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- RESEARCH & AWARDS
We’ve all heard the usual complaints about private label packaging. It’s boring. Too similar to national brand X. Tacky. Cheap-looking. Non-functional.
Well, don’t expect to see such disparaging adjectives here. These pages are reserved for the best of the best - the winners of PL Buyer’s 6th Annual Private Label Packaging Awards. This year’s winning packaging is not only extremely attractive, but also highly innovative and functional.
As in years past, PL Buyer called upon the editors of its sister packaging magazines to judge the contest submissions. It was not an easy task - all in all, retailers and wholesalers/distributors submitted more than 300 new products for consideration. And the judges engaged in a few debates - some of them rather heated - prior to the round-one and round-two “cuts.”
Ultimately, the judges selected 18 winners, based on innovation, overall looks and how well the packaging met its intended mission (set by the submitting company). Read on to find out which products won - and why (in the judges own words).
Congratulations to all of the winners - and thank you to ALL of you who submitted new packages for consideration in this year’s contest! (It was a close contest, and the judges had kind words for many of the non-winners as well.)
Meet the JudgesAs in year’s past, PL Buyer asked the editors of our sister packaging magazines to weigh in on the entries submitted for consideration. They poked, prodded, opened, scrutinized (and rescrutinized) the submissions before making their final decisions. (After the judging was over, we also asked each editor-judge to select his or her very favorite packaging treatment - and to let us know why it’s a standout. We really, really didn’t anticipate that they’d all select the same packaging! See below.)
Judging this year’s packaging award submissions were:
Lisa McTigue Pierce, editorial director of Flexible Packaging and editor in chief of Food & Beverage Packaging.
Lisa’s favorite packaging: The Archer Farms cereal canister.
Lisa says: “As a consumer, I love how easy it is to open. As a packaging journalist, I applaud Target’s courage in rejecting the typical bag-in-box with all its shortcomings. … What a turn of events! A private label brand leading innovation in this category!”
Pan Demetrakakes, executive editor, Food & Beverage Packaging.
Pan’s favorite packaging: The Archer Farms cereal canister.
Pan says: “It provides reclosability, product protection and a distinctive shelf presence.”
Pauline Hammerbeck, senior editor, BrandPackaging.
Pauline’s favorite packaging: The Archer Farms cereal canister.
Pauline says: “It demonstrates how store brands of the future will be thinking. It won’t be enough to be a national brand equivalent. Store brands will have to think about exceeding national brand standards and standing out as brands of their own. … The “bag-in-box” cereal format has long been cited as a poor packaging solution, so it’s exciting that it was Target that cracked that nut and innovated ahead of national brands.”
Randy Hofbauer, associate editor, Food & Beverage Packaging.
Randy’s favorite packaging: The Archer Farms cereal canister.
Randy says: “It has strong shelf differentiation; consumers will spot it easily and find it interesting enough to at least hold and examine, if not buy. … I also like the package because it shows that it doesn’t take a major [national] brand to do something different in order to create a truly innovative package.”
Meet the Winners:
Product: Shadow Hills trail mix and nut snacks line
Package Type: Bag varieties (tubes, gusseted and non-gusseted. Non-tubes are resealable).
Mission: To develop a proprietary brand name, logo and package design system for a new 28-SKU product line of snack nuts and trail mix. To project an authentic, high-quality product experience, as well as a brand name/graphic theme personality with adventurous/escape appeal.
“I really like this one,” notes Lisa McTigue Pierce, editorial director, Flexible Packaging, and editor in chief, Food & Beverage Packaging. “I like the treatment of the logo, the design and how consistent they were with it. Also, using color in the logo - the color and the mountains to help to differentiate the line.”
“I like the bold bands,” Pauline Hammerbeck, senior editor, BrandPackaging says, “where the sunflower is blue; pumpkin is orange.”
“The line has a real upscale look and feel,” Randy Hofbauer, associate editor, Food & Beverage Packaging, adds. “It’s not something I’d expect to see in a convenience store.”
Product: Spartan Gourmet Coffee
Package Type: 12-oz. and 1.5-oz. printed foil bags
Mission: To distinguish gourmet, flavored and decaf products while incorporating a feeling of emotional attachment to various flavors such as Traverse City Cherry and Mackinac Island Fudge - using designs based on original pencil sketches (iconography) by a well-known Californian artist.
