Shamrock Farms, Phoenix, has for years maintained a reputation as an innovative dairy company in terms of processes, product and package. One of its latest innovations reflects a subtle evolution in the realm of dairy packaging.

Shamrock Farms, Phoenix, has for years maintained a reputation as an innovative dairy company in terms of processes, product and package. One of its latest innovations reflects a subtle evolution in the realm of dairy packaging. It's a package redesign for single serve milk. What's remarkable about the Shamrock redesign (in addition to the fact that it is attractive enough to have won a 2006 Achieving Excellence Award from IDFA in the redesign category) is that the package it replaced was not too shabby to begin with.

Time was when dairy processors went kicking and screaming into a package redesign, and then only when their existing package looked as worn as an old baseball mitt.

But recently, some dairies have adopted a practice common to successful food and consumer products companies-that is keeping products looking fresh through subtle and frequent packaging redesigns.

Certainly there are plenty of new product/new package launches hitting the stores this year as well, but frequent redesigns may actually be the next trend in dairy packaging.

Shamrock first introduced its new single serve ESL milk line (or mmmilk, as it's called) in 1998. The line quickly became an Arizona favorite, thanks in part to the packaging, which featured an eye-catching silver metallic background and attractive milk splash. For the most recent redesign, Shamrock did extensive consumer research before a spring 2005 launch.

The result is a new 12 oz bottle silhouette that visually elongates the bottle, giving it more shelf presence. The package is also ergonomically enhanced with an easier-to-grip and-hold shape.

Roxie, Shamrock Farms' mascot is prominently featured on the label where she interacts with the milk splash by snorkeling through caramel on Dulce De Leche or promoting fitness on whole milk.

"Since the launch of the new package we have seen tremendous acceptance from both the consumer and trade and continue to see increases in sales and distribution," Shamrock says.

It's been more than 10 years since the Chug was invented and most dairy processors ought to be on their third or fourth overhaul of their single serve containers. Of course a brand new product line warrants a great package, too. There are plenty of new products in all segments of dairy. A good example is a first- ever line of ready-to-drink milk shakes from Ben & Jerry's. Earlier this year, the Vermont ice cream maker signed a multi-year agreement with PepsiCo, who will manufacture and distribute the product. Rollout is expected this summer.

The B&J/PepsiCo partnership chose for its package a glass bottle from supplier Owens Illinois. O-I says it has worked with PepsiCo on a similar partnership with Dairy Farmers of America and Starbucks for the popular R-T-D Frappuccino drinks.

The new Ben & Jerry's product will initially be offered in classic Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavors such as Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey.

The bottle uses pressure sensitive labels and a shrink neckband, and has a contour that makes reference to old glass milk bottles.

From a classic shape to the revolutionary, Protica Inc., LaFayette Hill, Pa., recently began offering Profect, which it calls the world's first capsulized protein beverage. The tiny colorful vials hold just 2.9 oz.

Garelick Farms recently spruced up its Gabletop cartons with improved graphics, resulting in a best package Excellence Award from IDFA.

Cheese is the one segment that sometimes needs no container, but even here attractive, functional packaging plays an important role.

Say cheese

Cheese is the one segment of dairy that can be sold with practically no container, thanks to its solid, firm state. Cut a wedge or a chunk and wrap it in cellophane and its ready for the case.

But new packages in the cheese segment offer convenience, shelf appeal and visibility, and more, for a variety of cheese products.

Sorrento Lactalis, Buffalo, N.Y., took an award in the cheese category of IDFA's recent competition for its standup display for fresh Mozzarella.

Tillamook cheese recently gave much of its cheese packaging a makeover, and many consumers are seeing its shreds and slices for the first time, as the Oregon-based company expands its broader product offerings beyond its Pacific coast base market.

Alto Dairy, Waupun, Wis., took the best redesign for cheese in IDFA's competition with an attractive, premium-look package for its premium aged Cheddar.

Finally, Kraft Foods shows how a new product, and even a new product line (indeed a new form of product) can be developed to take advantage of the popularity of a package. The tail is wagging the dog, as Kraft differentiates itself among the zip-pouched shreds with its new line of Crumbles-a line of four flavors the company says are crumbled right off the block.

Materials, graphics, and functionality are important features of the latest packaging used in the competitive ice cream segment.

Ice Cream

When Wells' Dairy introduced its reformulated Blue Bunny Light ice cream this season it did so with a new package called the E56 (read: Elliptical 56 oz container). The new container is made from rigid plastic, with in-mold-labeling and a proprietary snap lid that Wells' says it has trademarked under the name Fresh Lock. It's not just for the new Light line however, Wells' says all Blue Bunny premium ice creams, No Sugar Added ice creams, Frozen Yogurt and Light ice creams will be sold in the new container.

