Two bits of Americana are disappearing from store shelves this month: Sucrets' tin and Listerine's glass bottle in the paper/ corrugated wrapper. Both products are converting to plastic packaging.
Although marketers believe even the most recognized packages need to be updated periodically, major changes are never made lightly, especially with such familiar category leaders.
The Listerine redesign project took seven years. Four metric sizes of polyethylene terephthalate bottles, 250 and 500 milliliter and 1 and 1.5 liter, replace six sizes of glass. Fewer sizes mean faster turns on store shelves. The patented and trademarked PET bottle design by Gerstman & Meyers Inc., New York, retains the black cap and traditional barbell shape of its predecessor, but is more angular and contemporary with a broader label panel. The faceted shape is said to be easier to grip and store.
Brand identity also was retained by using the signature logo and colors of the outer wrapper on the paper label.
"Gerstman & Meyers did a revolutionary change that preserved the traditional associations of the brand while enhancing its value in the marketplace," said Richard Gerstman, managing partner at the design firm.
"Extensive consumer focus group research to analyze the relationship between bottle shape and brand identity revealed that consumers associated a rectangular-shaped bottle with therapeutic benefits. Consumers also identified with the gold and olive green outer wrap as well as the barbell-shaped bottle. Therefore, the new bottle combines the dependability and tradition of the old with a more modern, user-friendly design to ensure that consumers and retailers recognize that the quality of Listerine has not changed," he explained.
Although Listerine won't say how much, the new design represents a significant savings in material because PET is about 66% lighter than glass. Its shatter resistance also eliminates the need for Listerine's trademark paper wrap and corrugated outer package as well as shipping case partitions. Another environmental plus: PET is the most commonly recycled plastic today, according to the American Plastics Council, Washington. To commemorate the end of the era and publicize the change, brand owner Warner Wellcome Consumer Health Products, Morris Plains, N.J., a marketing and development joint venture between Warner-Lambert Co. and Wellcome plc, has teamed up with the National Bottle Museum, Ballston Spa, N.Y., to locate the oldest glass Listerine bottle in existence. First prize is $1,000. Two runners up will receive $500 each.
In addition, the last glass bottle off the assembly line, the first PET bottle produced and the oldest glass bottle found will be donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History along with a collection of advertising that spans Listerine's 115-year history.
Marketing plans also call for national TV spots during the fourth quarter and a freestanding insert in November for a new green mint flavor Fresh Burst.
Joining the Listerine bottles at the Smithsonian is the steel tin used by Sucrets since its introduction in 1932.
Its successor is a reusable hinged polypropylene container designed by Kornick Lindsey, Chicago, with a window of clarified PP. Inside are three six-count blister packs of lozenges. The hermetically sealed PP/foil blisters offer a superior barrier to heat and humidity and extend shelf life for the sugar-based product.
With relatively flat sales in recent years, Smith-Kline Beecham Consumer Healthcare, Pittsburgh, wanted to keep pace with the changing market. "We wanted Sucrets to be perceived as a modern, effective medicine," said Frank Dzvonik, associate brand manager.
Market testing of several designs by Bases, Covington, Ky., showed consumers preferred the updated plastic look with the window, he reported.
Reusability also was an important design criterion because more than one-third of the tins are reused to store a diverse range of items from fishing lures to doll shoes.
"We feel we've maintained reusability and added benefits," said Dzvonik. The PP containers are about one-quarter inch deeper and rust-free. The window not only displays lozenge flavor, but later shows consumers what is stored inside without opening or labeling the box.
The 18-count blister packs replace 24 individually wrapped lozenges. The lower count matches other products in the category and allowed SKB to set a lower price point. The new container is injection molded by J.L. Clark, Rockford, Ill., the same company that produced the lithographed steel tins for nearly 30 years. Instead of direct decorating, the PP boxes are labeled with pressure-sensitive polyolefin film labels designed by Source Inc., Chicago, and printed by Grand Rapids Label, Grand Rapids, Mich. SKB opted for labels to simplify inventory requirements for the seven-flavor line.
A small oval polyolefin label, also from Grand Rapids, ensures boxes stay closed during distribution and eliminates the need for the overwrap used with the tins.
Sucrets are packaged at SKB's plant in Aiken, S.C., where a $1.3 million investment is being made in new equipment, including thermoform-fill-seal blister equipment from Robert Bosch GmbH, Waiblingen, Germany, a robotic pick and place blister card stacker from Gerhard Schubert GmbH, Crailsheim, Germany, and a labeler from Krones Inc., Franklin, Wis.
A $50,000 sweepstakes will launch the tin. Although trade customers were informed of the packaging change several months ago by the field sales force, a kit displaying the new container was sent out last month as a reminder.