“They chose patterns that really work well together as an overall line, but help to differentiate each variety within the line,” Hammerbeck says. “It’s very easy to shop the line. I think the illustrations are really nicely done.”
“They specifically label it as gourmet flavor or decaf. And the specific imagery for each region is nicely done,” Hofbauer notes.
“To put a flavor-specific label on a bag like this has been done for a long time, but it’s still a good mix,” McTigue Pierce says. “A lot of consumers probably wouldn’t know that this is a label on top. And I think they did a good job with being able to pull into those regional strengths and showing them clearly on the labeling and in the images.”
Product: Archer Farms cereal line
Packaging Type: Paperboard canister
Mission: To provide the consumer with a convenient way to avoid the typical frustrations experienced with traditional cereal packaging - through an easy-to-open, easy-to-dispense and reclosable alternative.
“This is the private label package of the year, for me,” Hammerbeck stresses. “They innovated ahead of the brands. It’s resealable; helps dispense. Wow! It’s slim, so it fits easily into cabinet space. A premium product with a pour spout.”
“And you still get a good billboard competing against other bags and boxes of cereal,” McTigue Pierce adds. “They do a really good job with the color coding of various flavors.”
“And it’s unique,” stresses Pan Demetrakakes, executive editor, Food & Beverage Packaging. “I mean every other ready-to-eat cereal is in the same type of paperboard box.”
Product: Kirkland Environmentally Friendly cleaning product line
Packaging Types: Plastic bottles and paperboard box
Mission: To convey that these products are environmentally friendly without compromising cleaning efficacy, using a fresh, clean, simple design.
“Very clean, with white - that is an excellent choice of color,” McTigue Pierce says. “That’s not new, the color scheme, but the way they’re using it is pretty clever. I like the color coordination between the caps and the color on the label. I like the shape of the label.”
“The graphics are very nicely done,” Hammerbeck says. “Very simple, but they convey again that sense of purity.”
“I like the fact that the Kirkland brand is a very stark black and deep red up against this really light color. You can tell right away it’s a Kirkland brand,” Hofbauer maintains.
Retailer: Food Lion LLC, Salisbury, N.C.
Product: Surf Point wines
Package Type: Glass bottle
Mission: To reach younger wine consumers (aged 25 to 34) with bright, eye-catching colors and a beach icon - which, like wine, is associated with relaxation and enjoyment.
“I like that the packaging is basically the same across the line except for the very small print showing the [varietal],” McTigue Pierce notes. “I like the consistency of the coloring throughout the line, too.”
“I think they really achieved their goals,” Hammerbeck stresses. “They talked about how the category is populated with brands that are very iconic-looking, and I think they did achieve that. The graphics are what jump out; I think they did the imagery very well. They’re also targeting a younger market - 25 to 34, and I think the imagery really would appeal to a younger market.”
Product: Option+ boxed scented moisturizing soaps
Package Type: Carton box/cello wrapper
Mission: To have its own design identity while still allowing consumers to recognize the national brand to which it compares and realize how much money they can save for a product that works just as well.
“What I like about this one is that the overwrap is printed,” McTigue Pierce states. “In all three examples, the registration and the quality of the seals is really pretty good, considering it’s a printed overwrap. And they’re using it to print only the face labels, rather than on the edges you don’t really care about. I like the simplicity of the design, and the color schemes that they used.”
“I like that they have the plain cartons [inside] simply because it holds down costs,” Demetrakakes says. “If there’s anything private label is about, it’s holding down costs. And if you can do that and still get the shelf presence, you’re that much ahead.”
“The color coding is nicely done,” Hammerbeck adds.
Product: Winn-Dixie Organic line (milk, green tea, cage-free eggs, sweet corn, salted butter)
Packaging Type: Varied
Mission: To convey a fresh organic identity that is easily recognized and shopper-friendly.
“I love the script of the ‘Organics’ - I think it gives it a bit of a personality,” Hammerbeck remarks. “The line is unified really nicely. The imagery is really simple, but well done.”
“I also liked the way that they’re using a similar design across different product categories and having it still make sense,” McTigue Pierce says. “For example, on the milk, the reversed-out color bar on reduced-fat; on the tea, it’s identifying it as sweet tea; same with [the] mixed vegetables and salted butter. It’s slightly different from product to product, but yet they’re able to use the same design, which is pretty amazing.”
“I like the clean look of the white and the differentiation on the bars for different products. It does a very good job with minimal changes,” Hofbauer says.
