October 27, 2008
by Paul Pethick
Change in the world of consumer goods packaging can in many ways be likened to mountain-climbing. Slowly, product-by-product, things transform, adjust and progress until you take a look back and find yourself astounded by how far you have come. So returning to Canada after four years of living abroad was an eye-opener insofar as how much mainstream product packaging can change in four years with new forms, functionalities, and other hallmarks of packaging evolution.
While it would be a stretch to say I missed the monopolistic clutches on alcohol distribution in Ontario perpetuated by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the Crown Corporation’s explicit encouragement of environmentally-savvy packaging—as played out in its Enviro Chic promotion—certainly has had the effect of prompting numerous winemakers to rethink their packaging, as evidenced by the multitude of Tetra Pak cartons residing on the shelves. And for those consumers who find the notion of wine-in-a-box a heresy beyond redemption, companies like the Niagara Falls, Ont.-based vintner Sawmill Creek Wines still offer consumers a good go at reducing their carbon footprint with products such as the Weekend Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon—presented in a darkly-tinted PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle. A perfect addition to a picnic table at a cottage or a campsite under the starry skies, the lightweight container does a nice job of lessening the dead weight carried by campers to their campsites—without the extra worrying about breakage and leaking.
Sticking with wine for a moment, French winemaker Mommessin—distributed here by Boisset Canada—certainly picks up generous style points in this corner for the packaging alterations made to its Beaujolais Grand Reserve Red offering. The slender aluminum container literally turns chic into chick with a playful, coquettish label that quickly made my wife a fan of the product and the package, but what really impressed me was the use of the innovative, temperature-sensitive ‘cool-dot’ technology that advises consumers when the wine is chilled enough to drink by changing from white to pale-blue when refrigerated. Gimmicky, perhaps, but nevertheless a well-suited accessory to complement the breezy packaging excellence.
As for other outlets for creative change, who could have expected the supermarkets’ fresh meat-and-poultry aisles to become such stalwart showcases of packaging innovation that bear no resemblance to the old storage racks housing the interminably boring and uniform assortment of white polystyrene trays? These days, every trip to the fresh-meat aisle can be rewarded with a bright packaging gem like the 454-gram pack of Red Grill Angus ground beef from The Great Atlantic & Pacific Company of Canada, where the premium-quality mean is nestled in a well-formed, translucent polypropylene tray—made by Cryovac—heat-sealed with a taut layer of transparent plastic film, and topped off with a large-sized label offering helpful cooking suggestions, instructions, and a catchy red-on-black logo with tickling flames bringing out the true carnivore in all of us!