convenience stores and the can

Consumers are driving even more innovation and differentiation.

It’s no mystery that convenience influences how consumers shop and what they purchase. “What used to be a leisurely activity, [shopping] has turned into a rushed, stressed nuisance for some,” said Todd Hall, vice president of ACNielsen’s Consumer Insights, advising that retailers that acknowledge this stay one step ahead of the game.

Addressing the Consumer 360 Conference targeting the consumer packaged-goods industry, Hall also maintained that retailers can keep their customers satisfied by focusing on personalization, value and convenience. Reflecting these comments, convenience stores—and the cans that line their shelves —are poised to meet the needs of today’s consumers.

Beverage cans continue to answer consumers’ call for convenience. Consequently, people still prefer the can over newer packaging formats, whether it’s the traditional 12-ounce soda can, beer package or a futuristic container that, upon opening, releases vitamins into your drink. Data from the Can Manufacturers Institute’s 2005 Packaging Trends Report shows consumers prefer traditional packaging tonewer formats, but they also desire even more innovation and convenience from their packaging. In fact, seven of 10 respondents said they would choose one product over another because of its packaging.

The can industry is listening to consumers as it continues to demonstrate a leadership position in convenience while also evolving for next-generation users.

Size Matters
For today’s can maker, it’s all about designing and marketing packaging to create, build and sustain new brands. Consumers have demonstrated that they’ll keep reaching for the can if the product and packaging appeals to them. Consider the case of Red Bull. The distinct look and feel of its packaging helped spur the creation of a wildly popular new beverage category of energy drinks featured in a variety of eye-grabbing sizes and shapes.

Size and shape are taking convenience to a new level. Beverage cans today run the size gamut from small and streamlined to big and hefty, each can offering more choice to the consumer. Sixteen-ounce and 24-ounce large cans make an impression among consumers looking to quench a big thirst, while at the same time, aluminum bottles are turning up across the beverage spectrum, allowing for convenience and a fresh look for beer, soda and energy drinks.

These new cans give a streamlined look to prestige brands, providing category definition and enhanced shelf appeal. The boom in uniquely sized and shaped cans continues with brands such as One-Eighty Energy Drink, SoBe Adrenaline Rush, Starbuck’s Iced Coffees and Kabbalah Energy Drink.

Coke, Pepsi, Shasta and others are leveraging the 8-ounce squat cans to ride the portion-control wave as Americans become increasingly concerned about intake and nutrition. The shape of the can makes the contents seem innately appealing as they indicate less consumption. The beverage Joint Juice also chose the squat can to underscore its “dosage” message as a beneficial joint pain-relief supplement.

Function Junction
Consumer demand for on-the-go convenience and easy-to-use products is sparking a packaging revolution in how cans function. Significant technological advances are on the market even now, and the trend of functional cans continues to grow.

JOLT cola, which now uses a resealable, 23.5-ounce aluminum bottle to combine the appeal of a bottle with the benefits of aluminum packaging— freshness, recyclability, shelf stability and quick “chillability.” The resealable, 23.5-ounce bottles feature a big billboard for product branding and a cool screw top for consumer convenience and on-shelf differentiation. Since incorporating the new “battery”-styled packaging last year, JOLT has seen sales nearly double. Aside from being conveniently resealable, the large can also boasts a “power gauge” that when chilled, indicates how much liquid is left.

Beer companies are getting a buzz from durable aluminum bottles that keep beer cool for up to 50 minutes, both advantages over glass. The newbottles also are generating a rise in beer sales. According to Pittsburgh Brewing Co., its new 12-ounce aluminum bottle “has revived flagging sales and posed a problem it hasn’t had in years: keeping up with demand.” The campaign has demonstrated broader implications by making the bottle the message— especially with Pittsburgh Steelers’ supporters who drink it to display hometown pride.

Also, a new entry in the wine category-continues to make a stir for on-the-go convenience store consumers. The Niebaum-Coppola Winery (Rutherford, Calif.) is putting its “Sofia” sparkling wine in 187-mililiter cans in addition to packaging the beverage in traditional wine bottles.

