This emerging trend shouldn’t be a surprise. Given the growth and strength of store brands, sharp retailers are anticipating customer demand and shelving new products manufactured to their own specs.

Now, it seems they’re logically progressing to the next phase: packaging. As a core marketing initiative, packaging enables retailers to further differentiate their brands from the national brands---just as manufacturers do from each other.

What’s cool is that packaging isn’t only a marketing tool. It can also drive corporate initiatives as well. A recent article in Greener Package titled “Safeway brings a custom package shape to private label—with cost savings” proves the point.

Always a ground-breaker, California grocer Safeway Foods has debuted a new 48 oz. package structure for its signature ice cream brands. The new poly-coated paperboard containers reduce transportation, inventory, and warehouse costs because of their slimmer, tapered design. Upshot: It’s cheaper to ship Safeway’s ice cream brands to its distribution centers and stores.

Once there, quality graphics and simple brand communication sell the product to customers very nicely. Sharp, well-executed visuals appeal to the consumer, featuring each ice cream flavor in a delectable manner. Who could resist?

The new package structure is very versatile and allows Safeway “... to respond to marketplace conditions with ease, speed, and relatively little expense," according to vice president of Dairy Manufacturing, Ed Olivero.

Better yet: The packaging is litho-printed, die-cut, and shipped flat to Safeway, dramatically cutting in-bound transportation costs by almost 90%. Then packages are easily formed at Safeway’s own facility, with the new containers going directly to the filling lines. Wow! While simple and direct in execution, it took significant engineering work to accomplish this level of efficiency and cost savings.

In a business where profits are pennies, does this matter? Blueprint for the future? You bet. Just one thing: The future is now. You don’t have to be a designer to appreciate great packaging; consumers do, too.

  • Which product(s) did you initially buy and get hooked on because you loved the packaging?

  • Do unusual package structures, visuals, or brand communication attract you first?

  • Which consumer product company does the best job with its packaging and why?

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Are Retailers Outdesigning Manufacturers With "Buy Me" Packaging?

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image of Ted Mininni

Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni