Unloved by Wall Street, H.J. Heinz Co. nonetheless continues to invest heavily in innovative packaging, a commitment recognized recently by the Packaging Education Forum when it presented the Pittsburgh food processor with its Packaging Leader award.

A flanged closure and stand-up pouch add material costs, but Heinz marketers believe Ore-Ida's new packaging will drive significant sales growth. Some products will remain in boxes and polybags.

Scooby-Doo and other licensed characters are really selling sports bottles to buyers of the novelty beverage Bellywashers.

Heinz's bold packaging gambit

Packaging breakthroughs like tuna in retort pouches, first for foodservice and now at retail, and the continuing evolution of the ketchup bottle, most recently with trap-cap closures and adjustable nozzles for green and red ketchup, weighed in the selection of Heinz. Another factor was the company's switch to a stand-up, resealable pouch for Ore-Ida. About half of the 80 SKU line was converted to the zippered bags in June, with product reaching stores in August. New graphics also are part of the overhaul.

Investors are displeased with Heinz's profitability, and the Ore-Ida investment was a short-term drag on earnings. But John Carroll, managing director of potatoes and snacks, is confident the conversion will recoup costs with higher sales of frozen potatoes.

"The trade was very positive about the new packaging because it merchandises the product much more strongly than the traditional lay-down pillowback, and the number one consumer issue with our previous packaging was resealability," Carroll says. "I expect this to drive category and Ore-Ida sales."

The Ore-Ida conversion required the installation of 56 new Robert Bosch form/fill/seal machines. Curwood Inc. provides the film stock; flanged closures are from Minigrip/Zip-Pak. Throughput is pegged at 10 percent less than conventional FFS units, but the stand-up pouch takes full advantage of retailers' shift from freezer coffins to upright freezers, where traditional polybags are poorly displayed.

Trayed product in Ruiz Food's deli line benefited from a switch to Robbie's PromoBag packaging, featuring six-color graphics on DuPont Clysar polyolefin film.

Truth in packaging: bellywashers' benefit is a reusable bottle

Credit the makers of Bellywashers for telling it like it is: the "flavored water" drink may not have a lot of nutritional value, but it certainly comes in an attractive bottle -- and it's reusable.

"The bottle is the real purchase driver," allows Jim Scott, In Zone's president and CEO of In Zone Inc. Scott says mothers can refill the dishwasher-safe sports bottle with the juice or beverage of their choice.

"The Bellywasher name is industry slang, and it's a little irreverent for a children's drink," he allows, but early sales results indicate it's not deterring purchases.

In a nod toward nutrition-minded moms, the Austell, Ga., firm fortified Bellywashers with vitamin C. The product line features a rotating assortment of licensed characters such as Scooby-Doo, Spider Man and Power Rangers. Designed for pegboard display, 12 ounces of Bellywashers retails for $2.50 to $3.

The product is copacked by Mar-Key Foods, Vidalia, Ga. "Two and a half years of engineering development went into modifying a traditional filling line to handle these bottles," Scott says. Bellywashers' container is made of PVC and is overlaid with a shrink-film label to customize the look and provide bar codes and nutritional information -- such as it is. The product is one of the few in its category fortified with vitamin C, a spokeswoman points out.

Printed film simplifies packaging process

The boys in marketing liked the switch to Clysar shrink film with attractive graphics on two tray lines at Ruiz Food Products; the production workers absolutely loved the elimination of labor-intensive paperboard sleeves and manually applied labels.

"We've eliminated about half the packaging steps, and we have a much better-looking package than before," says John DeSousa, processing engineer at the Dinuba, Calif.-based maker of Mexican entrees. Production also has doubled with the same staff level, DeSousa says, and the semi-automated system is running at 96 percent efficiency.

Taquitos and other trayed products previously were placed by hand in a printed paperboard sleeve and then overwrapped with polyolefin film, after which workers manually affixed labels to the front and back. The process allowed ice crystals to form under the film, obscuring the sleeve's graphics.

The solution was a switch to a PromoBag system from Robbie Manufacturing Inc., Lenexa, Kan. Robbie provides a shrink bag with four-color process flexo printing that can be loaded, sealed and shrunk on equipment that outputs up to 65 units a minute, DeSousa says. A Formost automatic bag loader places the trays in PromoBag, and a sealer from All Packaging Machinery trims and seals the bag before conveying it through a shrink tunnel. With more than 175 SKUs, Ruiz Food puts a premium on flexibility, so some tasks remain manual, explains DeSousa, but the system significantly reduced both material and labor costs per package.