Valvoline’s new motor oil package addresses users’ pain points

To make life easier and less messy for drivers who change their own oil, Valvoline Inc. has redesigned its 5-quart, retail motor oil packaging. The packaging design makes do-it-yourself (DIY) oil changes as quick, easy and clean as possible, with consumer-friendly features built into the bottle, closure, spout and labels.

A foil seal across the mouth of Valvoline’s Easy Pour Bottle incorporates a pull ring for easy removal, and an internal Anti-Glug Tube lets air into the bottle while pouring. The tube assures a smooth pour, and the package’s spout has been redesigned for precise pouring and clean cut-off. The bottle’s easy-to-grip, no-slip overcap has a threaded, snap-lock design for secure resealing.

Additionally, Valvoline has redesigned the product’s labeling system to make shopping easier. Product benefits and oil grade appear on the front label, and a comparison chart is on the back label. Color-coded bottles and spouts help shoppers quickly identify the product they need for a specific vehicle.

Michelle Allen, director of retail marketing at Valvoline, provides insight into the redesign of the package.


Who is the target customer for Valvoline’s Easy Pour Bottle? Does gender matter?

Allen: Our target consumer is the do-it yourselfer (DIYer) who likes to change his or her own oil but is desiring a more optimal pouring experience in the garage.


Do DIY oil changers, regardless of gender, value no-glug, mess-free pouring?

Allen: Yes. We tested with both males and females in focus groups, and the bottle was very well received by both genders. They put a tremendous amount of value on the cleaner, easier experience.


How much does the filled Easy Pour Bottle weigh?

Allen: The bottle weighs approximately 9.5 pounds.


What percentage of Valvoline’s sales are for this large package size? Why focus on the 5-quart size for packaging innovation?

Allen: The average crank case holds around five quarts, and more than 80% of Valvoline’s retail sales are in a 5-quart container, which is why Valvoline decided to innovate beyond formula and innovate its packaging.


Tell us about the consumer research and feedback that went into this package design. What research did Valvoline conduct, and what did the results show?

Allen: We tested multiple iterations of the bottle design in both quantitative and qualitative research to ensure we were launching a version that would meet consumers’ needs. The results showed that the redesign was worth the investment from Valvoline, to help differentiate our brand from the competition and provide a game-changing experience for consumers.


Why do you need an easy-grip/no-slip feature on the overcap, if this package delivers mess-free pouring?

Allen: Changing your oil can be a messy job from start to finish. Pouring oil is only part of the process, and beforehand, it is very likely that consumers’ hands will be messy after draining the oil prior to replacing with new oil. This no-slip overcap that locks back into place is intended to be one more added benefit to the experience and to eliminate one of the pain points in the process.


Was it difficult to develop the anti-glug feature?

Allen: The anti-glug functionality was not an easy task, as we were trying to maintain our existing footprint to not cause a pain point for retailers. We went through multiple design iterations to get the perfect pour.


Did your packaging suppliers contribute to the redesign?

Allen: We partnered with suppliers that were subject matter experts and could bring this expertise to the table to design an innovative new bottle alongside Valvoline, delivering a value-added experience for consumers.


The spouts are color-coded for the product. Isn’t it expensive to have different stock-keeping units for the spouts?

Allen: Color is an important element for consumers to understand that there is a formula/flavor change occurring across our portfolio. We approached the color-coded shrouds (spouts) similarly to our cap approach in our old bottle, to help consumers shop the category. For example, red has been an important color to indicate a high-mileage product within our product line.


Tell us more about the new, simplified label design. Was this done in-house, or did Valvoline work with a design firm?

Allen: We partnered with an agency to develop the new, simplified label to help consumers shop our portfolio. We tested multiple designs with thousands of consumers, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to net out on a label that improved shoppability in the category. Using these insights, we have optimized our approach on both front and back labels, which have been well received across the trade.


How are the packages color-coded?

Allen: The packages are color-coded by using colored shrouds and label accents to highlight product family. For example, red equals high mileage regardless of synthetic-blend or full-synthetic formula.