Moving from alcohol to a health focus, a new innovative package called a FreshCan features vitamins, probiotic additives or trace elements stored in a small container called a “wedge.” “When the can is opened and the pressure decreases, the Wedge springs open and releases the nutrients into the drink.” The first commercial application of the FreshCan became available with the launch of the new Defense Vitamin & Mineral Supplement beverage line. Offered in natural orange and lemonlime flavors, Defense combines zinc, pectin, calcium, vitamin C and vitamins A, B2 and E in a beverage formulated to combat the germs that cause the common cold and flu.

Brand Appeal
With shoppers rushed for time, can makers help products stand out on the shelf. They have introduced a wide range of finishes and printing techniques such as fluorescent inks that glow under ultraviolet light and tactile inks that give cans texture and “ touchability,” such as the Ciclon energy drink brand in Puerto Rico.

What’s Next?
The innovations discussed above certainly speak to consumers’ needs for convenience, but even more packaging innovations appear on the horizon. In a consumer survey conducted for the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (Brussels, Belgium) on attitudes toward containers and packaging concepts, five new types of containers were tested. These included an ergonomically shaped can, a selfchilling can, a reclosable can, a widget can for improved foam quality and a pouring device. Convenience features, such as pouring devices and a self-chilling capability, topped the list in consumer preferences.

The packaging industry is in the midst of dynamic change. Traditional cans lead the way while, at the same time, enhancing features that consumers traditionally rely upon. This compelling story of innovation reflects the changing demands of consumers for products they use and shop for every day. On convenience store shelves, cans continue to make a splash with consumers looking for the next big thing in size, shape or appeal. All this choice spells convenience to American shoppers and increased sales for c-store owners.

 

A Tour of Today’s Can-Ovation Trends…

Chug-a-Lug: Resealable, 23.5-ounce cans have a big billboard for product branding and a cool screw top for consumer convenience and on-shelf differentiation. Since incorporating the new “battery” styled packaging last year, JOLT energy drink sales have nearly doubled. Aside from being conveniently resealable, the large can also boasts a “power gauge” that when chill
ed, indicates how much liquid is left.

Big Cans for Big Thirst: 16-ounce and 24-ounce Maxi Cans make an impression among consumers looking to quench a big thirst. BevNet.com reported that Red Bull, the wildly popular energy drink, plans to roll out a 16.6-ounce can that will offer nearly twice the energizing beverage that its current 8.4-ounce model does. True to Red Bull style the can will be “slim.”

Fresh Can: The Fresh Can features vitamins, pro-biotic additives or trace elements that are stored in a small container called a “wedge.” When the can is opened and the pressure decreases, the wedge springs open and releases the nutrients into the drink. The first commercial application of the wedge became available with the launch of the new Defense Vitamin & Mineral Supplement beverage line. Offered in natural orange and lemonlime flavors, Defense combines zinc, pectin, calcium, vitamin C and vitamins A, B2 and E in a beverage formulated to combat the germs that cause the common cold and flu.

Sleek Cans: A new family of elongated 8.3-ounce or 8.4-ounce cans give a sleek look to prestige brands, providing category definition and enhanced shelf appeal. Red Bull defined the market but the boom continues with others such as One-Eighty Energy Drink, SoBe Adrenaline Rush, Starbuck’s Iced Coffees and Kabbalah Energy Drink.

Squat Cans: Coke, Pepsi, Shasta and others are leveraging the 8-ounce “shorty” cans to ride the portion-control wave as Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about intake and nutrition. To many consumers the squat shape of the can makes the contents seem innately appealing as they aesthetically indicate less consumption. Joint Juice, for example, chose the “shorty” can to underscore its “dosage” message as a beneficial joint pain-relief supplement.

Canny BrandDifferentiation: Can makers have introduced a wide range of finishes and printing techniques such as fluorescent inks that glow under ultraviolet light and tactile inks that give cans texture and “touchability” such as the Ciclon energy drink brand in Puerto Rico.

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