Food Engineering

Give it a twist

September 1, 2011
Rotating label increases communication at the point of purchase and helps differentiate food products from the competition.

Kirkwood, a private label of Aldi supermarkets, was the first frozen food packaged with a spin label that delivers more information, better protection and a point of distinction. Source: Huhtamaki Systems.


Oatmeal has a right to preen, given the distinctive, round canister that sets it apart from other supermarket products. But oatmeal may soon be outdone in the frozen food locker, where canisters sporting peek-a-boo labels that can simulate an interactive experience are starting to appear.

Koch Foods debuted breaded chicken chunks in a canister with a rotating outer label earlier this year under the Kirkwood label in Aldi food stores. The suburban Chicago-based poultry processor developed the spin label package in conjunction with equipment suppliers Huhtamaki Systems and Accraply Trine and label-maker MPI Label Systems. Following the successful Aldi trial, Koch officials expect a broader rollout later this year.

Koch merchandisers worked “for the better part of a year” with vendors to develop an integrated packaging line to form the paperboard canisters, fill them with chicken and enrobing sauce, and apply a second label with a clear panel that exposes the container’s inner printed surface, according to Ron Leskiw, lead sales-retail. By rotating the outer label, recipes and serving suggestions are exposed in the panel. Leskiw estimates the spin label provides an additional 60 percent of label space. It also sets the value-added product apart from competing products in gusseted bags and provides superior protection.

“If you want to be noticed and you’re toe to toe with Tyson and Pilgrim, you have to take a bit of a gamble,” says Leskiw. “Retail buyers like to see thinking outside the box, and a number of them are saying, ‘That’s really a different idea.’”

Dietary supplements, beverages and other products in cylindrical packages have licensed the spin label concept from Spinformation Company, Turlock, CA, in the last decade, but most of those containers were blowmolded plastic or spiral-wound tubes, notes Kristi Sics, product manager-systems at DeSoto, KS-based Huhtamaki Systems. “Paperboard behaves quite differently,” she points out, and the machine builder spent several months modifying existing canisters that ship flat and are shaped round at the point of filling. The challenge was ensuring the outer label stays on and spins freely on a paperboard surface. Tack between the two labels secures them until someone “initiates the spin,” Sics adds.

Earlier versions of the spin label were pressure sensitive, and that added about eight cents to package cost, notes inventor Stephen Key, developer of the rotating label. The oriented polypropylene label on Koch’s paperboard cylinder leverages roll-fed technology to trim costs by more than half. That’s still a high premium for food packaging, which is why Koch management “thinks of it more as a marketing cost than a cap ex,” says Leskiw.

The switch to lower-cost roll-fed technology was driven by manufacturers with high-speed beverage lines, says Key. The Koch application adds another layer of complexity, given the cold and moisture that the containers must withstand and still deliver a rotating outer label.

The Kirkwood chicken is breaded, and the canister does a better job protecting the breading than a bag, Leskiw says. “When shoppers are looking at comparable products, they see a sea of color, but they’re all bags,” he says. “Retailers like the fact that this container draws more attention.”

For more information:
Kristi Sics, Huhtamaki Systems, 913-583-8263
Stephen Key, Spinformation Co., 209-668-9478