first-of-its-kind vending machines offer a full selection of caviar and other luxury foods such as Italian truffles, escargot and flavored salts.

“I wanted to create a luxury, stylish modern look to the packaging; technology and tradition combined into a kiosk,” she says. “It’s an interesting experience for any shopper and it attracts people from all over. It’s something unique that can make any day special.”

Brian Wagner, vice president of consulting solutions for Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions at HAVI Global Solutions, notes most vending machines accommodate products of any package size, and can be retrofitted to work for anything. He feels packaging is a huge part of making sales viable, as people need to be attracted to what’s displayed to buy the items.

“I’m fascinated in my travels to see the number of things being sold through vending now,” he says. “Packaging can be a true enabler to being successful in the vending channel, helping machines to be full and stocked.”

Paul Schmidt, associate for Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions at HAVI Global Solutions, says the growth of 3-D printing will also play into all this, noting that the visuals will better display the product and make them more eye-catching to those looking in.

Challenge of the Machine

Only the front panel of a package is visible in an automated retail machine, and it’s an issue that any vended product must overcome.

“Fitting everything that needs to be shown on the package is also an issue as, in most vending spaces, only one face of the product is visible,” Rumaya says. “That, combined with the limited space on the package itself, makes it harder to create the experience necessary to sway a potential consumer to make the purchase.” 

Additionally, in designing for any vending machine environment, it is vitally important to see how the device will hold the product. Will it sit upright? Will it be vertical to the consumer? These need to be answered to best determine how it is designed and where the key information and call outs are placed.

“Like any opportunity, the designer needs to study the vending machine, how it will deliver the product, how the machine is maintained, how the machine is lit, how often the products are restocked and by whom,” Rumaya says. “By studying the system end to end, the designer will likely consider new options to ensure the product can be seen, understood and purchased.”

Not all companies are willing to put the time and effort into creating new packaging for the vending machines, either. Alison Haljun, vice president, retail marketing for Benefit Cosmetics, notes that the products included in the company’s interactive kiosks are the same products and packaging that it sells in all its other channels.

“We do not create separate products or packaging for the Glam Up & Away Beauty Buses in Airports,” she says. “We do have a limited assortment, since we can’t include all of our products in the kiosk, but the packaging does not differ.”

That said, in a shared statement released by Benefit and ZoomSystems, who had partnered with the cosmetics brand on the creation of the interactive, branded, retail kiosks for travelers to have access to instant beauty solutions in major airports, Benefit Cosmetics CEO Jean Andre Rougeot notes that high-traffic airports are the next beauty battleground for prestige cosmetics brands and that Benefit grabbed the “first-mover advantage” when it introduced the machines in 2013.

Packaging Matters

Shaun Bowen, creative partner with B&B studio in London, recently designed packaging for Mother, a natural and healthy vending brand, and rather than disguise the machine with hokey wood-cladding and tufts of fake grass, it challenged the notion that nature and technology are fundamentally incompatible.

“We decided instead to celebrate automation, building a future-focused identity with a disarmingly human voice,” he says. “We created the name, identity and packaging for Mother, whose machines are restocked daily with fresh, handmade and healthy foods, as well as styling the machine and its user interface. The result is as seductive as it is surprising, reinventing vending to help the busy eat better. Put simply, it’s the future of delicious.”

The branded packaged goods that sit within the Mother machine is a mutually beneficial relationship as brands are chosen for their natural and healthy credentials, and both parties benefit from the association and attract new consumers to each other.

Rather than go large with packaging for the products, Mother’s packaging is kept quite simple, neutral and natural.

“Mother asks consumers to build a relationship with the machine itself—and uses a humanized brand identity, strong tone of voice and interactive user interface to do so,” Bowen says. “In many ways, it’s a superior experience to conventional retail, as the consumer is able to access product photography and nutritional information through the interface, bypassing the need for highly communicative packaging..”

The Final Word

Looking ahead, Bowen says that new technology will continue to reinvent the vending experience.

“The interface and its associated app create a more even playing field for lesser known brands wishing to compete in the vending environment, and gives consumers a greater degree of choice and control,” he says. “What’s important—and what Mother does so brilliantly—is making the automation feel human, and building a connection with consumers through strong branding and tone of voice in the absence of sales staff.”

As vending machines can be placed in places where other retail opportunities are not possible, they create a new sales channel for consumer packaged goods.

“As online buying became more and more popular, the need for consumers to touch a product prior to making a purchase became less important,” Rumaya says. “Consumers have become accustomed to making purchases site unseen and vending machines add the element of the ‘impulse buy’ to the equation. They are an important additional sales channels that many packaged consumer goods should take advantage of.”

Snapshots: December 2015 Issue

Changing Snacking
Walgreens gives its store brand a fresh new look. 

For the Good & Delish refresh, Walgreens reached out to Berlin Packaging’s Studio One Eleven to redevelop its package design for the nut category of the premium brand.

“They came to us with a few design objectives,” says Liam Hawry, director of industrial design, packaging with Berlin Packaging’s Studio One Eleven. “They wanted to move to the rigid container with visual simplicity and wanted us to look at dispensing.”

At the time, the Good & Delish nuts were in pouches and small canisters.

Studio One Eleven came up with a 3-in. PET container, tapered at the top and bottom, and shrink-wrapped with material that’s clear in the middle so the consumer can see the product.

Walgreen’s delighted in the fact that Studio One Eleven came up with a screw-off PP lid that doubles as a bowl for easier snacking on the go. “It offers a really unique innovation to the package,” says Jodi Kier, brand manager of Owned Brands Walgreens Co.  “[It] gives the consumer convenience and portably access.”

The Good & Delish nuts come in two sizes and are available at any Walgreens around the country.


Completely Recyclable         
Design geared toward eco-friendly.

A brand based on sustainability from the beginning needs a package design that speaks for its product.

