Mike Richmond on ice cream packaging

Everyone loves ice cream – from the very young to the very mature. Key consumer trends like flavor/taste, freshness, convenience, fun and portability can play an important role for suppliers and manufacturers to create new ice cream packaging opportunities.

I recently conducted a number of retail audits and searched the Innova 2009 database and only found a few new package formats taking advantage of current consumer trends.

Nestle has introduced new packaging formats based on convenience, portability and fun. The new Nestle Smarties Pop-Up Lollipop ice cream looks like a typical push-up package, but has the “push up” stick loaded with Smarties candies, providing some added fun and taste to the product.

The other new package format was a squeezable, stand-up pouch, which is very novel and fun in a portable packaging format for ice cream. The new pouch product is the Nestlé Nesquik Go Ice Cream Chocolate. This is a very good example of looking/searching outside to find commercial packaging formats that might work for a different product. Remember all the hoopla when Dutch Boy came out with the plastic paint can – all the R&D packaging groups were testing that package format!

Both of these products are found outside the United States. Generally speaking, frozen dessert packaging innovation is much more noticeable outside the States. This is true now and has been since my first Interpack in the mid-1980s. This is a good time to step it up here in America.

The last big U.S. ice cream packaging innovation effort was delivered in the 1980s. It was the Breyers rounded rectangular (scround) canister from Kraft. This effort was developed based on understanding consumer needs, problems and insights. The tall, round canisters with pull off tops offered freshness and convenience until you get down to the last one-third of the package – then it got messy. And, the traditional square package provided good space utilization and operational efficiencies, but it was hard to get the product out of the corners. By combining these consumer and operational insights, the first Breyers rounded rectangular was developed. This package format is now the standard for most manufacturers, branded and private label.

So it has been 25 years – how about some changes? Yes, it is time. Consumer trends have evolved, innovation is hot, convenience and freshness are top trends, and sustainability also offers new packaging format opportunities.

Additionally, more consumer understanding techniques are available, such as ethnography and packaging road maps, that can help provide the supply side and brand owners with new insights into consumer needs for better solutions using packaging. Science and technology scouting can also provide many new ideas to help deliver more ownable opportunities with packaging.

The simple net is: There are many new consumer and technical ideas out there that, when combined, can help deliver some fresh thinking to an important category that is in need of innovation.

So get out there and take advantage of the vanilla space and let packaging enable some new product development opportunities.