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Food Packaging: Mrs. Butterworth

Mrs. Butterworth shatters plastic's purity and quality barrier when Aurora Foods Inc. acquired the Mrs. Butterworth's brand from Kraft Foods two years ago, it began a careful study of switching from glass to plastic packaging for the matron-shaped syrup bottles.

Children loved the bottle, and concern for 40 years of brand equity built by that shape made Aurora proceed slowly. "It's hard to position a product as family-friendly when it's prone to shattering at the breakfast table," explains Ed Yuhas, general manager of Aurora's breakfast division.

Only after consumer testing showed a 93 percent preference for plastic did Aurora approve a change. Packaging supplier Pechiney Plastic Packaging, Chicago, selected a three-layer polypropylene structure to heighten the visibility of the bottle's contents.

"A single-layer option was explored, but it did not give the bottle the gloss appearance -- and matching glass appearance was critical," according to George Thierjung, Pechiney's research fellow. The blow-molded plastic bottle has a more pronounced notch at its base than the glass version to help orient the bottle to the pressure-sensitive label that was developed for the new package.

Converting from the paper labels affixed to the glass bottles to the pressure-sensitive labels negated the lower cost of plastic bottles, Yuhas reports. On the other hand, complaints about shattered bottles are becoming a thing of the past. The real payoff, though, is greater shipping efficiency.

With glass bottles, Aurora could get only 1,080 cases on a truck. With plastic, truckload capacity is 1,440 cases. Aurora started shipping 24-oz. plastic bottles of Mrs. Butterworth's in August. Management is confident there hasn't been any sales erosion, and 12- and 36-oz. versions of Mrs. Butterworth's will be converted to plastic this spring.

Pechiney Plastic Packaging. Tel.: (773) 399-3000.

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