“Its [Brita] whole method is going at how many bottles of water you can use with using one filter,” says Samuel Marino, packaging development scientist with the Clorox Company.

The Brita Pitcher Open Sided Carton is a corrugated container, open sided with a poly-film shrink that’s used around the pitcher itself.

“It’s a polyolefin film that can be recycled in the right recycle stream.  This allowed us to remove all polyvinyl chloride which was a goal for our 2020 strategy,” Marino says.

The old style of the packaging was called, peek-a-boo packaging. The package design looked like a paperboard carton with the corner cut out with a molded plastic window, so the product was visible but the consumer couldn’t get into it.

“I think one of the key challenges is you’re trying to design a package that compliments the product by displaying its design on shelf, but still protects the product from consumers and the supply chain,” he says. “It can be difficult to standardize components when the product has multiple shapes and sizes.”


Historically Made

Brand turns to past to redesign bottle.

Dry Creek Vineyard recently relaunched its private label 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel in a new package design that pays tribute to Dry Creek Valley.

“The emphasis for us is really honoring the legacy of these historic vineyards and not letting volume or tonnage dictate the bottling,” says owner Kim Stare Wallace.

The goal of the redesign was to provide the information about Dry Creek Valley on the label to allow for consumers to learn about the wine and understand the authenticity behind it.

”You can read about the special soils, high iron content in our soils, the person can read about how long it[the wine] was in barrels, what the average sugar content of the wine is, and more,” says Wallace.

The Dry Creek Vineyard founders are a family with a love for sailing, so the on-site graphic designer designed the label to look like a ship ticket as well.

The cork is also something unique to Wallace.

“Our winery is 100 % certified sustainable. It occurred to us that the cork is sustainable. To provide more information about the cork, I printed on the cork the age of the tree, the species name of the cork oak tree. You pull the cork and you can read and actually learn something,” she says.


Looking Refreshed

Private label gets a face lift.

Superior Grocers wanted its store brand oils and juices to have a look that would stand out to its customers, but at the same time, be recognizable to the frequent shopper.

“They told us their products are good quality that is comparable with national brands,” says John Murray, director of brand strategy and project management at Murray Brand Communications. “But their old packaging made the products look really cheap. Superior wanted the new design to look credible and support a good product.”

Murray Brand Communications ( was brought in to give the packaging a new look.

“Today, their packaging is inconsistent. Our challenge was to help them present a consistent look and elevate the brand quality of the product line without appearing too high-end,” says Brad Berberich, design director at Murray Brand Communications. 

While staying with the same type of color schemes, Murray Brand made the label simple, honest and straightforward for the consumer to easily identify.

“If you look at their target breakdown, they have a high percentage of Hispanic consumers, both acculturated and non-acculturated, who are very family oriented. Addressing these consumers was an important aspect in the design process. You’ll notice that the packaging has large images of the product, so both English and non-English speakers can easily identity what’s inside ,” Murray concludes.


Looking Inside

Product is clearly visible to consumer.

A brand that’s made a name for itself in nearly a year came up with a package design that would show the consumer the product inside.

Happy Tree Maple Water is in a clear PET  bottle that is completely recyclable and made in the U.S.

“Our philosophy of packaging materials is to use U.S.-manufactured products only. We believe in supporting our domestic economy,” says chief financial officer of Happy Tree, Will Finkelstein.

“Our brand is simple, clean and a lifestyle, so we wanted our packaging to project that; we wanted the consumer to be able to see what’s actually inside the packaging.”

The words “maple water” are relatively large on the bottle label, as well to give the consumer a better understanding of what the product is.

The pure maple water that comes from maple trees throughout the northeast is harvested by the Happy Tree team each spring when it is more nutrient rich.

The bottles are sold in natural and specialty retail stores around the country, including Whole Foods and Fresh Market.


Package Matching

Package designed to elevate the product.

An environmentally friendly product like the Purina Pro Plan Renew Cat Litter, made of 100 % natural old corncob and cedar chips, needed a package design that reflected the product, so Nestle Purina PetCare Company turned to Ecologic Brands ( to accomplish its brand goal.

“The reality is, they came to us with this product and they wanted to have a bottle made out of paper, so that the story of the outside would match the story of the inside,” says Julie Corbett, founder of Ecologic. 

Ecologic Brands designed a package that fit the consumer’s functionality requirements: a handle all the way through the container and with a paper cap that is pressure fitting, made out of 100 % recycled materials.

“There is a huge trend in the marketplace,” Corbett comments. “The American consumer is becoming more discerning and wants more accountability. Everyone is mindful that we don’t have an abundance of resources anymore so the idea is to be smarter with what we have.”

The Purina Pro Plan Renew Cat Litter comes in two size jugs, a 6 lb. small renew and 10 lb. large renew.


Pearls of Wisdom: Build on your strengths and capitalize on your faults to create brands that persevere

When Five-time Emmy Award winner, author and beauty entrepreneur Eve Pearl was a child, she was extremely self-conscious. “My mother works at the Lincoln Center, so I grew up in the theater around actors and dancers,” she recalls during our interview at this year’s Cosmopack New York show. “At the same time, I was dealing with serious acne and skin issues and having a difficult time finding products that worked for me. I’m allergic to virtually everything. So I started making my own cosmetic formulations to cover up my acne without causing more skin irritation.

“With my mother’s help, I used my experience formulating my own makeup to start a career as a makeup artist,” Pearl continues. “I started working on TV, and when I worked on The View—10 years—I needed to find solutions for women of different ages, skin tones and issues, many of which weren’t addressed by the cosmetics solutions on the market.”

Pearl created a “base face” solution that would help people look their best without looking overly made up. This base face solution, which comprises her Salmon Concealer and HD Dual Foundation, became the core product line for Eve Pearl Beauty Brands.

Today, the Eve Pearl brand is a direct-to-end-user success story. Pearl closed her New York retail store, earlier this year, to invest more of her time and efforts to the channel that’s growing the most revenue for her brand, direct-response selling—online and through television. “Many of us don’t realize the power of QVC,” says Pearl. “It does about 6 billion dollars in sales in the U.S. market alone and 9 billion globally. But the U.S. is the big monster, 6 billion dollars a year. Somewhere around 2.4 billion of that is from Internet sales.”

QVC Inc. claims its full fiscal year set an American business sales record and a significantly larger footprint than many established traditional retailers. QVC’s on-air programming reaches more than 98 million U.S. households and approximately 195 million cable- and satellite-connected homes worldwide, and its award-winning, online counterpart,, attracts more than 6 million unique visitors each month. A significant part of the retailer’s strategy is its narrative selling approach.

“The QVC selling approach is terrific because I get to share my story and I share how to use the product correctly,” Pearl says, expressing gratitude to Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna for connecting the brand with the home shopping giant. (Daniela Ciocan, Cosmoprof’s marketing director, also made Pearl’s interview with Package Design possible.) “The challenge when working through salespeople or training teams is things can get lost in translation. But if I am talking directly to the cosmetics user, I can pick up my HD Dual Foundation and I can explain to you how to use it with the dual-ended brush and how to use my side one, side two, smile, two-step technique and then reinforce that message with a little insert included in the packaging.”

Know thyself

Pearl explains that the brand is able to succeed despite being the most expensive cosmetics line on QVC because she resists the temptation to focus on product churn. Instead, Pearl stays true to her brand promise to deliver a simple system with easy-to-use products that offer quick and consistent results, and offers skin care benefits. “All buyers, retail buyers and end users, always want something new,” she opines. “Look at how long our attention span is. But answering that demand by delivering new product after new is just an automatic response. We are more strategic because if you’re basing your product line and branding on new, you can’t succeed because there is no loyalty, there’s no reason for me to have to come back to you because people will just look for the next new thing. My goal always is to help the end user understand how to use a product and provide you with something amazing that will make your life easier.”

“It’s challenging to stay focused,” she adds. “So I like following my favorite smart phone’s methodology by maintaining my core product and keep making it better. You know that I loved my iPhone 5, but I now have the 6. When the 7 comes out, I’ll buy that product because I like the core offering, and when the 8 comes out, I’m going to get that too. Like Apple, I made something that was easy to use even though it looks complicated and I strive to always improve upon my core product. This approach not only helps build brands but also sustain them.

“We make sure that we’re known for something,” Pearl explains, “and then we can add to that. And what better way than innovative packaging and new ingredients!”

Pearl did exactly this when re-launching her HD foundation in a 40:60 compact. The cream foundation was introduced in a compact that evenly divided two foundation colors. “Most of us have been taught that our faces are blank canvasses where the foundation should be one color,” Pearl says. “Using two shades, instead, will allow you to have great coverage create definition with contouring by using a product that’s actually good for your skin. The two shades can also allow you to balance off those days that you may be a little darker because you’re in the sun or you’re a little lighter because you haven’t.

“An issue we found when launching the 50:50 compact was that users were finishing one side more quickly than the other,” she explains. “What some business owners might see as a complaint, I see as an opportunity. So we came out with this compact, which is the same core product—our HD Dual Foundation, but is in a package that better reflects how people are using the product. As a brand, I’m not interested in one-time purchases. Understanding how your customers use the product versus how you expect them to use the product helps create brand loyalty.”

In addition to increasing the amount of the darker foundation in the compact, the HD 40:60 Dual Foundation has 20% more product overall. A larger latex sponge was developed for better application, and the compact’s bottom tray was enlarged to accommodate the larger sponge, even when wet, and redesigned with ventilation holes to enable a wet sponge to air out.

Quest for kaizan

Pearl and her team turned another problem into a plus when the brand received complaints that the Texas heat was quite literally melting the product. “Years ago, when we first started shipping the cream foundation nationwide, we were receiving complaints that the customers were opening shipments—left outside in the Texas sun on a 104-deg day—to find the foundation was melted. It was big drama.”

It was also an opportunity for Pearl to extend her product line without violating her brand-loyalty-building ethos of sticking to core product offerings. “Sometimes you can take the things that are like the most dramatic and what you think is a problem, and create not only a solution for that particular logistical problem but make a new product out of it,” Pearl says. “Not only did we take care of the customers with the problem and create a solution with an improved shipping method, but we used our new understanding of the ingredients in that formulation to create another product. You see, our formulations use natural binding ingredients instead of parabens; natural products change. When we saw how that natural ingredient behaved when heated, we used it to make a whole line extension of liquid HD foundation.”

This is why, Pearl warns against the urge to refine a product to perfection. “If you wait to make things perfect, you will never make anything,” she advises. “Remember it’s OK to take a chance. You will probably be changing things up anyway, and if you get your product out there, you’ll have a better idea of which direction to go. And know that even if there are no problems the first time that you launch a product, they’ll always be ways to improve it!

“This is why you should buy shorter manufacturing runs of packages when possible,” Pearl adds. “It might be more expensive on the face because you are paying for dies and molds, but shorter runs make brands more nimble.” The real magic starts, she explains, “when a brand understands that every day and every interaction is part of quest for continuous improvement.

“We read every customer communication, we listen, and we try to comply with their needs,” she says. “We’re interested in building a relationship and emotional connection with each user, so every single product that we create will be more than a response to a trend or fad. Our brand and our products are in it for the long term.”