When did the new packaging launch into the market?

Allen: The new package rolled out across our major retailers in September 2017 in our synthetic line. The rest of the portfolio will be phasing into the market over the first half of 2018.


Where is it sold?

Allen: The package will be sold in all major [motor oil] retailers across the country—for example, Walmart, AutoZone, O’Reilly and Advance.


How has consumer response been so far?

Allen: It is still early in the rollout phase, and we are pushing out old inventory currently within the supply chain. Based on the consumer feedback we have gathered along the journey, we anticipate an extremely positive response in improving the experience of the DIYer.


Valvoline has quite a lot of information about the new packaging on its website. Why would consumers would be interested in so much detail?

Allen: The information was designed for consumers to go and learn more, because the website is our call to action on all our media executions and point-of-sale tactics. Many consumers will be curious to understand more around the innovation, and we want to give them more reasons to believe in choosing Valvoline over other branded competitors. We are excited to offer consumers a quality package that meets the quality that’s inside the bottle, and the website is designed to reinforce this point.



A magic kingdom of packaging solutions: For packaging engineers, executives and designers—WestPack 2018 (Feb. 6-8; Anaheim, CA) delivers leading technologies, free educational presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exceptional networking opportunities and expert-led Innovation Tours. Register now!

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3 steps brands can take in the wake of the China recyclables ban

This is a time of uncertainty for recycling in the U.S. But consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and brands can seize this opportunity to revitalize recycling in the U.S. and make lemonade out of lemons.


When China announced in July that it would no longer be accepting PET, PE, PVC, PS* and “other” post-consumer recovered plastics, as well as mixed paper, many in the recycling industry predicted that the ban may have far-reaching effects on recycling in the United States.

China imports 53% of the world’s waste, much of which comes from the U.S., and has recently begun to crack down on smuggling and concerns about quality of waste imports with their Green Fence and National Sword initiatives. This new import ban, however, is driven more by a desire in China to improve environmental pollution and human health, as well as build domestic recycling capacity.

The ban will not take full effect until Dec. 31, 2017, so it remains to be seen exactly how much impact it will have on those recyclers who have relied on China as a viable end market for post-consumer recyclables. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has already said that the ban will have a “devastating impact” on the global recycling sector, while other U.S. organizations, such as the Assn. of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and recycling and waste hauler Waste Management, express optimism that the ban may help improve the quality of recycling streams, and potentially incentivize the creation of greater domestic recycling capacity in the U.S.

In short, all anyone really knows is that this is a time of uncertainty for recycling in the U.S. But there are ways consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and brands can seize this opportunity to revitalize the recycling industry in the U.S. and make lemonade out of lemons.


1. Communicate recyclability to consumers

One of the primary reasons why China wants to ban imports of post-consumer recyclables is because of the high rates of contamination. While some of this contamination can be attributed to improper sorting in material recovery facilities (MRFs), it’s also key to remember that much of that contamination comes from consumers improperly recycling materials in the first place. And no wonder—recycling instructions on packages can be confusing and conflicting, if they exist at all, and every community varies on what they will and won’t accept. Many consumers are confused about what they can and can’t recycle, and how to recycle it. In the wake of the ban, it will be critical for both municipalities and brands to increase recycling education and stress the importance of reducing contamination.

The How2Recycle program helps brands do just that—it’s the only U.S.-based standardized on-package recycling labeling system that can be applied to any and all material types.

The How2Recycle label allows brands to communicate to consumers what can be recycled, and if there are any special actions that the consumer needs to take before recycling, such as rinsing a jar of peanut butter or removing a sprayer with a metal spring from a plastic bottle. The Store Drop-off label lets consumers know which polyethylene (PE) bags, wraps and films can be taken to collection points at local stores to be recycled, keeping them out of curbside bins where the films make their way to MRFs and get tangled in the equipment. These instructions help empower consumers to reduce contamination, as does the Not Yet Recycled label, which tells consumers exactly what they should not be putting in their curbside bin, therefore cutting down contamination.


