Most Tetra Top packages carry drinks; however, openings can be larger and used for on-the-go spoon eating.

In the past, new beverage innovation meant large financial investments and high material costs. That may be changing. A new chilled carton-bottle is set to empower dairy marketers who have the desire to innovate.

What is a carton-bottle? It's an extended shelflife (ESL) package with all the consumer benefits of a bottle including recloseability and on-the-go, drink-straight-from-the-package convenience. It also has full-bodied graphics, which provides for lasting-impact brand communication. The carton-bottle is all this and more, well, actually less, as the carton-bottle comes without some of the baggage that hindered beverage packaging innovation in the past such as high investments, complexity or prohibitive production costs.

"We're very excited about the new market opportunities that this package will unlock for dairy marketers in the United States," says Jim Mont, sales manager, Tetra Pak.

"Take the yogurt beverage category for example. In the past 12 months, this category grew by 84% to about $ 400 million-yet many consumer segments, formats and product opportunities remain unexplored," says Mont. "And this is just one of many value-added beverage segments where we think Tetra Top will give brand owners the tools to create new offerings, new price points, new multi packs or simply a cost advantage."

Part of what makes Tetra Top unique and cost efficient is the combination of a carton body with an injection-molded plastic top, which is created, sterilized, filled and sealed within a single filling machine. There is no bottle making or bottle storage. There is no complicated sleeve labeling operation. The tamper-evident seal is molded from virgin resin as a part of the package, and is therefore built right in. In addition, a major part of the package is made from carton board-a renewable resource.

Inside a Tetra Top filler: Reels of printed packaging material are cut into blanks that are formed into sleeves. An injection mold forms a top onto each sleeve. The pack is then sterilized, filled through the bottom and sealed before leaving the filling machine.

"We expect the filled cost of a Tetra Top carton bottle to be 20% to 35% lower than a comparable ESL plastic bottle with a shrink sleeve," says Mont. "It's a really exciting and versatile pack, and we're very pleased to be able to offer it to our customers."

As dairy marketers gear up to satisfy the needs of on-the-go consumers, they should look to single-serve carton-bottles. Single-serve sizes range from 3-oz to 16-oz, which are the sizes expected to be in greatest demand, even though the system offers sizes up to a quart. And, there are few limitations to product innovation, as Tetra Top can handle high-viscous products and offers the long shelflife needed for product variety and multi-channel distribution.

Tetra Pak expects the first brands in the Tetra Top packages to come out during 2005, in the classic carton-bottle shape.

"From there, we expect brand owners to get creative with the shape of the pack," says Mont. "Thanks to the injection-molding technology that forms the top, packages can be given unique functionality for different usage occasions, or unique brand image through embossing or different value added features."

With Tetra Top as the package, there are no limitations to innovation.

Sidebar: Innovation = Product + Package

Scandinavians are very in tune with health and wellness, a trend growing rapidly in the United States. Dairies in this European region are leaders when it comes to innovation. They do not hesitate to put science-based innovation at the center of business. They also do not shrink from the costs and risks of innovation, as they have learned quite successfully how to manage both.

Finnish dairy Valio, a company that makes innovation in technology a way of life, has propelled Finland into the ranks of being the most advanced market in the world for "daily dose" dairy products. The concept of daily dose, also referred to as the "little bottle" was pioneered by Japan's Yakult more than 50 years ago.

"Daily-dose drinks packed in recyclable single-dose packages are the fastest growing segment of the functional foods market in Europe. And Tetra Top is a great way to address that market," says Annikka Herme, marketing manager at Valio.

Daily-dose products are just that, products that must be consumed everyday in order to reap their health and wellness benefits. Single shots are the most effective way to regulate the dose and ensure consumers are getting the needed amount of the functional ingredient.

Valio markets three daily-dose dairy drinks. Gefilus® contains the probiotic Lactobacillus GG, which has been clinically shown to support the body's natural defenses and immune system. Evolus® is a nutrient-fortified fermented dairy beverage that contains bioactive peptides to control blood pressure. And the Benecol® drink is produced by Valio under a business partnership Valio has with Benecol inventor Raisio Group, also of Finland. The active ingredient in all Benecol products is plant stanol ester, which has been shown to lower total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

"The daily-dose package for these three functional drinks is a good and handy alternative for those consumers who want to enjoy their product in an easy and quick way," says Herme.

The original package of the Gefilus shot was a plastic bottle and it was changed to the Tetra Top in May 2004. One of the reasons was that Finnish consumers are quite concerned about environment. The Tetra Top is a better alternative than plastic, as it contains a high level of renewable resources such as paper fibers. It is recyclable like gabletop cartons because the amount of plastic is minimal.

"They are also cost-effective, and consumers like their convenience and appearance," Herme concludes.

Nearby in Stockholm, Sweden, Arla Foods offers its Yoggi® yogurt line in the one-quart Tetra Top carton bottle. "Consumers reacted very positively to the launch. In fact, in a test right after its introduction, 75% of consumers surveyed said that the Tetra Top was more attractive, less messy and more convenient," says Mette Rehnstrom, product group manager at Arla Foods. "And even better, 16% said they would increase their consumption of Yoggi due to the package.

"Innovation means new packages for new consumption occasions, and more convenient packages for healthful products," Rehnstrom says.

Another Swedish dairy, Norrmejerier, markets a product-Verum-targeted to women between 25 and 35 years old who have an above average interest in health issues and strive towards leading an active and healthy life.

"Verum contains patented lactic acid bacteria, which helps you to keep and regain balance in the stomach," says Anna Karin Nilsson, product chief for the Verum brand. "It is a natural way of feeling healthy and in balance physically, and in the end even mentally.

"Normejerier chose Tetra Top as the package for the Verum Drickyoghurt range because consumer tests indicate that Tetra Top is very well accepted and also viewed as a convenient package for on-the-go dairy products. It is also a flexible solution since we can produce different sizes on the same machine," Nilsson adds.

Norrmejerier also uses the 11-oz Tetra Top for its Smoothie Shake, which is a fluffy, yogurt-based smoothie that is just as healthy as an ordinary yogurt-based fruit drink, but a bit more fun and tasty, explains Thomas Elingsbo, product manager. "The target market is social and active on-the-go consumers in the age range of 15 to 25 years, consumers who prioritize quality of life and personal lifestyle, and who believe that a snack should do more than just sustain energy levels between meals." Smoothie Shake is mainly sold in supermarkets, grocery stores, kiosks and gas stations.

"A survey of consumers in Sweden revealed that Tetra Top was, by far, the preferred Tetra package for yogurt drinks," says Elingsbo. "It was not only stated the best package for grab-and-go, but for all consumption occasions. The size of the package, together with the screw cap, makes it an ideal package for grab-and-go products, and since products such as Smoothie Shake are often bought to bring along and be consumed outdoors or during shorter breaks, the decision to put it in Tetra Top was easy to make."

These dairies recognize the value of a fresh package for a contemporary consumer. With attractive Tetra Top packages available in a wide range of sizes, dairies can innovate and build brand image by emphasizing appearance and increase impact at the retailer level for their new value-added products. After all, the battle for the consumer is inside the store.