Packaging: Will the Move to Large Economy Packs Damage Brand Equity?

Brands bring economy sizes into new categories

2010 was characterised by a general uptake of large pack sizes. With higher concerns over retail prices than prior to the recession, consumers in many countries have embraced the new formats as a way to save money without compromising on the frequency of product usage.

Detergents, hand dishwashing and carbonates are categories that normally lend themselves to promotional value pack formats, and where larger sizes have often enabled brand owners to maintain a growth curve for litre volume sales since the beginning of the economic downturn.

In such categories there are commonly three size bands; small for single serve or for sale through local convenience stores; a standard size more likely to be found in larger stores; and a large economy or promotional size. Within these commodity products whilst it is important to retain brand recognition across all pack sizes, brand equity is not likely to be damaged by the presence of the large or promotional packs.

New, larger sizes have also been introduced by brand owners in new product categories where an economy platform previously did not exist or is rare outside of the discounter channel. An early believer in this strategy is salon hair care brand Franck Provost introducing its Expert standard shampoo range in 750ml bottles which is unique to super/hypermarkets.

Another example is Listerine mouthwashes, typically found in a 500ml size, which were re-launched in 2010 in the UK in a 1-litre PET bottle format clearly labelled ‘Value’, thereby opening the economy platform in this category to branded products and also boldly encouraging consumers to start using mouthwashes more frequently.

What’s in it for branded products and packagers?

Times have changed and bulk sizes are now increasingly accepted across the FMCG landscape. In 2011, offering a similar size to private label competitors no longer results in the quality consumers normally associate with their favourite brand being affected.

In addition, there are interesting benefits for such brands; the larger pack can give a greater shelf impact in the store and the longer dwell time in the home give the brand more time to lodge in the mind of the consumer.

The move to new, bulkier packs is perhaps even more surprising in beverages, where pack sizes tend to be even more standardised across the board. Carsberg has just released the first 1-litre metal beverage can in Germany under imported lager brand Tuborg, bringing a typically Russian format west while also claiming higher quality of taste.

After benefiting from the uptake of beer consumption by women and young adults in France, and seeing its volume share grow in domestic lager, Heineken’s Desperados was also introduced earlier in 2011 in a unique 1.2 litre glass bottle.