The design and development team then combines end-users’ feedback with its own testing, including learnings from Pearl’s work as a professional makeup artist. Pearl has worked for NBC’s “Today” show, ABC’s “The View,” “Good Morning America,” the “Academy Awards,” etc., and with such cultural icons such as Arianna Huffington, First Lady Michelle Obama, Meredith Vieira, Justin Timberlake, Barbara Walters. “Working on live TV shows, I need good products that work quickly and last,” she says. “So our cosmetics sizes are a bit smaller that’s because they are double-pigmented, which means I need half the amount of time to apply it. When you are readying someone for live TV, every motion counts. I also need to be able to easily carry my products with me, so I made the packages as small as possible.”

Not only does Pearl test the cosmetics, she leverages her entire team to test products. “Every single thing is tested by our great team,” Pearl explains. “They have to use every single product because, say, you have a beautiful lipstick package but it’s not until you used it several times that you realize that it’s not uncomfortable to hold but it’s also not really comfortable to use. I’m big on function. Our products and packaging have to work. So we take them to the beach, we let our kids open and close them, we make sure the men on our team can easily use products without breaking them. Our men’s market is our fastest growing customer segment, so our products have to durable and not bust when they are squeezed by strong male hands but also won’t break women’s fingernails when opened or closed.

Collaborate with direction

“That’s why the team is so important,” Pearl explains. “David Dustin [Eve Pearl’s chief operating officer] helped created the final design of the 40:60 compact, to make sure that the fill will look nice and even, and the snap works properly. Growing and developing your team is so important.

“I played basketball in school,” Pearl says, “and I bring that mindset to how I build a team. Everybody has a role, so everyone should be different. You don’t want people who are exactly like-minded because you want every person to push each other to be better.

“And while everyone’s input has to be valued, you don’t necessarily give the same percentages to everyone’s input but you always listen,” she adds. “I remember working with a great mentor of mine. He said that if you stop someone on the first bad idea by saying, ‘It’s a terrible idea,’ you are likely never to get any more ideas. But if you let them give you say ten ideas, three ideas might be amazing. Then you find that one person who shares your vision. They might have different ways of getting to that vision, but they believe in that one single vision so all the collaboration isn’t direction-less.”

She also suggests inviting packaging suppliers into the collaboration process. “Brands are buyers as well,” Pearl says. “It’s up to us to take responsibility to protect ourselves and say, ‘Help guide me in the right direction because I want to build a relationship with you,’ to our suppliers in the same way that we seek to build relationships with retail. Imagine you are about to launch a big, high-end product line, and all of a sudden, a month before you finally launching yours, another brand uses the exact same base packaging component in a mass line. Wouldn’t it been helpful if you asked your supplier if someone else is thinking about launching something in the same base component? I understand that outside collaboration at the very starting point can be challenging because it can quickly become overwhelming and confusing, but make sure you’re doing it. I invite collaboration not at the beginning of the project, but at the next level.”

Don’t shy away from challenges

“In most industries, women are not taught or encouraged to respond when directly challenged,” she says. “Sports, which have been cut from many school programs, was one place where girls were taught to fall and get up and where they can learn to keep on going when someone isn’t kind and says you’re terrible.”

So Pearl encourages women to speak up and take on challenges, even if they are with projects outside the company. “Sometimes, they want to take days off to pursue another project,” she says. “And I’ve sensed that they were too scared to tell me. Whenever possible, I say, ‘Please go for it’ because I wasn’t always encouraged to take on second projects.

“Also, when I worked on TV, I was working my full-time job at ‘The View’ and ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire,’ while opening a retail store in New York City,” Pearl recalls. “I was constantly working 20-hours days, but I was also around women such as Meredith Vieira, Barbara Walters and Joy Behar who also work two or three jobs. Working with these women and watching other people who only have one job, I learned that you need to have two passions because that one job could go away at any time.”

The second passion project that Pearl is working on now is achieving balance between her professional and personal life. Success at that project still eludes her, but Pearl says that she’s on the road to improvement. I have no doubt that she’ll make it happen. 

Product Focus: Eco Gets Luxurious

Folding Carton

The folding carton from Diamond Packaging consists of multi-level embossing, a four color process and two PMS inks, UV matte and specialty coating. Cartons are made with 100% clean, renewable wind energy and producing in a zero manufacturing waste-to-landfill facility.


Carton Boxes, Cardboards and Hangtags

Akey Group’s texture embossing can be applied on most papers including recycled material. It’s a one-time process with multi-patterns done onto an entire sheet. With very little converting cost, it creates flexible creativity and a luxury feeling.


Form-Film Seal Equipment

Featuring a metallic appearance, PET film materials for form/fill/seal equipment or industrial thermoforms are available in silver or can be custom made in gold, ruby or green. Clear Lam Packaging says the PET plastic offers improved temperature resistance for hot fill applications and a 30% wider thermoforming window than standard PET materials.


Fusion Aluminum Bottle

Rexam provides Bon Affair with its Fusion Aluminum bottle for its Sauvignon Blanc Wine Spritzer. Rexam says the package is shatterproof and lightweight and features a re-sealable twist off cap. The bottle is 100% recyclable and comes in 11.2- and 8.5-oz. sizes.


Water Dispenser Bottle

SIPA developed PET one-way dispenser bottles that collapse as the water is consumed, ending up as fat discs that take up reduced space with a minimum weight of only 110 grams. The PET dispenser bottles are easily transportable and perfectly collapse as they empty. 



Friendly Inks

THEM presents Earthinks as the most natural inks available for flexographic and screen printing. When combined with recycled media, Earthinks are an eco-friendly solution. THEM also says Earthinks outperform traditional ink alternatives.


Flavored Syrups PET Bottle

RPC Promens Consumer launches a 750 mL barrier PET bottle for flavored syrups for cold drinks. The multilayer construction incorporates a layer of oxygen scavenger and polyamide, which can provide longer shelf life for the syrups. RPC says the new flexible bottle is more cost-effective and convenient for the consumer.