Product: Giant Eagle frozen seafood line
Packaging Type: Poly bag
Mission: To continue an architecture that was created specifically for the seafood department; create appetite appeal; provide an easy-to-read front panel format that includes fillet specifications such as “wild,” “farmed,” “skinless” and individually vacuum sealed; and to provide a back panel that includes the flavor profile, cooking instructions and the recipe for the meal photo on the front panel.
“Very high-quality graphics,” McTigue Pierce remarks. “You’re seeing serving suggestions, too. It’s a premium look. The layering of the images is also pretty cool. In all cases, the food breaks out into this little white box. It gives them more depth, a high-end look. I would definitely buy this.”
“I liked the food photography as well - it’s very nice,” Hammerbeck says. “And I like the blue in the background; it says ocean, fresh-caught. I would buy this. I also like the fonts.”
“The blue shade works well with all varieties,” Hofbauer adds.
Product: The Fresh Market mints
Package Type: Tin with slide closure
Mission: To convey an upscale identity, create a package that’s convenient and durable, and provide fresh imagery.
“I like the embossing on the mint tin, and the one-handed functionality of the slide,” McTigue Pierce says.
“I love the fact that they used the tin,” Hammerbeck comments. “It’s not your typical [mint package]. I think it looks kind of retro with the cool colors.”
“I think it also fits in with the popularity of coffee mints,” Hofbauer says. “It really works hard to compete against [them] with kind of the French café-looking font and smooth colors - it’s soothing on the eye.”
Retailer: Cost Plus Inc., Oakland, Calif.
Product: Foodies wines
Package Type: Glass bottle
Mission: To create an innovative design that entices consumers to buy the wine and also helps them pair the wine with their food through custom illustrations (a chicken, pig and cow) spelling out various meat or poultry dishes.
“To me, the graphics are a perfect combination of sophistication and whimsy,” Demetrakakes emphasizes. “You’ve got this very stark type and line drawing, but when you look, the animal is divided up into these different dishes such as buffalo wings and chicken pot pie. It’s funny. And the concept is aimed at people who maybe get intimidated when trying to decide what kind of wine to serve with what kind of food.”
“I like the matte in the label, as well as the matte in the foil,” McTigue Pierce says. “How many times have you seen a matte foil? I thought that was really unique, and it also pulls out the gold in the brand name.”
“To me, what makes it a winner are the illustrations - they’re iconic,” Hammerbeck says. “And at a secondary level, they teach you what to pair with the food, so there’s an educational element. You bring the consumer into the brand.”
Product: Chris Madden Hotel home spa line
Packaging Type: Boxes, belly bands, hangtags
Mission: To provide an elegant packaging concept that communicates the luxurious and tranquil atmosphere of a hotel retreat.
“Wow, is what I can say about this!” McTigue Pierce exclaims. “It’s very high-end, and yet there’s something about it that says not only do I need that, but I deserve that. I don’t need a little pillow like that, but I would buy it. The metallic on the Hotel brand name is very tastefully done, with them using a brownish instead of a brash gold. I like the color scheme and the affordable quality of it.”
“I like the holes in the candle packaging to get the scent,” Hammerbeck adds. “I think the stripes look good.”
“The pillow packaging I like because of its simplicity; it’s very elegant,” Demetrakakes says. “And the vertical stripes present, to my way of thinking, just the right contrast to the texture of the pillow so that it draws the eye in the right way.”
Product: The Fresh Market condiment line (curd, jelly, butter and chutney)
Package Type: Square glass jar
Mission: To provide unique, upscale preserves and spreads that convey a feeling of a homemade product to The Fresh Market’s consumers.
“I like these because the graphics are fairly sophisticated, and it’s a good choice of what undoubtedly is a stock container,” Demetrakakes says. “Also, just with the judicious choice of adjectives - sweet, smooth, tangy - it gives you a little idea of what it would be like to eat these products.”
“The clear jar just conveys a more premium feel, but I guess typically you see the round jars in this category,” Hammerbeck says. “This shape is a good choice.”
“With the label being three sides, they do a good job of keeping it simple and not overwhelming, even though they only have three sides,” McTigue Pierce notes. “It’s the simplicity of it that’s most attractive.”
Product: Option+ bubble bath bouquet
Packaging Type: Carton box with window; four small plastic flat-panel bottles inside
Mission: To display the product well through a windowed box and clear decorative bottles that not only boast a label clearly indicating fragrance, but also enhance the bathroom’s décor.
