Packaging That Pays
How consumer-product companies are revamping their containers to jump-start sales.
By Susanna Hamner

(Business 2.0) – THOUGH IT'S THEIR FIRST CHANCE TO MAKE A good impression, for many companies package design has often been an afterthought. Designers were called in at the last minute, and cost was the deciding factor. But with more than 30,000 new products expected to hit store shelves this year, creating an innovative exterior has become a crucial way to boost the bottom line. "Revenues in the food and cosmetics markets don't really grow much, so companies have to raise prices to boost them. And they do that through packaging," says Ghansham Panjabi, packaging analyst with Wachovia Securities. Certainly, there are risks: Years of development might end in poor reception; a new design could cause confusion and erode brand awareness. But if packaging is done right, the rewards can be huge. Even a clearer label or a new container shape can lead to double-digit sales growth. Here are six products that have outdesigned the competition.

1 Chewy Chips Ahoy bag

GOAL: Improve freshness and convenience BACKSTORY: After months of in-home research, Kraft discovered that its customers often transferred Chips Ahoy cookies to jars for easy access and to avoid staleness. The company solved both problems by creating a patented resealable opening on the top of the bag. BOTTOM LINE: Since launching in July 2005, it's raked in more than $44 million in sales, according to research firm IRI, nearly doubling sales of the older packaging.

2 Kleenex Tissues oval box

GOAL: Make a common household product unique BACKSTORY: Americans spend more on home decor during the holidays than at any other time, so last season Kimberly-Clark introduced an oval-shaped Kleenex box that was a clear departure from its usual rectangular shapes. The goal was to position the product as a must-have accessory rather than a functional item. BOTTOM LINE: It was the company's best-selling holiday line in history, with sales twice those of the 2004 season. Kimberly-Clark followed it with seasonal designs for springtime.

3 Crest Vivid White toothpaste package

GOAL: Stand out on store shelves BACKSTORY: When Procter & Gamble's Crest set out to develop a premium whitening product in 2003, designers avoided creating yet another horizontal, graphics-heavy toothpaste box. Instead, they turned to the beauty aisle for inspiration. "We drew upon the vertical packaging and the deep metallic blue used to convey 'premium,'" says design manager Greg Zimmer. BOTTOM LINE: Crest toothpaste sales rose by 5 percent in 2005, while competitor Colgate's sales fell 6 percent, according to IRI.

4 Mazola Pure bottle

GOAL: Communicate a brand identity BACKSTORY: Last August, Mazola shook up the 47-year-old pan-spray market with the debut of its alcohol-free oil, which aimed to profit from the growing trend in organic cooking. But the company knew that shoppers wouldn't discover the health-conscious brand if it encased the product in another steel cylinder. After considering hair spray and deodorant bottles, Mazola's designers settled on a curvy plastic container with an eye-catching iridescent finish. BOTTOM LINE: The item overtook established brands to become the No. 2 spray.

5 Heinz Ketchup upside-down bottle

GOAL: Increase functionality BACKSTORY: Heinz revolutionized the 170-year-old industry in 2002 when it introduced its inverted bottle (consumers had complained for years about how hard it was to squeeze out that last bit of ketchup). The Pittsburgh-based company spent three years designing the convenient container, which is equipped with a vacuum cap that stops irritating crustiness from forming around the lid. "Companies make a lot of money by making things less annoying," Panjabi says. BOTTOM LINE: A year after the bottle's debut, Heinz ketchup sales rose 6 percent, while the overall ketchup industry increased only 2 percent.

6 Domino Sugar 4-pound canister

GOAL: Create a more user-friendly package BACKSTORY: To boost flat sales, Domino replaced sugar's ubiquitous paper packaging. The easy-to-store plastic canister enables the Yonkers, N.Y., company to charge a premium for a package that actually contains less sugar. BOTTOM LINE: The canister has become one of Domino's best-selling retail items.

Susanna Hamner ( is a writer-reporter at Business 2.0.