Private Brand manufacturer’s rarely lead their industries with packaging innovations. Chicago-based Koch Foods is doing precisely that with a new interactive “spin” packaging for Aldi supermarkets. A first among food marketers, the unique package is being used to introduce a new line of frozen chicken breast chunks under Aldi’s Kirkwood brand. In recent weeks, four Kirkwood recipes from Koch-Asian Style Zyng, Buffalo (medium and spicy) and Garlic Parmesan-have arrived in freezer cases at more than 1,100 Aldi outlets nationwide.
“Consumers want information and this is a convenient as well as intriguing, inventive way to provide it,” states Paul Beckwith, vp, retail sales and marketing for Koch Foods.
The new Koch Foods package incorporates an OPP (oriented polypropylene) label from MPI Label Systems that is placed over a specially designed round-shaped paperboard Huhtamaki Ultrakan container. Inside are breaded chicken breast chunks and a bag with ingredients for each variety’s special enrobing sauce. The label carries product photos plus nutrition facts, bar codes and other standard required product data, along with a clear section that reveals additional information on the Huhtamaki-printed base container when consumers “spin” the outer label.
The resulting combination gives Aldi approximately 75 percent more label surface for communicating with shoppers. Currently, the “peek-a-boo” panels convey recipe suggestions, sauce-and-serve preparation instructions and cross-sell a variety of other Kirkwood brand products.
Innovative, interactive pack multiplies retailing opportunities
Koch Foods also has an exclusivity arrangement with Stephen Key’s Spinformation Co. Even though the “spin label” package concept is new to the food market, the Spinformation Co’s package designs have been previously used by several beverage companies and over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceutical products. One such OTC product, in fact, was voted Best New Product for 2010 by consumers Canada, and also earned a 2011 Edison Best New Product Awards Gold Award in its category.
“Now we’re bringing an innovation into a category that basically hasn’t changed in 15 years,” asserts David Mehlman, Koch Foods director of retail marketing. “Rather than putting chicken in traditional zippered, gusseted bags or little boxes, our new canister with spin label is a fun way to provide packaging with some personality, while giving our retailers a lot of additional, tangible benefits.
“For one, real estate on packaging is at a premium, especially in a category like ours where there are so many regulatory requirements. Now we can provide the required nutritional and other data plus product photos on the outer spin label-and also have room to give shoppers serving suggestions, illustrated preparation instructions and new product ideas on the base container ‘peek-a-boo’ panels. It’s a chance to connect in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have.
“Every marketer loves a package that interacts with consumers, especially at point of purchase. It’s also easy to change this panel information on a quarterly basis or even more frequently for seasonal promotions, couponing, co-op marketing-even to support charities or community programs. The options are almost endless.”
In addition to the extra space for information, Mehlman says the package offers two major advantages from a marketing and retailing standpoint.
“First, it lets you maximize the number of facings you have in a traditional grocery store.” Noting that the new Kirkwood brand products are currently found in freezer bunkers at Aldi, Mehlman indicates the package merchandises really well in an upright freezer. “On a 30-inch shelf, you’re able to get significantly more facings, a big factor in a category with three or four brands versus competitors in gusset bags. In terms of retail space management, it’s a major plus.
“This also helps highlight our new product offerings as shoppers walk the aisles. People in grocery stores typically focus on getting in and out quickly with the usual items on their list. The new package gives our products a way to stand out from the rest, and to open shoppers’ eyes and minds to trialing something else.”
Tailored, tested, affordable
Adapting the “spin” concept for frozen foods definitely was a team effort—internally at Koch Foods as well as among Koch, Aldi and Koch’s supplier-partners: Huhtamaki, labeling equipment manufacturer Accraply Trine, and OPP spin-label maker, MPI Label Systems.
“Huhtamaki really bent over backwards to develop this innovative package and help us pilot this program,” asserts Ron Leskiw, who heads Koch’s product development/sales for retail. Judy Rogers, Huhtamaki new business development manager, reports that Huhtamaki made proprietary modifications to its paperboard container sidewalls to make the spin label work properly. Huhtamaki also worked closely with Accraply Trine on the label application, to ensure proper tightness around the carton as well as direction for the spin.
Likewise, Huhtamaki worked in close collaboration with MPI so that the label would spin freely on the container. MPI incorporated proprietary developments into the label material to avoid wrinkling and provides for use of special inks in order achieve opacity over most of its area, except for the clear “peek-a-boo” window that allows consumers to view selected sections printed on the base container.
The container is formed in-house by Koch Foods using a Huhtamaki Systems FM-1400 forming machine. Preprinted and die-cut package sidewalls from Huhtamaki are shipped flat, a method that delivers 10 times as much packaging per truckload compared to “shipping air” in preformed containers. This dramatically reduces transportation costs, which will give support to the growing concerns of rising fuel prices, as well as on-site warehousing requirements, all contributing to making a much smaller carbon footprint.
On-demand, in-plant package forming also gives Koch Foods flexibility to easily change packaging virtually on-the-fly for new Kirkwood recipes, or to switch “peek-a-boo” panel sections for seasonal or other promotions.
Leskiw also indicated the Huhtamaki package and in-plant system is a key contributor to the best news of all. “The entire package-container and spin label-costs no more than traditional plastic bags.”
Container boosts home consumption, re-purchase
While noting that this type of packaging is excellent for shelf-stable as well as frozen food products, Mehlman and Leskiw mention still more plusses provided by the Huhtamaki container for their chicken breast chunks.
Compared with traditional flexible packaging, Leskiw says it provides far more taste-preserving protection. “A lot of the flavor in chicken products like this comes from the breading, which can be knocked off when bags are dropped into store bunkers and shopping carts or jostled in freezers at home. Our carton helps prevent this.”
Adds Mehlman: “Even though gusset bags are recloseable, they get wadded up and shoved into the back corner of a home freezer.” This doesn’t happen with the Huhtamaki container. It’s sized to fit into the door shelf in most upright freezers.
Asserts Leskiw, “Rather than out-of-sight, out-of-mind, this keeps our product in front of consumers, providing potential for more-frequent usage and, ultimately, increased product ‘turn’ in stores.” Such prominent home-freezer placement adds opportunities to view “spinformation” panels, too, promoting related products and meal suggestions. All of which stands to boost return-store traffic and even more purchases.
It’s no wonder that the outlook is upbeat at Koch Foods. From a one-room operation with 13 employees in 1985, the company has grown to become one of only five vertically integrated major poultry processors in the U.S. As Mehlman puts it, “We’re bringing a real eye-opener to the marketplace, showing customers the kind of new ideas and creative thinking that they usually don’t see, to help generate interest and sales for private label products. Retailers recognize the value in this.”
The Aldi rollout is just the beginning. Beckwith, Mehlman and Leskiw all indicate a high degree of interest among medium-sized as well as large customers who have seen their spin-label container package, and that further usage is “in advanced planning stages.”