Canadian Packaging

Creating a “sixth sense” for consumer packaging

Learn how new enhancements engage the senses and promote brand loyalty.


July 8, 2015
by Dr. Daniel Abramowicz, Chief Technology Officer, Crown Holdings, Inc.

Brand managers know that enhancing the shelf appeal of a product goes a long way towards promoting brand loyalty and, ultimately, profitability.

Although data varies depending on markets and products, studies show that nearly 80 percent of buying decisions are made at the point of purchase.

Brands have typically leveraged dazzling graphics and unique packaging shapes and convenience features to grab attention at point of sale.

Recently, new technologies and innovations—particularly for metal packaging—have taken shelf appeal to a new level by creating packaging that truly engages the five senses. It marks a new milestone in engagement and interaction with a product and can rightly be considered the “sixth sense” of consumer packaging.

Crown_PackagingForTheSenses_InfographicCreating a sensory experience
The more consumers engage with a product, the more positive the impact will be for sales. New capabilities in visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory enhancements are helping to turn product packaging into a more memorable sensory experience. As a leading developer of packaging innovations, Crown researches new technologies and encourages new thinking about package design and enhancements to boost the profile of consumer products. Crown focuses on developing innovations that respond to consumer needs, which in turn helps companies build brands.

Seeing is believing
Creating visual enhancements to a package is arguably the fastest way to create impact in the retail environment as even from a distance it can raise a product’s profile. Advances in printing technology and surface finishes offer a spectacular new level of shelf appeal. Beverage cans for example have new high-resolution printing options that are tailored for cylindrical shapes. Special finishes such as gloss or matt applications can add movement to a package, while crackle or marble finishes convey an aged and authentic look. Pearlescent finishes provide depth and sophistication to products ranging from wine to aerosol cleaners. There are also light-sensitive finishes that glow in the dark, helping products literally shine in the darkness. Special thermochromatic inks have also been developed that change color on beverage cans to indicate when the beverage reaches an ideal temperature.

Holographic foil technology offers another visual enhancement by creating a three-dimensional image that changes position and color depending on the consumer’s gaze. Other technologies that stimulate visual interaction with a brand include shaping, embossing and debossing to help products “pop” on the shelf.

Recently, manufacturers have been able to use printed electronics and augmented reality for packaging. Printed electronics involves using traditional printing methods to create super-thin electrical devices on various materials ranging from transistors and resistors to integrated circuits, LEDs and photovoltaic cells. For example, an LED indicator might display the volume of product left in an aerosol spray can, or a special product promotion. Printed electronics opens up a world of intelligent packaging in which consumers can interact with products via mobile devices.  New mobile apps have been developed to provide shoppers with product information of package contents directly on their smartphone, enriching the consumer experience.

The sound of freshness
There is no mistaking the sound of a beverage can being opened, or of a vacuum closure “popping” to confirming product freshness. These sounds represent some of the most recognized sounds in the world and convey important messages to the consumer, including freshness, integrity and safety. Consumers react viscerally to the sound of a package, and it can impact their loyalty to a brand.

New technologies now enable acoustic enhancements to packaging, such as sound alarms and alerts that can enrich consumer interaction with a product. For example, pressure sensors and speakers can be incorporated into packaging to engineer sound effects that create a fun and interactive experience. Packages could also be engineered to emit different sounds when touched in different places, converting the package into a basic musical instrument.

A touch of class
The feel of a package is often a consumer’s first physical interaction with a product. It has been shown that a consumer is more likely to purchase a product after picking it up off the retail shelf, and importantly, this physical interaction can drive top-line growth for brand owners.  A range of coatings and finishes that blend inks and varnish add a tactile element to metal packaging. A “soft touch” finish, for example, renders a smooth and silky feel that is particularly inviting.

New shaping capabilities for steel and aluminum can turn metal packaging into true works of art that invite consumers to reach out and touch a product. Shaping can also give a product ergonomic enhancements that take convenience a step beyond the ordinary. For example, thin and flexible aluminum foil lids with peelable seams and easy-open ends that improve finger access under a tab enable consumers to access food products more readily.

Temperature fluctuations and vibrations with metal also offer tactile sensations for consumers. Metal by its nature cools faster than other packaging materials, and therefore consumers can feel the temperature of beverages by touching a can, conveying the freshness the product is poised to deliver. New technologies with metal packaging can warm products such as infant formula to let consumers know when the product is ready for consumption, or create vibration alerts.

The smell of success
Consumers desire and expect a food product to be fresh when opening, and nothing conveys freshness and quality better than an inviting aroma. For generations, metal packaging has offered an unbeatable guarantee of product freshness compared to other packaging formats. It creates a barrier against light, oxygen and water ingress to keep food products safe and fresh for a long time, longer than many other packaging formats.

The aromatic appeal of a product can be enhanced with new packaging innovations. For example, a special feature enables consumers to open the entire top of a beer can, which allows the full aroma and flavor of a craft brew to come through while drinking. As aroma can contribute up to 50% of a product’s flavor experience, this innovation actually improves the taste of the beer. Special scents and fragrant finishes also elevate the sensory experience consumers can have with a product.

Tasting the difference
The ultimate test of a food product is its taste. As with aromas, consumers crave the fresh taste of a food product when they open a package. The same protective properties that metal offers food for aromas holds true for taste. No other material keeps foods tasting fresher, for a longer period of time, than metal—all the while remaining shelf-stable and requiring no refrigeration.

Beverages cool faster in metal than other forms of packaging, allowing consumers to enjoy the crisp taste of their favorite chilled drink, especially in the summer. New technologies also offer freshness sensors to let consumers know when products are at their peak of tastiness.

Consumers worldwide demand a greater sense of personalization from products, and engaging consumers with new innovations at the point of purchase will impact sales in a positive direction. From the inherent properties of metal to new packaging innovations, metal packaging offers consumers a “sixth sense” of experiential engagement with products and offers the key to fostering brand loyalty.

About Crown Holdings, Inc.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, Crown Holdings, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of packaging products for consumer marketing companies around the world. Crown makes a wide range of metal packaging for food, beverage, household and personal care and industrial products and metal vacuum closures and caps. As of December 31, 2014, the company operated 149 plants located in 40 countries, employing 23,024 people. For more information, visit www.crowncork.com.