Wells has also developed a new plastic package for the introduction of its Personals™ line, an 8-oz single serving of premium ice cream.

"The E56 packaging features several benefits including sturdier packaging that keeps its shape in and out of the freezer, a trademarked Fresh Lock that snaps tight to lock in freshness and most importantly, less mess for the consumer due to the elliptical shape," says Jim Rossiter, dir. of brand strategy and retail marketing. Wells says it makes scooping ice cream much easier, and the thinner, longer, lower profile and the recessed lid also make it easier to store in the freezer and allow for a nice facing in the grocery store freezer aisles. The lid incorporates a pull tab tear away tamper evidence seal that consumers access at the corner.

Another great ice cream package for a new premium line comes from Shamrock.

"Shamrock Farms introduced its new premium ice cream line to demonstrate our commitment as Arizona's hometown dairy and to celebrate all the state has to offer," the company says. "The direction of the new ice cream line was inspired by key destinations, themes and attractions unique to Arizona - thereby reflecting the product positioning ‘Inspired by Arizona. Loved by Everyone.'"

Each 56 oz. carton portrays a unique destination in Arizona and is named accordingly, i.e. Grand Butter Pecanyon, Caramelback Mountain and Tombstone Roundup.

Staying true to Arizona's Western heritage, the packaging features earth tone illustration-style postcards reminiscent of the Old West. Each postcard depicts the theme or place the ice cream is named after as well as the appetite appeal of the flavor.

Since the launch of the ice cream line, sales continue to build and Shamrock has just added two flavors to the line-MonuMint Chip Valley and Sabino Canyon Neapolitan.

HP Hood recently rolled out a new premium ice cream line that reflects the company's Yankee roots. The New England Creamery line is packaged in a squround, and offered in flavors like Maine Blueberry & Sweet Cream and Boston Creme Pie.

Graphics feature scenes from New England, and the company is working on a cross promotion with state tourism agencies in several New England states.

Smith Dairy, Orrville, Ohio, recently refreshed its Moovers line with a new shrink sleeve label from Seal-it, another example of a company keeping its contemporary product and package fresh.

Of course a great way to differentiate a new brand is with a unique, even unorthodox package. That's why an entrepreneurial company from Hallandale, Fla., recently used a tin container for Sheer Bliss, a new gourmet superpremium ice cream.

The fast growth cultured products category utilizes many of the most recent innovations offered by packaging suppliers.

Cultured Products

Dannon introduced to the U.S. this year a functional yogurt product that may finally bring functional dairy foods into the American mainstream. It is backing the introduction of Activia with a multi-million dollar ad campaign that could make it a household staple. Activia, which has been successful in Europe, is designed to aid in digestion and regularity through the use of a specific culture.

It's a unique product, and calls for a unique package, and Dannon has delivered. To begin with, Activia is packaged in 4 oz cups which are formed in a four-pack, and sold with a wrap-around paperboard sleeve.

The fast growth cultured products category utilizes many of the most recent innovations offered by packaging suppliers.

For club store configurations, Atlanta-based MeadWestvaco Packaging Systems' large multiple Cluster-Pak® carton is used. The carton holds 16 cups of the probiotic yogurt.

To ensure the yogurt remains chilled, the carton was designed with cooling holes that allow refrigerated air to circulate through the palletized packaging. The product is packed on a MeadWestvaco Aries® machine.

Kefir maker Lifeway Foods, Morton Grove, Ill., has just rolled out a line of whole milk Kefir for kids in a 5-oz. single serve, flexible film pouch, with a no-spill fitment spout.

ProBugs™ includes 10 probiotic cultures, the pouch, shape and graphics are designed to resemble cartoonish bug characters, and the package has a low environmental impact.

The fast growth cultured products category utilizes many of the most recent innovations offered by packaging suppliers.

"ProBugs pouches have a patented no-spill spout, making it easy for kids to consume, while eliminating messes," says Julie Smolyansky, pres./CEO of Lifeway. "The pouch is also designed in such a way that little hands can hold easily. Mom and Dad can feel comfortable offering ProBugs as a snack in the car or at home and know that what's inside the package goes from the package directly to their child's mouth with no spills or clean up."

Lifeway installed a special filler for the product and says the flexible packaging is an environmentally friendly alternative to rigid forms of packaging such as glass, PET, or aluminum cans.

