Private Label Buyer

Trend Watch: Glass and Metal Packaging

April 13, 2011

Walking through the aisles of the grocery store, the average consumer will interact with a variety of packages that differ in size, shape and material. In this sea of products, private label brand owners must create packaging that is innovative enough to speak to the consumer. Though a good portion of the packaging on the market today is plastic, glass and metal packaging remain vital as tools to reach the visually harried consumer and get them to buy your private label offering.

In order for private label manufacturers and retailers to hold on to shoppers with metal and glass packaging, they must remain innovative, sustainable and unique, explains Mike Dunleavy, vice president of corporate affairs and public relations at the Philadelphia, Pa.-based metal packaging company Crown Holdings, Inc.

 “Even as the economy continues to improve and consumers return to more normal spending patterns, brand owners and designers are still going to have to go the extra mile to win them over at the shelf,” says Dunleavy.

How does a brand owner go the extra mile? By making his or her products stand out with the use of what consumers consider premium packaging materials such as glass and metal.

This year, aluminum is being used for everything from wine bottles and peelable tops to microwavable metal meals.

Glass, meanwhile, is redefining the way premium packaging is viewed with more single-serving and eco-friendly options. “The packaging industry will continue to find options for consumers-environmentally friendly products for consumers who require that, new forms and functionality of convenience products for people on the go, and new ways to ensure safety and security for those consumers concerned about our food supply. Companies that have the greatest chance for success are those that can provide these benefits-at no additional cost to the consumer,” says Lynn Dornblaser, director of consumer packaged goods insights for the Chicago, Ill.-based data research firm Mintel International.

 “Private label has a real opportunity to further extend some of its premium offerings, and can do this effectively using glass packaging,” says Dornblaser. “More upscale versions of classic products [sauces, dressings, yogurt, soup, condiments, even some meals] can be enhanced by the upscale look and feel of glass packaging. This also can extend to some non-food categories, although care must be taken with using glass in cleaners or personal care products, as likelihood of breakage may be higher. With metal packaging, the benefit for private label is at the other end of the price spectrum, with products that have more value pricing and positioning.

 “Glass packaging averages about 7 percent of all food product introductions, globally, and 15 percent of all beverages. Plastic leads in both broad categories by a wide margin,” says Dornblaser. “Glass packaging has seen increases every single year, which is a trend we think will continue. Glass provides the premium package option, and metal, for the most part, provides the economy package option [e.g. pasta sauce in a glass jar vs. pasta sauce in a metal can]. Given their positions at either end of the value spectrum, they both have an ongoing and important part to play in the industry.”

In the next five to 10 years, the metal sector will create packaging that is more convenient and practical for the consumer, predicts Dunleavy. For example, he foresees metal packaging that is microwavable so that consumers don’t have to empty food into a separate bowl before reheating it. Easy-open end technology is another trend to watch for; the ability to open canned objects without an opener will become easier and faster.

Aluminum and glass packaging will become increasingly popular in the private label sector, says Marc Hubbard, vice president, North America, for London-based PlanetRetail. Hubbard is in the firm’s Illinois office. As retailers introduce more premium private label lines to capture more consumer dollars, they will do so in what consumer’s expect in terms of premium packaging, namely glass and metal, he says
The liquor industry remains a hotbed of packaging innovation for glass and metal packaging. JT Wines, for example, a private label wine producer based in Saint Helena, Calif., recently introduced its FLASQ wines packaged in aluminum bottles. Youngstown, Ohio-based aluminum can manufacturer Exal Corp. created the packaging which contains an interior coating to prevent the wine from coming into contact with the aluminum.

Portion control packaging also is proliferating as consumers seek to become more health conscious. For instance, Crown Holding’s Peelseam peelable ends are being applied to single-serving food packaging. The peelable ends are made of steel and aluminum and include diameters from 65-150 mm in diameter. The package tops are compatible with a variety of aluminum and glass packages and are being used on everything from cat food to milk and cooking powder. 

In the glass sector, Dalles, Ore.-based Copa Di Vino has created ready-to-drink glass packaging for wines. Using a process called OneGlassWine technology, the company creates a single-serve glass of wine that uses a heat-sealing aluminum compound to seal the specially treated glass in a low-pressure environment.

Perrysburg, Ohio-based glass manufacturing company Owens-Illinois, Inc. (O-I) introduced the internally embossed Vortex bottle last summer, currently being used by MillerCoors. The bottle has specially designed grooves on the inside of the product’s neck to make the beer come out faster for the consumer. The product already has been named a 2010 Clear Choice Top Packaging Design winner by the Glass Packaging Institute, an industry trade group.

The green movement continues as a factor in private label packaging, no matter what the material. “Sustainability is no longer a trend but rather a way of doing business,” says Chris Newbacher, business unit manager for plastic and cosmetics at the Cleveland, Ohio-based DayGlo Color Corp. “In today’s global marketplace, products need to be compliant with chemical regulations around the world. The implementation of REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances) in the European Union and the debate about U.S. changes to the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act), make it vital that companies choose suppliers that have extensive knowledge of global regulations and can help customers ensure that they use safe, regulatory-compliant materials wherever their producers are sold.”

The use of recycled and compostable materials will grow as packaging sizes shrink, he predicts.
“Over the next 10 years, consumers will become more and more accepting and demanding of eco-conscious design solutions in regards to packaging. In the mass CPG world, perception is king. People still perceive plastic as being less sustainable than paper, glass or even metal. Which, of course, is not always the case. Material choices are also driven by health concerns,” says Chad Witzel, creative director of Cincinnati, Ohio-based brand design firm HyperQuake.

The trend toward more sustainable containers can be seen in products like Newfoundland, Canada-based Main Brook Waterworks Inc.’s Naeve-brand iceberg water. The glass bottle is marketed as 100 percent biodegradable, reusable and recyclable.

“Both environmentally-conscious and health-conscious consumers know that, unlike plastic, glass is one of the purest forms of packaging available,” says Angela Luring, marketing manager, foods category for North America at Owens-Illinois.

U.S. food container demand will reach $23.5 billion during 2011, an increase of $3.5 billion from 2006, according to a study done by the Cleveland, Ohio-based Freedonia Group, Inc. This represents a 2.5 percent increase in demand per year with a total of 300 billion units sold.

Metal container competitiveness will benefit from the presence of nontraditional can types. Glass prospects also will see growth from a premium and high purity image, key advantages with organic and/or natural foods, which are growing in popularity, Freedonia predicts.

New innovations in 2011 and beyond will pave the way for private label glass and metal packaging to grab hold of the consumer where it really matters, in the supermarket aisles.   PLB