Sugarcane Clamshells

Eco-Products designed the 100 % compostable clamshell container, which acts as a portable convection oven for food. The clamshell box contains crisping ridges and moisture ventilation for the food inside. The clamshell is also made out of sugarcane.


Bagasse Container

Sani-Stak is a patented, eco-friendly container that addresses the challenges of take-out packaging. Go To Containers says the design reduces incidences of food borne illness, makes meals easier to transport and keeps fried food crisper.  Sani-Stak is available in PET or bagasse material.


Self-adhesive labels

Bio-based polyethylene label films are self-adhesive with a face stock that includes more than 80% renewable content. These sustainable products are available in white and clear versions. The resin used for these films is made from certified sugar cane.


Conquering the Premium Club Store Channel

Earning retail placement into Costco stores requires the right product and a team experienced in perfecting brand positioning for the club store customer.

Water Lilies gained a spot in Costco’s Midwest stores with its first try with its own branded product line, Mandarin Market. The line includes frozen Chinese specialty items, including potstickers and egg rolls.

This success, however, came after more than a decade of serving as a private label producer of all natural, organic, Asian frozen food for other retailers, and a collaborative effort to transform that experience into a compelling brand identity that will resonate with very selective retail buyers.

A hard-working package

Competition to get into Costco can be crushing: Other retailers can have 40,000 items on their shelves, this premium club channel may carry as few as 4,000 products, says Al Greenwood, vice president of sales for Water Lilies.

While getting a product into Costco means winning over a buyer, keeping your spot requires winning over consumers on a daily basis and getting them to put your product in their cart.

Frozen foods sales have been lackluster, says Greenwood, especially with Costco’s demographic, Millennials who tend to view it as processed food, yet want and need convenience.

Yet Mandarin Market made sense for Costco, as its customers want upscale, ethnic and natural items. Costco customers are also shopping the club store with a desire for cost savings, so the package design needs to convey value, too.

So how does a brand convey natural, unprocessed, convenience and value immediately to shoppers? It’s all in the bag and the box. And don’t forget, those two items have to function well by keeping the food edible, transportable and easy to store, and create a shopper-appealing display. Whew. Finally, all this has to happen using two different media, plastic and paper. Any other demands? No, thought not.

Crucial experience

Kory Grushka, director of business development for Works Design Group, says, “Costco is very nuanced.” But with years of experience working on design for other clients who have spots in Costco, the design firm knew the look the premier club channel wanted.

As Bill Hutches, WDG principal owner puts it, “We already knew the sweet spot for (package design) for Costco and it was such an excellent product. That’s the winning part of this whole thing.”

Yet, Grushka admits, building a brand and product packaging from ground zero offered some challenges. “Living in a freezer is different than on a shelf,” he says, and launching a new brand through a club channel is not typical, although such a step can build a company overnight.

Putting it all together

WDG also had years of experience working with Water Lilies, creating marketing materials for their work in private label manufacturing. The team simply ramped up its efforts and research and kicked off design for Mandarin Market with a bright red logo with Chinese characters. That bright red anchors the right side of the box and the package.

The packaging answers consumer desires for fresh, unprocessed food with a clean, uncluttered look. The design also communicates natural and organic in color and text with a large green, soft-edged banner with the word organic along with green leaves, ample white space and a large USDA organic marker.

To convey value, the package design features the number of pieces in large numbers on the box and the package. Convenience is spelled out in large letters proclaiming, “Ready in minutes.”

Finally, and most importantly, is the appetite appeal or the photograph. Getting that image just right required six to eight-hour photo sessions, a food stylist armed with tweezers to arrange and rearrange the potstickers and at times, Water Lilies president Peter Lee, who sometimes took to the skillet to brown the food just right.

Strong, yet beautiful

The box, says Greenwood, is an engineering feat. A major component of the package design, the box needs to be attractive, since it’s also a shopper’s box, the display customers see through the glass freezer doors.

The box also has to be strong enough to be a warehouse box, to store and protect the product whether it is stacked two or three case pallets high.

Accurate Box, a three-generation box manufacturer, came up with the design, says Samara Schlossman, sales representative and great-granddaughter of the founder. The company’s freezer was filled with potstickers while they worked to find the right style and paper combination to ensure the box would hold the product and look great.

The biggest box challenge involved its wide opening, designed to give optimum display to the appealing photographs on the package. That opening made it strong enough to carry the weight of the product.

The final product is a corrugated box printed with a five-color design on 14-pt solid bleached sulfate board with a clear, high gloss coat, laminated to a 36-lb. medium and 50.5 –lb. liner.

Making it match

The task of ensuring the photos, text and colors on the plastic bag looked as lively and bright as the box fell to Jim Moore, technical print manager of Colormasters LLC.

To make sure the flexographic printing on the plastic bags, especially the custom red and green colors, matched the box, Water Lilies sent Moore a box. After only three ink draw downs, or print samples, that were overnighted to Water Lilies for review, Moore’s firm nailed it.

With more than 20 years of experience in the flexographic printing industry, Moore says it was easy. “We do this day in and day out. It’s a science,” says Moore.

The final product was reverse printed on 48-gauge matte polyester substrate laminated to 3.5 gauge white low-density polyethylene substrate.

The visual brand identity and its deft execution was essential to the Water Lilies’ success in being invited to the very select group of brands sold at Costco.  “It’s a badge of honor,” says Greenwood. Yet, he adds, the real mark of the firm’s success is its continued hold on its Costco freezer space. 

Front Panel December 2015

Mission Driving Margin

Growing consumer awareness and demand are making socially responsible brand building a more viable business and marketing model.

Shoppers are expressing strong enthusiasm for brands with a conscience, with the increasingly influential Hispanic consumer segment identified as one of the most socially conscious and active population segments. The most significant shopper research finding is that, unlike consumers from past decades, these consumers are not only expressing their preferences for socially conscious brands, they also are backing up these beliefs with dollars. A 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study found that the number of shoppers who purchased a product associated with a cause over the last 12 months, increased 170% since 1993.

