More security features, merchandising opportunities offered

Ice cream is all about variety, and ice cream packaging manufacturers now offer as many different packaging options as there are flavor varieties at an ice cream parlor.

The simple paperboard rectangle, and economical paperboard cups still do the job for a lot of applications, but there are plastic options, a variety of shapes and size configurations, manifold closure and tamper evident choices, shrink sleeves, improved graphic capabilities and more.

Tamper evidence has become increasingly important in recent years, and more options are available than ever before. Smith Dairy Products, Orville, Ohio, was looking for a tamper evidence band when it converted its premium Ruggles line to scrounds earlier this year. It turned to Seal-it Inc., Farmingdale, N.Y. a company it had worked with for tamper evidence seals for milk products. Seal-it now provides a one-color shrink band printed with the word "premium" in white. Seal-it can provide the bands in colors that are coordinated with label graphics.

Sharon Lobel, president and CEO of Seal-it says the printed bands are great for adding an extra layer of security, perhaps in addition to a film seal under the lid.

"When it comes to security, the first thought is always tamper evidence," Lobel says. "Major studies show that consumers like to see the tamper evidence on the outside of the package in order to get the feeling of security."

The king of cartons

Speaking of the scround, in recent years it has been given an unofficial coronation as the best all-around package for take home sales, offering great merchandising opportunities and consumer advantages. Sure enough, more and more ice cream companies are introducing scrounds in a variety of sizes.

In addition to Smith Dairy, Pierre's French Ice Cream, Cleveland, recently converted some of its lines to scrounds, as did Mayfield Dairy, Athens, Ga.

Pierre's president, Shelley Long said the move truly was driven by customer and consumer preferences.

"It was time to update our look, but we didn't want to sacrifice our brand identity or quality image that have taken 71 years to build," Long said. "We conducted market research, spoke to loyal consumers of our brand as well as consumers who purchase other brands as we moved through the design and development process. Having been one of the first companies in the country to package our ice creams in round half gallons, it was a difficult decision to change the shape of the package."

The company was careful to maintain familiar graphic elements of its package design, such as the script logo and the diagonal stripes on the lid.

Manufacturers offer scrounds in 48- 56- and 64-oz sizes, with either flat or recessed bottoms. Bodies and lids can be made of paperboard, plastic or a combination. Some lids are designed for a relatively airtight snap fit.

Film for novelties

The frozen novelty market continues to grow, primarily due to the strength of sales at convenience stores, kiosks, vending machines, stadiums and amusement parks--the impulse markets--where frozen novelties feed a consumer's desire for an on-the-go treat. Here in these outlets, both stick and non-stick frozen novelties must compete with snack foods and confectionery items that have long been packaged in films with snappy graphics.

"Appearance is a key differentiating factor in these competitive point-of-purchase markets," says Gregg Ockun, project manager, ExxonMobil Chemical. "Ice cream novelties packaged in film have a much better chance of attracting the consumer's attention and increasing sales. The winners in this market are products packaged in glossy, bright, eye-catching graphics, and a quality look."

ExxonMobil Chemical currently offers five oriented polypropylene (OPP) films designed specifically for frozen novelty packaging applications. As a replacement for paper, ExxonMobil's OPPalyte[r] line of films provides products with increased shelf appeal, added protection from moisture, and a platform for improved graphics. In addition, OPP film rolls weigh considerably less than paper rolls, enhancing convenience and safety.

"For several years now, the major marketers such as Haagen-Dazs, Good Humor and Nestl?ave used OPP film to improve shelf appeal and freezer endurance of their products," adds Ockun. "Now we're seeing a significant number of mid- to small-sized regional dairies change their packaging to film with great results. They're competing with the industry's main players and doing very well."

Home delivery

For its 50th Anniversary Schwan's, Marshall, Minn., decided to launch a new container for its home delivered frozen desserts. The new concept was needed quickly and the solution had to easily fit in the existing delivery system. Within four months, Huhtamaki Packaging, Desoto, Kan., developed a custom packaging system that now supplies Schwan's with premium image packaging that features a non-round, flat-bottom shape, 56-oz fill volume and extra wide opening for easy scooping. Specially engineered stacking shoulders mean the containers can be pre-formed and delivered nested and ready to fill. This saves time and money in the filling operation. The flat bottom maximizes existing rack space in the company's delivery trucks and reduces the risk of delivery damage.

Innovative dessert cup

One of the most innovative ice cream packages introduced this year had nothing to do with consumer appeal. Wells' Dairy, Le Mars, Iowa developed its Friazo's line of gourmet ice cream desserts with foodservice customers in mind. The layered desserts, made with Blue Bunny ice cream and a variety of gourmet toppings, come in a specially-designed cup from Huhtamaki.

The bottom of the package has a hole, and a paperboard disc inside can be easily pushed out to dispense the dessert onto a plate.

Suppliers of ice cream packaging:

Airlite Plastics Co.
Plastic cups and tub in a variety of sizes

Exxon Mobil
Films for novelties

Complete packaging solutions, specializing in scrounds

Norse Dairy Systems
Plastic cups for novelties

Sweetheart Packaging
Paperboard packaging