'Carton and cartonboard has truly become a medium for competitive differentiation par excellence, as amply demonstrated by the huge variety of entries in the competition,' comments Allan Boyle, chairman of the judges at the Pro Carton/ECMA Annual Carton Awards.
The range of different types of cartons, for a huge variety of differing end uses, illustrated clearly that flair, imagination and innovation are very much alive in the carton manufacturing industry.
One of the difficulties facing carton designers and manufacturers is trying to satisfy all the differing demands made on them. Brand owners, retailers and consumers are looking for a variety of attributes, and bringing these all together in one carton is no easy task.
The brand owner is initially looking for packaging that will promote and display his product as well as possible so that it can reinforce an existing brand or develop a new image. Impact on the shelf is now critical with the huge variety of products on the market, and increasingly packaging is being used as an advertisement. With the proliferation of TV channels and the fall in general advertising, brand owners are looking to packaging more and more to reinforce and promote their products.
At the same time it is vital for brand owners that the packaging packs both efficiently and cost-effectively, as well as moving through the supply chain with similar efficiency and without damage. Wastage is a critical issue and packaging has a major role to play in minimising this and ensuring that products reach the consumers in prime condition, with the lowest possible number of losses.
Retailers have many of the same needs, as they have their own brand lines, and are looking for the same requirements as brand owners. However, the efficiency of getting products onto the shelf is critical. With the huge variety of products on sale, shelf space is naturally limited for individual products, and so it is important that shelves are refilled quickly so that out-of-stock situations are avoided.
Packaging plays a vital role in this area, as it needs to be designed to offer the retailer a simple and effective means of refilling the shelves efficiently. It has been reported that a very large part of the supply chain cost for retailers involves getting the products from the back of the store onto the shelves and packaging design, multi-packs and, more recently, shelf-ready packaging is helping retailers overcome these difficulties.
Of course all products are designed for consumers to buy, and so their needs are also important when designing packaging. Attraction at the point of sale, and easy recognition on the shelf are two attributes where cartons can help greatly. Producing high-quality images on carton, along with an increasingly wide variety of special finishes, consumer appeal can be greatly heightened.
High-quality and high-visibility are two of the greatest attributes of cartons and aesthetic appeal can be guaranteed by their use. With an increasingly elderly population, their specific needs can also be satisfied with clear, easy-to-read information and simple opening and closing devices. When a consumer likes packaging, it is more likely that they will repurchase.
It is noticeable in the carton awards that Pro Carton have organised for 12 years that all the different categories in which cartons are judged show these various attributes. Image and quality were once the special preserve of higher-quality products, this is no longer the case and it is noticeable that cartons across all of the different end use areas are designed to attract and be efficient. This is because carton printers have installed the most sophisticated printing equipment available.
These printers offer the highest quality whilst also printing fast and efficiently. Investment in the industry has been one of the key elements in ensuring that cartons provide what the brand owners and retailers need, but at the same time the flair and ingenuity of designers can create a whole new range of possibilities.
Many products now have many different variants and the quality of print that is possible on cartons can help greatly in providing instant recognition and product differentiation. It has been reported that over 75 per cent of all purchasing decisions in store are impulse decisions, and so it is vital for the success of a product that recognition is instant and that the design and/or shape of the carton attracts and appeals to consumers.
In the beverages category of the 2005 Pro Carton Awards, a very clever new design of a mini multi-pack for beer, which holds the bottles securely using the least possible amount of cartonboard, was entered by MeadWestvaco in the Netherlands. Duero Packaging in Spain entered an intriguing printed carton for a single wine bottle, which was designed to use no glue at all. A microflute box containing four bottles of cordial combined the strength of microflute with the printability of the top surface.
However, the two outstanding entries both won awards. The beverage category winner, produced by SchurPack in Denmark was The Beautiful Swan, which the judges described as having style and elegance.
It was an entry in the beverage category that won the Carton of the Year award. A & R Carton in Germany produced the winning carton for Russkij Avangard vodka. The judges commented that, 'This packaging is a celebration of the carton maker's craft. It brought together the full range of possibilities that are possible into one cohesive and interesting carton. The ability to slide the outer cover created a surprise in the changes of shape at the top of the carton.'
This is always one of the best represented categories in the award and the 2005 awards competition was no exception. With some difficulty the judges chose two Toblerone cartons produced by Model PrimePack, a bonbon carton from Laser AG in Switzerland and an After Eight carton manufactured by E Gundlach in Germany.
All these selected cartons had attributes that indicated they could be a winner, but finally the judges chose the After Eight carton as the confectionery category winner. They commented that, 'With a simple pull of a tab, a seemingly rectangular box converts into an eye-catching shape that enhances still further the quality of the chocolates.' So impressed were they with this clever carton that they decided to give it another award: that of Most Innovative Design or New Use of Cartonboard.
Beauty and cosmetics winners
The winner was the cosmetics display unit made by M-real Meulimans in Belgium. It was an eye-catching graphic design supported by excellent structural design that advertises and sells the product clearly and effectively.
In 2005 it was decided to pick a winner in both the OTC and the ethical pharma sectors of the pharmaceutical category so that the different needs and skills of the cartonmakers could be recognised. In the OTC category the winner was a carton for Etui Prelox manufactured by M-real Meulimans.
The judges felt that this carton, with its colours and brushed silver appearance, had a cosmetic appeal. The ethical category winner was a clever carton for a hip replacement joint by August Faller that allowed the medical team to take the joint out of the carton easily and with no contamination.
The final two categories cover all other food and non-food cartons. This covers a wide range of items and the finalists selected by the judges included such products as ice cream, tea bags, watch packaging, a jewellery display and a fully useable vase made entirely from cartonboard. These two sectors are always difficult to judge and 2005 was no exception. The winner of the food category was an ice cream carton while in the non-food category it was a carton for a Swatch watch.
The ice cream carton was made by Van Genechten Packaging for Unilever. It broke the traditional mould in this market by designing a carton with rounded corners, which make it stand out in the display at the point of sale. As well as this interesting and innovative design the functionality was seen by the judges to be of a very high standard.
The carton had been cleverly designed in such a way as to allow both top loading and side loading when packing. This means that this carton can be used for different products on different packing lines, offering better efficiency to the brand owner. As Allan Boyle commented, 'The Unilever round-cornered multipack is a well thought through, modern, differentiated pack in a world of square competition.'
The carton for the Swatch watch was described by the judges as truly amazing. At first glance it appears to be a simple flat envelope but when it is opened a full 3D football stadium appears holding the watch. This ingenious construction was designed and produced by Regia HighPack in Switzerland.
Cartons have come a long way in recent years and the investment that the manufacturers have made, allied to the exceptional design skills, offer brand owners and retailers the most amazing diversity of packaging. Cartons are an integral part of brand building and are used increasingly as advertising to attract the consumers. This award showcases the best European carton packaging and demonstrates clearly that cartonmakers, supported by the cartonboard manufacturers, can offer products and solutions to satisfy the most demanding of needs.
Richard Dalgleish has been managing director of Pro Carton, the association of cartonboard and carton manufacturers, since late 2001, and is responsible for all international activities and the 12 Pro Carton European offices. He started his career in the paper industry in 1966 and, after spells in various markets, moved in 1983 into the cartonboard sector. Starting as sales director he became general manager and subsequently managing director of a large cartonboard mill in the UK.