With brands such as Toms expanding offerings, the number of consumers who invest dollars with socially conscious brands by purchasing their goods can be expected to grow.

Toms Roasting Co. launched in 2014. With each purchase of TOMS Roasting Co. Coffee, the company provides one week of safe water (approximately 37 gallons) through the collaborative work with its giving partners. In 2015, the Toms Bag Collection launched in four countries with three giving partners. Purchases of Toms Bags help the company’s giving partners train birth attendants and distribute birth kits containing items that help a woman safely deliver her baby.

Widely reported to have sprouted from a side project that founder Blake Mycoskie worked on while taking a break from his high-demand full-time job, Toms is a household name today.

David Simnick, co-founder and CEO of Soapbox Soaps, appears to be facing a similar trajectory. Simnick in his presentation during the Package Design Corporate Social Responsibility webinar  describes the founding of the personal care brand as a “side hustle.”

He recalls, “Soapbox starts in 2010 when I used to be a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development and I was thinking about how we could do aid differently.” Simnick specifically was thinking about sustainable business models that would support highly effective, smaller initiatives that gave access to soap for populations in need for their health and hygiene programs. “I called up my best friend and told him that we are going to start our [soap] company,” Simnick says. “He thought I was crazy so he hung up the phone! I had to call him back to convince him that, indeed, I was actually serious.”

What started as an “evenings-and-weekends projects” is now a one-for-one, socially conscious personal care brand with distribution at natural goods, club and discount department stores. The brand has been spotted on shelves at Target and Whole Foods Market and spotlighted at Costco and Sam’s Club warehouses.

Like Mycoskie, Simnick believes the simplicity of the one-for-one model packs marketing punch. “Another thing about cause being a part of your package design and branding strategy is that the cause needs to be simple,” he argues. “So leave the cents and percents out is what I usually like to say.

“Your cause marketing statement needs to immediately make sense,” Simnick adds. “People don’t understand what 5% of profits are. That could be a gigantic donation, but 5% sounds so small.  It could be 25 cents of each and every one of these purchases. It could move your margin by 10, 15 or 20 points, and, yet, people still don’t resonate with that because they don’t understand what 5%, 10% or 25, 50 cents means. So you need to make it simple.”

But as Lewis Perkins, interim president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, states in this month’s Debate & Discuss editorial, starting on page 39, certification marks can help build consumer confidence in a cause.

And including logos from respected giving organizations can help socially conscious shoppers recognize products that align with their personal philosophies. In addition to the marketing potential of being able to include a giving organization’s logo on your packaging, brands can benefit from inclusion in the giving organization’s member directories.

Socially conscious shoppers can search One Percent for the Planet’s member directory for like-minded brands at (You can learn more about the One Percent for the Planet at the Package Design Matters Conference being held in southwestern coastal Florida in January, where One Percent for the Planet’s CEO Kate Williams will be moderating a panel discussion about corporate social responsibility on January 22 at 8:30 a.m. Visit to register for the conference and its co-located events.)

These seriously socially conscious shoppers often are better informed about giving organizations than the general public, although, again, the general public is showing increasing support of socially minded brands. These consumers often look up to these giving organizations and their members, giving a brand immediate rapport with the consumer.

Caleb Simpson, co-founder/owner of Bearded Brothers, was so impressed with One Percent for the Planet’s mission and its member companies that it inspired him to start his wholesome snack food company. “Before Bearded Brothers was even started, I was looking up to companies like Patagonia, whose founder started One Percent for the Planet,” says Simpson during Package Design’s Corporate Social Responsibility webinar. “Companies like Patagonia and even Clif Bar & Company. They are giving 1% of all their sales to organizations that promote environmental and sustainable causes. I really resonated with that, so I am more apt to support companies like them because they are using my money and their money for good. Their socially responsible business models made me want to start my own company, so I would give part of our earnings to organizations that promote things I’m passionate about, like sustainability and the environment.”

Simpson and Bearded Brothers’ co-founder Chris Herbert are also passionate about being fathers. “We chose to partner with Boneshaker because Chris and I are both parents of children,” Simpson remarks. “Boneshaker is a nonprofit here in Austin, Texas and their mission is to inspire kids to lead healthy and active lifestyles. They seek to combat childhood obesity by educating children about being active, healthy eating and about organic food. Many of these families are lower income families, and they are hearing the message about eating healthy, organic foods for the first time. By helping these kids, we are also reaching these kids’ parents.”

During the same webinar, Chris Kajander, CMO of Runa, described how a desire to help families in need launched the beverage company. Runa president Tyler Gage, an indigenous languages enthusiast, was living with the Kichwa people in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The Kichwa enchanted him with stories of their connection with nature, and their very personal connection with the forest.

So he was shocked to find that unsustainable activities such as logging were being used by the Kichwa to pay for education and medicine. But their argument was simple and strong, the Kichwa valued the ancestral connection to nature but when it came down to deciding between their children and the trees, the children won every time.

Gage looked to a sustainable forest product, versus logging, to create a product and a business that supports indigenous farmers and reforestation in the Amazon. Kajander is quick to note that Runa is not a nonprofit. Instead, it’s a social enterprise that delivers a win for families in need, a win for the planet and a win for the business, with profits.

These young companies are strong examples of success social enterprises, but they aren’t the sole purveyors of socially responsibly business models. For more than 175 years, doing the right thing has been at the core of Procter & Gamble’s purpose, values and principles. Today, Stephen Sikra, a materials science engineer, leads P&G’s global Material Science and Technology program for package material innovation in support of all P&G business units. Prior to his current role, Sikra served in a variety of management roles including those in process development and package development contributing to P&G’s fabric care, home care and beauty care business units.

