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September 28, 2010

The "right here right now” packaging trend

by Karine Dussimon.

If in these times of fragile economic recovery we now prefer to spend less money in restaurants, cafes and bars, we don't choose to remain confined to our homes. The growing possibilities offered by portable consumer electronics such as the iPhone and the rise of social networking are transforming the way we consume on the move.

Whether we are relaxing in park while facebooking on our iPhone, or we are about to arrive at a work conference oversees, consumer good packaging is adapting to offer the “right here right now” product. Euromonitor International highlights a few key European examples of such products.

  • The small size - high convenience combination
  • Pocket size
  • Functionality: the no-fuss pack
  • Future opportunities: beauty and personal care shows the way

The small size - high convenience combination

A pack that's able to answer our needs while enjoying the outdoors or when on the move has to be particularly easy to use while also easy to fit into our bag. It's easy to see how such a pack can quickly imply high production costs and therefore become rather expensive in retail. So how can this type of pack offering be successful in a time when we tend to refrain from spending too much, as we know the clouds of hard economic times haven't yet dispersed completely?

Well, as we have reduced our spending at food service premises to buy more through retail channels, we are still not ready to trade down on everything we buy. High margin products are accepted by us so long as the product size is small, appropriate to a punctual consumption in other words, and so long as convenience is high.

Pocket size

The performance of on-the-go packs in 2010 is very much related to offering the right dose. Following the footsteps of functional drinking yoghurt brands such as Actimel and Yakult, this is what fruit juice and energy drink brands started betting on in 2009 in countries such as the UK with the “shot” pack format.

These packs are designed to offer just the right dose of liquid to satisfy a punctual need for energy and/or vitamins. Products in the UK include 60ml and 90ml PET bottles (Lucozade's Alert Energy shot, Coca-Cola's Monster and Relentless) and even a premium 60ml aluminium bottle (Überdrinks' Übershot). Encouraged by the initial take off of their Energy Shots, Red Bull introduced its product to other countries including Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, boosting both value and unit volume sales.

Energy drink shots in small PET bottles

 

The choice of the pack size, coupled with the drink recipe, aim together to answer newly segmented needs, corresponding to specific types of daily, out of home situations. This choice is therefore often reflected, and “explained”, through the product's name: hence drink shots such as “6 hour power” or “5 hour energy” which can be used for sitting an exam or before going out, or even “925” which mirrors an average office worker's day, can be found in the UK impulse retail shelves.

5 Hour energy, 6 hour power and 925 energy drink shots

Functionality: the no-fuss pack

A pack that's to be consumed when on the move has by definition to be convenient. While a small size certainly makes easier to carry along, optimising through packaging design also often includes finding the right shape and the right closure.

We now could almost find ourselves sitting outside near our business hotel, peeling off an aluminium foil on a glass-shaped plastic container full of red wine (Marks & Spencer's Le Froglet in the UK, 187ml), and take out from our briefcase a hand sized, thin stain remover equipped with an applicator and screw closure (Ariel Fleckentferner Pocket, 10ml, Germany), to deal with that red wine drop on our business shirt.

Le Froglet glass shaped wine container, Ariel Fleckentferner Pocket "pen" style container

In the case of the glass-shaped plastic container for wine, which very much targets an outdoor consumption, there's no doubt that sales have a seasonal character to it; and the 2010 British summer has played in its favour.

But despite much concerns in the industry for such an outcast on the chilled wine shelves, retailer Marks & Spencer registered very positive sales results with this product since its release in June. Yet, the success of this pack format is very much connected to the buzz it has been able to create at its release in retail; Its durability will depend on the quality of the product itself.

Future opportunities: beauty and personal care shows the way

In the run up to 2014, “shot packaging” is bound to continue to make inroads in consumer good categories, also reaching new categories. One of the icons of this trend currently shaping the few years to come is the hand sanitiser, which has experienced a real sales boost in 2009 and 2010 since the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza threat.

The product is creating opportunities for small size rigid plastic containers as well as pump closures and plastic overcaps. Skin care and colour cosmetics are also seeing intense innovation with French brands such as Diadermine, Vuarnet or retailer Sephora now offering minidoses of cream or make up. Just when we thought a pack couldn't get any smaller!


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