"Flexible packaging requires 75% less energy to produce and occupies 96% less space than traditional packaging, reducing materials that need to be recycled, land filled or incinerated," Lifeway said in introducing ProBugs. "And, one truckload of one liter-sized flexible packaging is equivalent to approximately 25 truckloads of rigid packaging."

The fast growth cultured products category utilizes many of the most recent innovations offered by packaging suppliers.

Lifeway has also recently added a small line of Whole Milk Organic Kefir, a Greek Style Kefir, and Low-Fat Pomegranate Kefir, all packaged in one-quart HDPE bottles with attractive full shrink sleeve labels.

Wells Dairy won an IDFA award in the cultured category for the IML rigid cups used for its new Incrediples dips. The design features bright vibrant colors and stylized representations of the foods that are used in each flavor of dip.

Land O' Lakes won an Achieving Excellence Award for a redesign of a full line of products in several segments.

For reprints of this article, please contact Jill DeVries at 248/244-1726 or

Sidebar: Arla Foods Finds Leak-Proof and IML Solutions for Cheese Lines

Arla Foods of Ontario, Canada, has partnered with IPL Packaging of Saint-Damien, Quebec, to package various products in Arla's numerous cheese lines. The companies started working together when Arla sought to upgrade its packaging line for its feta cheese products so that its container would be leak proof, tamper evident, and not need a membrane for sealing. It found a packaging solution to meet those requirements with IPL Packaging's built-in Tamper Evident Square and Round containers.

"The Tamper Evident container eliminated the need for the membrane, and it does not leak like similar packages." said Nancy Strauss, trade-marketing manager for Arla. "At that time, IPL was the only company that had such a container,"

Arla Foods and IPL have continued making improvements to their products lines and continue working together. In the past ten years, IPL has stayed at the forefront of packaging technology in the area of injection mold labelling (IML). Four years ago, Arla worked with IPL to implement IML on its Mediterra 1kg Feta tub, and within the past month, that has been extended to other products in the Mediterra Feta line with it as well.

Currently, Arla uses IPL Packaging's containers to package 20-25 of its cheese products, including its Mediterra Feta line, and Tre Stelle® Feta Cheese and Grated cheese line, all of which can be found in most major grocery stores throughout Canada.

The leak-proof Tamper Evident containers are available in a variety of shapes, including square, round and rectangular, and sizes, ranging from 230 mL (8 oz) to 4 litres (1 gal). The efficient and reliable built-in Tamper Evident food safety system protects the integrity and freshness of the contents.

Arla has not only had great success with IPL Packaging's containers but its customer service as well. "IPL has great customer service, in all aspects, and they are very responsive to changes in their customers' environment," said Strauss.

Sidebar: Shamrock Upgrades Creamer Flip Top

Shamrock Farms, Phoenix, offers a full line of dairy products including real dairy Half & Half and Non-Dairy Creamer packaged in 16 and 32-oz bottles. Recently those bottles received an upgraded flip-top pouring closure from Portola Packaging, Inc., Batavia, Ill.

Shamrock Farms brand Half & Half varieties are packaged in white HDPE bottles with a vibrant full color heat shrink label. Shamrock Farms offers comparable packaging for their private label line.

Shamrock Farms wanted to upgrade its current flip-top closure to meet consumer demand. "The new flip-top not only provides an improved functionality component but enhances the overall quality and premium perception of the product," says Sandy Kelly, dir. of marketing for Shamrock Farms.

The new hinged creamer closure from Portola is a two-piece, double-wall molded closure made from polypropylene. Enhanced features of the new closure include a taller spout at the proper angle to allow for optimum flow of residual product back in to the bottle and an anti-drip cut-off on the spout. These features help minimize creamer residue after each use. Additionally, the Portola Hinged Creamer Cap has an easy open/close lift-tab.

"We found that Portola offered a true competitive advantage with both their local manufacturing and customer service orientation," adds Jeff Patterson, v.p. of operations for Shamrock Farms. "Portola showed great ownership in both the design and implementation phases and delivered the finished product to our manufacturing facility well within the established timeline."

Shamrock took the opportunity to improve the bottle silhouette to enhance shelf appeal and further complement the new lid. The neck finish was converted to a 38mm to compliment the existing line of bottles and provide for greater manufacturing flexibility.

OSIO International supplies 8-10 color heat shrink labels (PET and PVC) that complete the new look of the Shamrock Farms Half & Half line. The labels are applied in-line. "This provides the optimum coverage and consistency of label application while also maximizing the marketing real estate available," Patterson says.