During the webinar, Sikra explained that P&G’s commitment to social responsibility, specifically sustainability helps make P&G a stronger and a more competitive company by reducing costs and increasing values.

A sentiment echoed by Mitch Hedlund, executive director of Recycle Across and a member of the Package Design editorial board. “Kiehl’s, to date, has donated actually over 275,000 standardized recycling labels to K-12 school throughout the U.S.,” she explains. “What this does for Kiehl’s as a CPG company is that it helped advance society’s ability to recycle right. As a result, Kiehl’s as a package good company will have more access to clean and competitively priced recycled commodities in the future. CPG companies and packaging designers have the most to win with recycling! It can give a packaged goods company more access to recycled materials at a time when companies are receiving tremendous amount of pressure to use sustainable packaging. Therefore, recycling and recycling right ensures that CPG companies and brand designers have the ability to incorporate recycled content into their packaging. “

Field Notes: Click Magnet

The Trèstique Beauty brand is using package design to disrupt the cosmetics industry by transforming makeup into something simple and quick. The marketing and branding goals behind the package design, Jennifer Kapahi, cofounder of Trèstique Beauty, says, are,  “1) Simplifying application for her daily makeup routine through innovation and 2) simplifying her travel bag for lightweight, organized, hygienic application on-the-go.”

While the people behind Trèstique beauty value the functional aspects of the packaging, one of their favorite features is all about fun. “A very satisfying click” was created as part of the design to deliver a multisensorial experience that’s downright “addictive.” Colin Philips, general manager for MYC Packaging, which supplied the packaging, describes the genesis of this addictive packaging feature, “We custom tooled 100% of the products for a distinctive look, feel and high performance, and those magnetic sealing caps keep makeup secure and the inside of a bag clean.

“The 2-in-1 package design also offers built-in makeup tools and applicators that aid in simple, mess-free application on-the-go,” he adds. The dual-ended pencils include an onboard makeup application system that enables users to switch tools, such as a contour brush to a blending sponge, with a simple twist.

Clearly, Trèstique and its packaging partner strongly considered the on-the-go lifestyle of modern women (and men) when launching this brand, but does the package design deliver marketing and branding prowess? Package Design’s readers weigh in.



 Trèstique’s primary packaging proves that the beauty customer of all ages is happy to make purchases based on covetable packaging, well before she even experiences the product within. The play experience with the sticks hits so many high notes—the smooth matte texture and the product’s weight feels luxe, the magnetic click sound when the cap attaches to the barrel is addictive, and the inclusive applicator is simple genius and closes the sale. It’s a shame to hide the clever sticks inside a basic folded carton—so this presents a great opportunity for the brand: How can Trèstique make the secondary packaging as cool and covetable as the product inside?

Jodi Katz

Creative Director at Base Beauty Creative Agency


The Trèstique team should be applauded for their attempts at subverting the familiar forms and clichés of the cosmetic industry. It is a challenge to walk the line of conventions while introducing something truly innovative into the marketplace.

However, the industrial design seems at odds with the simple sophistication of the brand and the primary pack’s design leaves me wanting more—louder, more clever and a breakout in style that better embodies the bold simplicity of the system. This disconnect needs to be solved before the line can resonate with young, savvy women who want a fresh approach to beauty.

Tim Lapetino

Design and Strategy Consultant, and Executive Director of MOVA


Debate & Discuss: Triple-Bottom Line

The triple-bottom line as a marketing and business strategy


Gretchen Grani

Director of corporate giving and sustainability at organics foods company Nutiva


Is a triple-bottom line a sound marketing and business strategy? 

We’re definitely seeing a trend with more corporations adopting a triple-bottom line approach, because it makes good business sense. Creating shared values and passions for the greater good of society with your customers leads to strong brand loyalty. It engages them in the discussion of where a product comes from and how it is made. When you buy a container of Nutiva’s coconut oil, you’re buying a part of our social mission.

Beyond its marketing value, a triple-bottom engenders greater efficiencies and cost savings, fosters resiliency and spurs innovation. Another department that benefits is human resources. A corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy leading to better governance, transparency and benefits results in more engaged and productive workers. CSR has also been called the hottest recruitment and retention tool for Millennials. 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that running a business for profit only can lead to poor results for the business and society as a whole, so there has to be wider objectives around treating people fairly and minimizing environmental impact.


Why should companies care about social responsibility? 

Companies care about CSR because their customers do. There’s a heightened awareness of the need to be a good corporate citizen. In the Internet Age where information about a company’s environmental and social practices is readily accessible and readily tweeted, companies must pay careful attention to what their customers do and say. Customers are more educated, and they’re kept informed by the steadily increasing flow of information from the media, watchdog nonprofits, bloggers and social media.   

Of increased interest to customers is responsibility along the supply chain. For instance, where does their food come from? Are farmers in developing countries protected by fair labor standards? Are they working in safe environments and receiving fair pay? When a business addresses the social impacts of food throughout the supply chain–from farm to fork–it addresses the customer’s need for transparency as well as reduces risk.

Companies also care about CSR because they see it as their responsibility to do so. It will take unprecedented coordination between the public and private sector to solve our society’s complex problems, such as the consequences from climate change. In the past, we’ve left it up to government and nonprofits to solve the world’s problems, but they can’t do it alone. Corporations have tremendous spending power and are well positioned to use their leverage as a force for good.  


Can a brand make social responsibility part of its marketing strategy and still be authentic? 

It depends on the practices and culture of the company, and whether they have a mission statement or an income statement leading the way. Companies still have the burden of building trust with their customers by delivering real results. We have a responsibility to our brand fans to maintain standards and fight the fights they want us to engage in.

