Behind the scenes competition between pack formats is as fierce in many categories as competition between brands. The ten best packs The Grocer has picked off the shelf show how last year, across a range of material and end product types, consumer convenience was combined with maximum point of sale impact. Fun has complemented functionality on a number of the chosen packs, with the development of new ways to include information and entertainment. Some have designed distinctive new shapes, while others have breathed new life into a recognisable brand. Each of the ten has contributed to better sales. Tetra Brik aseptic square spin cap carton for Del Monte This time, the man from Del Monte got there first, beating other fruit juice brands to first use of the TBA square spin cap carton format in the UK. Here, as in so many other categories, segmentation is the name of the game. Having a distinctive, tall, square section carton allowed Del Monte to differentiate its premium juices, taking some of the cues on this long life pack from the chiller cabinet. Other brands, including Ocean Spray, and major retailers were quick to follow the brand's lead. "Del Monte believes, like us, that up to 30% of the family ambient fruit juice category will eventually move into TBA square," according to Tetra Pak marketing manager for soft drinks Neil Fowell. The carton is easy to handle and pours well. Compared with alternative designs, the screw top closure gives much improved tamper evidence and, this time, really does allow the consumer to store the opened carton on its side in the fridge. Eole II easy open can for HL Foods The easy open end, first used by HL Foods on its HP brand last year may look familiar, but this is a second generation design from canmaker CarnaudMetalbox Food UK. Compared with the earlier version, this end is said to be up to 25% easier to open. As we all know, if an easy open' can end is not exactly that, it can be more of an annoyance than a help. For this reason, all the major can manufacturers have been investing time and money in developing ring pull systems that work for all consumers. "The HP brand has doubled in size over the last three years and the application of Eole II has undoubtedly contributed to this," says Robin Brooks, sales and marketing director for HL Foods. The application has won a Metal Packaging Manufacturers' Association innovation award. FLIC carton for Safeway cereals Safeway came up with a great way of ensuring consumers had more than enough to read on their cereal packs first thing in the morning. The Field Leaflet in Carton (FLIC) system can be used to apply a glued and folded leaflet to any board pack. Safeway became the first user of the system, developed by Field Group, when it incorporated a fold out millennium game into limited edition cartons of its own label cereals. Cereal Partners, the joint venture between Nestlé and General Mills, reported keen consumer interest in the promotional pack. To maximise the size of the print area, FLIC labels can be cross folded or star folded. According to Field, the system can be applied cost effectively to promotions across any number of sectors from food to healthcare. Twist and Click pack for Mini Smarties/Nestlé The fruit of Nestlé's new variant brainstorming for 1999 was the injection moulded two piece polypropylene pack for Mini Smarties. Produced by RPC Containers Market Rasen, the pack follows where Polo Supermints blazed a trail before. In both cases, the packs mixed fun with convenience. Both worked on the principle that consumer recognition of ­ and affection for ­ a brand was all in the shape of the individual sweet. "This was one of the most successful confectionery launches of the year, with over 17 million units sold within three months of the launch," says Nestlé. Smarties' market share grew by 15% in the second half of 1999. The Twist and Click pack makes the product fun to dispense, especially for children. But the novelty of the pack is something that appeals to all ages, according to Smarties brand manager Steve Smith. Ergonomically designed conditioner pack from Robert McBride In pack design for detergents and other homecare products, own label tends to follow the big brands. So it was refreshing to see a major manufacturer for own label strike out in a direction which was not only original, but also put consumer convenience first. The HDPE conditioner bottle, designed and manufactured by Robert McBride, was taken up by leading retailers last year, with Sainsbury heading the queue. The Worldstar award winning bottle was designed particularly with the needs of the older or arthritic consumer in mind. With an easy grip handle and a wide, angled neck for efficient pouring, it was developed with the help of Age Concern's Through Other Eyes programme. Here, designers simulate consumer difficulties to determine the best packaging solutions. Glass bottle for Smirnoff vodka Reduction in material usage and pack weights is a benefit both for the consumer and, of course, the brand. Nowhere has this lightweighting' trend been more apparent than in glass, last year's redesigned bottle for Diageo's Smirnoff vodka being a prime example. A change in the container manufacturing process allowed Rockware Glass to reduce the weight of a 70cl bottle from 450g to 385g ­ an impressive 15%. The new process reaches higher temperatures, and so enabled Rockware more easily to introduce engraving on to the surface of the glass. Another Starpack winner, the bottle design also includes subtle changes to the container profile and bolder label graphics. The shape changes, as well as the use of thinner glass, meant that the pack presented a particular challenge in terms of mould design, says Rockware. Shaped cans for Charles Wells bitter Metal packaging cannot match plastic's ability to substantially vary container shape, but brewers including Charles Wells are now able to offer embossing on the metal surface. The cans also use the wider ring pull opening for easier pouring. This combination of features for promotional impact and consumer convenience has already been used on cans for Scottish Courage and Bass. But Charles Wells remains the only UK brewer with a filling line that can handle the embossed cans. A Stella Artois can of this type won a gold MPMA award in the alcoholic beverages category and Charles Wells won a bronze for its own brands. In both cases, packs were produced by CarnaudMetalbox Bevcan. Resealable cheese pack for Horlicks Farms Pack reclosability, which is now taken for granted in most food categories, has been slow in finding its way to the cheese cabinet. But Dairygold company Horlicks Farms, last year took the bull by the horns, and introduced the first rigid resealable cheese pack for the UK. As far as the multiples are concerned, the jury is still out on whether consumers really want their cheese to be resealable. But Churnton developed an envelope style flexible pack, and now Horlicks Farms says that its FreshSeal design has been a great success. "We are selling 70 or 80% more prepacked hard cheese than we were, and around half of that increase is as a consequence of the FreshSeal pack," says commercial director Colin Clarke. There is an element of consumer education in all this, says Clarke. New labels have been needed to explain that reclosability does not lengthen the shelf life after opening. The new 200g pack, formed with laminates supplied by Danisco Packaging, uses a high tack peelable adhesive for the reseal function. Sleeved Polybottle for QMDP's Breakfast Milk Proving that there is more to milk than just blue, green and red colour coding, Quality Milk and Dairy Products (QMDP) relaunched its Breakfast Milk brand in a tapered PE bottle complete with a printed full length shrink sleeve and gold cap. According to QMDP, the popularity of the brand proves that it is possible to make a success of adding value to milk. The combination of curved bottle profile and full colour graphics catches the eye, a key consideration given the eighth of a second that consumers spend, on average, looking at the premium milk product shelf. But the bottle shape also builds in consumer benefits of easier handling and reclosability. The pint bottle was designed and produced by Plysu Liquid Foods, with shrink sleeves from Decorative Sleeves. According to Plysu, consumer response to the new pack has been well in excess of expectations. Hype promotional tube for Fenton Pharmaceuticals While food and drink brands have been working hard on consumer convenience, many personal care products already have that convenience built into their packs. For many non-food lines impact has become the key issue. There was no better example from 1999 than the Toyland children's sunscreen range from Fenton Pharmaceuticals. The pack not only uses full colour printing down the length of the tube, supplied and filled by Swedish company Norden, but also incorporates the supplier's Design-a-Seal capability. In this case, it allowed Fenton to attach a free key fob to the seal area. Interest among UK retailers has been keen, and the Simpak partnership, which acts as the UK agent for Norden's tube business, is already following up enquiries from France for this summer. Since its launch, the pack has won a Worldstar packaging award. Print on the flip top cap can be registered with tube graphics if required, says Simpak. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}