“I like the flat panel bottles,” Demetrakakes says.
“I like the shape, although I wonder how stable it is on the packaging line,” McTigue Pierce says. “The color of the product is what helps differentiate the products in the line; they’re using clear pressure-sensitive labels, so they’re really letting the product show through and be a color differentiator and also help to identify scent. I like the soft touch of the closure and inside the closure, internally, there’s an area inside to prevent leaks.”
“One of their objectives was to create a package that helps prettify the bathroom/helps in décor. I think that does it nicely. It has a bit of a boutique feel to it, so I think they achieved that,” Hammerbeck stresses.
“I think that, obviously, once you put ‘French’ on a beauty product, it’s going to sell,” Hofbauer adds.
Product: Winn & Lovett Sorbet (sorbetto) and Gelato line
Packaging Type: Freezer carton
Mission: To provide a premium frozen dessert offering to the Winn-Dixie consumer, in a variety of traditional and non-traditional flavors, through upscale, elegant branding and custom imagery.
“I like the sorbet just because it has a really good combination of font selection, font size and layout, and just the right color selection and the amount of blank space,” Demetrakakes says. “And I also like the color gradation from the bottom to the top.”
“The color gradation is a little bit unusual and well-done,” McTigue Pierce comments.
“The use of color says premium right off the bat,” Hammerbeck adds.
Product: Backyard Gardens flavored mustard line
Packaging Type: Glass jar with metal closure
Mission: To advertise the Backyard Gardens retail establishment and give a professional, upscale appearance to a product that was previously made at home.
“I like the ‘square jar that’s not quite square’ - it has rounded edges,” McTigue Pierce says. “It’s very smooth. I love the colored closure on them. It’s embossed; if you’re using this in cooking, it’s got some measures included. I like the fact that not only are the closures colored themselves, but they’re printed. I like the color coding for closure tops and the products.”
“It’s meant to look like a mason jar a bit,” Demetrakakes says. “I think [the jar] shows off the product really well, which you want to do because it’s unusual-looking for mustard, and you want to bring that through. With a very limited amount of billboard space, you see all the elements you need to see in the first second or two.”
“I think the target design on the safety seal really makes it much easier to see if it’s been broken or not,” Hofbauer adds.
Product: Winn & Lovett bread/bakery selection
Packaging Type: Bakery bag
Mission: To provide a premium artisan bread line to Winn-Dixie’s consumers through upscale, elegant branding that also communicates the brand story.
“I like the font; I like the colors; I like the simplicity,” Hammerbeck says. “I think the colors they chose work really well with their own logo. Nice illustration.”
“The logo works really well with this product,” Hofbauer stresses. “The packaging has the feel of a family-made product, and the story being told makes you feel a connection. If you just had a quick description, you’d lose that.”
“It’s a good tale on the package as well,” Demetrakakes adds.
Product: The Fresh Market Mango Coconut Pepper sauce
Package Type: Glass bottle
Mission: To use a bright tropical color palate with bold type and illustrations to convey the flavor profiles easily to the consumer. To make the product clearly visible in the bottle, adding to taste appeal.
“I liked this one because to my mind, it makes a really good use of billboard space,” Demetrakakes says. “You’ve got a description of the flavor up in the corner, you’ve got a description of what to do with it next. … And there’s an art to choosing a good stock bottle, because everybody and his brother makes hot sauce. The graphics, in general, have just the right degree of sophistication.”
“I think the green plays off very well with the product color,” Hammerbeck adds.
Product: Irresistibles European bread line
Packaging Type: Bakery bag
Mission: To design a sophisticated bakery bread bag with a modern flair that puts the emphasis on the bread itself.
It’s always good to see the product, and with this, you have the entire right side clear,” McTigue Pierce says. “You get a full view of the product, and yet you still have the information that you need on the other side. And I thought it was a good hierarchy of the information that you need - you’ve got the brand logo, the product description and then a short-enough sell point. I would call it upscale, but very simple. It also says affordable to me. It’s a very clean design, considering it’s dual language.”
“I like the vertical orientation of the panel,” Hammerbeck adds. ”It’s kind of a contemporary, unusual take for this product. I think it’s well done, simple but yet premium.”
“The slim look is very sleek,” Hofbauer says. “I like the black on the bag [gusset], but I can still see the product on the other side.”