For companies to take CSR seriously, it has to be transparent and it has to be integrated into the DNA of the business. That comes through in the jobs we provide and our hiring practices, the products we make, and the ways in which we use resources. Transparency and building culture are antidotes to greenwashing.


How can business leaders encourage more social responsibility within the corporate environment? 

Many prominent leaders are already encouraging and inspiring other businesses. Look at the successful tech entrepreneurs who have started foundations and are taking on big social problems, or Warren Buffet’s commitment to donate the bulk of his fortune.

You don’t need a lot of money to model social responsibility to other businesses. Galaxy Desserts here in Richmond is a small business that hires the formerly incarcerated; they find them to be very loyal and hard working. Nutiva’s own CEO John Roulac advocates and speaks about his passions, from labeling genetically modified products to carbon farming.

Although we have exemplary leaders in business, there are those who believe the sole responsibility of business is to increase profits for its shareholders. This group is only going to be persuaded by financial benefits. Fortunately, a growing body of research and surveys reveal strong linkages between an organization’s CSR activities and improvements in a company’s traditional performance drivers, such as competitiveness, revenue growth, marketshare, profits, and the ability to recruit and retain top talent. Business seems to be listening to the evidence. Ten years ago, only about a dozen Fortune 500 companies issued a CSR or sustainability report. Now the majority does.


Can you share some tips on how a brand can incorporate messages about its social responsibility on its packaging and in other marketing vehicles? 

Messaging on food packaging can be restricted by space, but using symbols like our 1% to Sustainable Agriculture can communicate to shoppers via shorthand. Using certification logos such as Organic and Fair Trade offer further guarantees of commitment and performance. Many companies also publish CSR reports and webpages committed to such communications. Of course, the type of packaging material used communicates a company’s commitment to sustainability as well.

Social media is a primary vehicle used to communicate our social message. We have an active presence across multiple platforms. The analytics and brand building opportunities with social media are astounding when you engage consumers in relevant and visually exciting content. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Every choice we make as a business comes with a trail of impacts caused by the choice. I see a triple-bottom line approach as an opportunity to make better decisions and focus on what impacts we can improve. In the big picture, caring about social responsibility contributes to our communities and quality of life. It makes life worth living. 



Lewis Perkins

Interim president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute


Is a triple-bottom line a sound marketing and business strategy?

We like the Triple Top Line approach, where people, planet and all resources prosper when we look to improve ecology, economy and equity. This comes right from our founders, who believe that the concept of the triple bottom line is a useful tool in theory but in practice tends to minimize environmental or social liabilities. Instead, they advocate for pursuing positive aspirations at every level of commerce to anchor intelligent design deep within corporate business strategy. And when good design drives the business agenda, the path toward sustainability turns from end-of-pipe solutions to creating value with innovative product design. This represents a shift from a triple bottom line to a triple top line. You can read more about their philosophy at


Why should companies care about social responsibility?

A product can’t be considered positive if it does not honor humanity. We look to the Hannover Principles in guiding the interconnected relationship between people and planet. The nine principles are: 

1. Insist on rights of humanity and nature to co-exist 

2. Recognize interdependence

3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter

4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design

5. Create safe objects of long-term value

6. Eliminate the concept of waste

7. Rely on natural energy flows

8. Understand the limitations of design 

9. Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge


Can a brand make social responsibility part of its marketing strategy and still be authentic?

CSR should be part of a brand’s core business strategy and then they can authentically tell stories about it, not the other way around.


How can business leaders encourage more social responsibility within the corporate environment?

Business leaders should build social responsibility into everything they do, and run their companies with the long race in mind, not short term gains. 


Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

The benefit of including a certification mark on packaging is that it raises consumer confidence. The Cradle to Cradle Certified mark on packaging also tells shoppers that the brand is interested in growing a community of safe products perpetually cycled and designed for humans and the environment.

It is about the Cradle to Cradle experience and what it means to have “C2C Certified” on the back of Method cleaning products, Be Green Packaging, etc. As awareness grows for the high standard of Cradle to Cradle so does the persuasion to continue buying products that have both been assessed for induction into the program and reassured by the manufacturer to continue the path for improvement. 



12 amazing articles for packaging pundits in 2015

Journalists are supposed to remain objective. But here’s a little secret…we do have our favorite articles. They could be those stories we know resonated with our readers (we love making you happy!), or were fun to do or amazed us because of the significance of a new development or technology.

To come up with my “faves” list, I sorted all our articles by page views to see if what you liked would influence me—it’s human nature to find commonalities. In some cases it did. But this “2015 hot articles” list also held a few surprises.

Three articles from earlier years appeared in the top 35: “Marijuana packaging: Beyond the baggie” from April 2014 scored well at #11; the June 2012 timeline “History of BPA” hit #34, followed immediately with the October 2013 article “The undeniable influence of kids” at #35. This proves the enduring value of well-crafted content about topics that interest or concern you.

Before I get into my list of 2015 picks, here’s another end-of-year list. It’s the list of all our end-of-year lists, in case you’ve missed them, which gives you a great total overview of packaging’s trek this past year:

Top 4 personal care packaging concepts of 2015

The most fantastic food packages of 2015

Top 5 packaging design insights of 2015

Designers and engineers find value in smart packaging

Sustainability remains a top concern in 2015

Top 9 packaging automation developments of 2015

A 5-pack of the year’s best beer packaging

Trends in ecommerce packaging center on design

Top flexible packaging news of 2015


Now, I present a dozen of my favorite articles from 2015, the ones I’m most proud of out of about 500 total, starting from the bottom and working up to #1…drum roll, please.


#12. Seasonal packaging designs do a great job of selling, logically and emotionally, by connecting with consumers while they are in a certain mindset. At the end of summer, I took a couple field trips to local stores to see how brands were taking advantage of the back-to-school season. These six packages stood out (see photo above) as most compelling to buy, based on their graphics.


Next: Leading ladies

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