April 2, 2009
by Yoko Asada
When I packed up my things and moved some 10,600 kilometers from Osaka, Japan, to my new home in Toronto, I had little clue as to how different things would be in my new land. Those first few steps in a new country can sure be doozies, and trying to adjust to the new sights and sounds can be quite the adventure. Even shopping becomes a voyage of discovery in its own right, with each package telling volumes about the local consumer culture, making me grateful for an opportunity to comment on Canadian packaging trends through newcomer-tainted lenses.
The Japanese have a well-earned reputation as keen world travelers, and a good part of the credit for enabling them to be such good troopers ought to go to the many dynamite energy-boosting drinks available out there in the global markets—providing a perfect anti-jetlag tonic after a long journey. So I was somewhat surprised to find out how relatively little shelf-space these adrenaline boosters get at Canadian grocery outlets, at least compared to many other places overseas. In fact, it took me a while of searching through the aisles before I finally stumbled onto the flashy little number called Jolt Endurance Shot—manufactured by the Rochester, N.Y.-based Wet Planet Beverages. The 60-ml shot-sized bottle is a colorful departure from the boring old brown bottles retailing back home, looking more like medicinal vials. The shrinksleeved mini-bottle cleverly incorporates a tamper-evident safety seal into the design, while using all the available space to display plenty of dosage and health information in a way that compliments the eye-catching, gray-and-puple logo. Meanwhile, the beverage’s big-brother—a generous-sized 695-ml can of Jolt Power Cola—practically screams “energy” with a bold shape resembling a big red-and-black battery, all ready to keep you going and going and going. As a perfect finishing graphic touch, the top of the lid boasts an authentic-looking positive charge—a deft extension of the eye-catching logo emblazoned on the side of the can. With its size and packaging appeal, the Jolt Power Cola would have a good shot at being the Godzilla of energy drinks back in Japan.
With Japan being on the other side of the world, it was only fitting that some of the packaging ideas I’ve come across in Canada so far have turned my world upside down in some ways. One such experience involved an introduction to the Miracle Whip All-Out Squeeze! mayonnaise bottle from Kraft Canada Inc. I certainly hope the new design lives up to its claims, having had my share of messy experiences when it comes to condiments, which do not always naturally lend themselves to the upside-down packaging mindset. Time will tell how well the 532-ml PET Miracle Whip container incorporates gravity to enable me to squeeze out those last few squirts of the product in the end, but it’s something I intend to keep a close watch on. From the packaging practicality angle, the Tokyo-based Kewpie Inc.’s brand of mayonnaise—a welcome find at my local Asian-food market—is all about function over flash. While the plain, label-less squeeze bottle—remaining virtually unchanged since I was a kid—obviously lacks the color and vibrancy of the Miracle Whip package, the thin plastic is far more malleable than its more rigid North American counterparts, allowing the gooey innards to be squeezed out like you would with a tube of toothpaste. In the end, there’s no frustration of using a chopstick to get at those stubborn, entrapped pockets of product refusing to come out.