Food Engineering

Food Packaging: Bold flavors and containers at checkout

May 9, 2003
Innovative packages are breathing new life into breath-mint sales.

Spanish manufacturer Chupa Chups gave a new twist to the Pez dispenser concept with Smint, a power mint that steadily has gained shelf space and sales at supermarket checkouts.
SOME OF THE MOST INNOVATIVE FOOD PACKAGING is found in retailers’ most valuable real estate: the checkout lane. Getting on and remaining in those coveted slots requires products with impulse-sale appeal, and breakthrough packaging plays a major role in the equation.

Breath mints are a case in point. Bold flavors are hot, particularly in the adult market, and the package is the cue that the product inside has punch. Portability is another desirable characteristic, and the category leaders are featuring tiny packages that deliver bold taste.

“I’m a sucker for packaging that is unique and innovative,” says Kevin Foltz of Chupa Chups Group, a Barcelona-based confectioner that made its mark with elaborate lollipops for teens. Foltz is the Atlanta-based brand manager for Smint, the company’s first foray into the adult consumer segment. “Our packaging is one of the first attributes to be recalled by consumers,” he says, and “is a key product attribute. It’s portable, stylish and hygienic.”

Edible films impregnated with flavorings that pack a wallop are the other stars in today’s checkout lanes, and their packaging is at least as innovative as Smint’s. Starch-based breath strips infused with mint-flavored Listerine were the first on the scene. Launched nationally by Pfizer Inc. in October 2001, PocketPaks are wafer thin, postage-stamp sized breath fresheners stacked in a snap-cap enclosure measuring 1.75 X 1.25 inches.

Portable packaging is part of the appeal of Listerine PocketPaks, an early entry in the fast-growing breath-strips category.
The success of PocketPaks and Myntz Instastrypz, a similar starch-based strip from Vitech America Corp., prompted Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. to hurry to market with Eclipse Flash Strips, the first non-chewing gum ever released under the Wrigley name.

The company also has entered Winterfresh Thin Ice in the fast-growing breath-strip derby. Wrigley projects sales of $300 million for the category.

Pfizer has expanded PocketPaks distribution to the U.K., Singapore and Mexico in recent months, but growth in the U.S. may be stymied by the sale of its Adams confectionery business to Cadbury Schweppes plc. PocketPaks now is the only Pfizer product in the checkout lane, and store buyers are notorious for demanding new and trendy items for this piece of real estate. Kent, Wash.-based Vitech segued from vitamin manufacturing to mints in a tin, beginning with Myntz. The packaging was critical in winning shelf space at Target, company founder David Parker says, but buyers soon were hounding him with what-else-have-you-done-for-us questions. Sqyntz and other mints in tiny tins were part of the response, as was Instastrypz.

Power mints and other breath fresheners are experiencing double-digit growth in recent years, and eye-catching packaging is a big part of their $2.1 billion in supermarket and drugstore sales.