2. Design packaging for recyclability

In addition to educating consumers, brands can reduce contamination by designing packages for optimum recyclability. If more materials, including lower-quality materials, are staying in the U.S. rather than being shipped abroad, the end markets for those materials may be able to demand higher quality.  

The Assn. of Plastic Recyclers (APR) provides guidance to its members to help them optimize the recyclability of their plastic packaging via the APR Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability, which details everything from preferred labels, closures, inks, additives and more. How2Recycle has worked with APR to synchronize its feedback on recyclability, and is launching a new online platform where members can not only request How2Recycle labels for their packages, but they can also track, measure and improve the recyclability of their packaging portfolio. 


3. Commit to using PCR

The most critical and impactful step companies can take in light of the China ban is to commit to using post-consumer resin (PCR) wherever possible. Using PCR stimulates demand for the materials that are impacted by the ban, creating vital end markets that make the domestic recycling stream viable. Without end markets for these materials, it won’t matter if the volume and quality of the collected materials increases because they won’t be effectively recovered. Stronger end markets will also allow the U.S. recycling industry to build capacity and recover more of the materials that would have previously been shipped to China.

There is already an initiative for companies that want to commit to increasing their use of PCR—APR announced its APR Recycling Demand Champion Campaign on Oct. 18, 2017, at its fall meeting in Pittsburg. The campaign asks companies to commit to increasing their use of PCR in “Work In Progress” items used in manufacturing such as crates, pallets, totes, drums and trash cans. So far, Berry Global, Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola North America, Envision Plastics, Keurig Green Mountain, KW Plastics, Merlin Plastics, Plastipak/Clean Tech, Procter & Gamble and Target have all joined the campaign, and APR anticipates that number will grow.

The Chinese import ban may pose some major challenges for the recycling sector globally, but it also gives brands and CPG companies an opportunity to take the lead on recycling. Effective communication to consumers will be crucial when it comes to mitigating the effects of the ban, not only to reduce contamination, but to impart the importance of choosing items and packages made from PCR to keep recycling viable. This will allow brands to build sustainability stories that help connect with consumers in a positive way and increase brand loyalty.


* PET = polyethylene terephthalate; PE = polyethylene; PVC = polyvinyl chloride; PS = polystyrene

Images above designed by Freepik: China map; Hand


Jessica Edington joined GreenBlue in May 2017 as a project associate for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle program. Previously, she worked as a consultant for Green Strategies in Washington, DC, where she assisted corporate clients with developing strategies to engage consumers, business partners and other stakeholders in improving the environmental impact of their products and services. Edington also has experience in environmental education and sustainable agriculture, and worked on a residential solar campaign in the Hudson Valley. Her dual passions are writing and the environment, and she received her B.A. in English with a minor in Environmental Science and Policy from the College of William & Mary.



A magic kingdom of packaging solutions! For packaging engineers, executives and designers—WestPack 2018 (Feb. 6-8; Anaheim, CA) delivers leading technologies, free educational presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exceptional networking opportunities and expert-led Innovation Tours. Register now!


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A ‘green’ sweep in October

Sustainable packaging trends—along with a unique package for new Green Giant frozen veggies—scored high last month with our online global audience of packaging professionals. All of our top five articles in October 2017, based on page views at, share an element of green.

Working our way to #1, we start our list with…

#5. “Rethinking premium packaging from a recycling viewpoint

Premium products often use upscale, elaborate and excessive packaging that is often unrecyclable—creating a disturbing amount of waste. But sustainability leader Tom Szaky reminds us that packaging can—and should—say “special” in sustainable ways, too.

“Innovating out of the box with packaging that is both impressive and recyclable reduces waste and creates value by standing out from competitors,” he says. Just look at his examples of how Puma and Boxed Water differentiated their brands by designing sustainability in (click article link above).


NEXT: 7 ideas on how to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution

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