It was about one year ago that Budweiser made packaging news with its trademark bowtie-shaped beverage can.
“With Coca-Cola’s shape equities firmly in place, the next step was to apply these elements to an aluminum structure. Collaborating with Coca-Cola’s manufacturing partners, Kornick Lindsay developed a range of solutions applicable to the resultant proprietary manufacturing processes. The new can went on to garner the Food and Drug Packaging Magazine 1997 Package of the Year award.”
FIRM BUILDS COKE A CAN WITH CURVES
While artists have created sculptures out of crumpled aluminum cans, the medium has never inspired package designers. They’ve continued to churn out look-alike cylinders for everything from beer to tomato juice.
A Chicago package design firm is breaking the mold with a contoured Coca-Cola can based on the “pinched-waist” design of the classic Coke bottle. The new can is the latest in a series of collaborations between Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. and Kornick/Lindsay Inc., a 14-person design shop on the Near North Side.
The soft drink giant’s aim: tap the universally recognized shape to increase sales.
Last year, a contoured plastic Coke bottle designed by Kornick/Lindsay proved the selling power of the distinctive shape in markets saturated with look-alike cola containers. Coke credits the contoured bottle with boosting sales as much as 90% in some areas.
… The success of the contoured bottle won Kornick/Lindsay the even tougher job of designing a pinched-waist Coke can. As the first mass-produced can that departed from a standard cylinder, it required expensive changes in production equipment, Mr. Kornick says.
For Coke and others, the benefits of unique packaging justify the costs. Patented package designs can prevent lower-priced generic products from copying the look of brand-name goods. And distinctive containers plant enduring images in consumers’ minds.
Coke declines to disclose the planned U.S. introduction date for the contoured can, but Mr. Kornick says it is drawing raves in a German market test.
Firm Builds Coke a Can with Curves
Joseph B. Cahill, Crains, 1995
Like the Sucrets “Showcase” pack, the Coca-Cola “Contour can” garnered quite a bit of publicity. One unnamed executive went so far as to predict that, “The day will come when everyone in the world who drinks Coke out of a can will drink it out of a contour can.”
Now that the future is here and most Coke cans are still straight-wall and cylindrical, that prediction doesn’t seem so prescient. So what happened?
(“Contour can” postmortem after the fold…)
Appearance of new can? “We tried to capture the equity that exists in the contour bottle. That’s represented in the curvilinear shape. It’s represented in the pinch toward the bottom of the can. It’s represented in the defined horizontal graphic display panel, and it’s represented in the (vertical) fluting …
Contour can development time? “Literally years.”
Development/your role? “We were the designers on the team which developed the can. It was a team-oriented project, because building any type of proprietary package touches a lot of people within an organization. It’s not just marketing executives saying we want a graphics change. Changing a structure is driven by marketing, but it affects people in operations, manufacturing and distribution.”
Will cost of contour can approach straight-wall? “That’s certainly the goal … As you get into any type of innovation, you’re going to be on a learning curve. That is going to carry you through a growing knowledge base, which is going to garner efficiency on top of efficiency. You should be able to achieve a cost point with contour can which is similar if not better than current technology.”
Coke Debuts Contour Can
Designer Recounts Multi-Year Effort
Beverage Digest, 2/21/97
… and many were enthusiastic about the new packaging design …
When the Company test-marketed Coke in a red, 12-ounce contour can, consumers said they liked the way it looked and the way it felt. They even perceived the Coke inside tasted better!
Observed Coke spokesman Bob Bertini, “The can is fun to hold, and it’s not like anything else in the marketplace. It differentiates Coke from any straight-sided cans.”
The engineers said it couldn’t be done—you couldn’t shape a can in soft, easy-tear aluminum. Coke’s Roberto Goizueta said it would be done. Guess who won?
Two years after Coke bowed a steel contour can in Germany and after nearly four years (reportedly) of development, The Coca-Cola Company has introduced its aluminum contour can to the US. Or, rather, it has introduced its “curvy” can, as the company now sometimes refers to it.
The 12-ounce can, now being filled with Coke classic at the CCE plant in Cleveland, TN, is initially slated for sale in Terre Haute, IN—home of the 1915 glass original—and four Southwest markets.
Now it’s the can-tour. (Coca-Cola Co. tests consumer reaction to curved aluminum can)
Beverage World, March 15, 1997
Does the world really want a can that’s shaped like a bottle? Coca-Cola Co. thinks so. The Atlanta-based beverage giant, in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of its signature contoured bottle, is finally about to begin test marketing a contoured can in a handful of cities in the South and Midwest. In March 1996 it disclosed that it planned a curvy can. The new packaging is expected to be unveiled within the next several days.
If testing is successful, the contoured aluminum can would be a significant packaging innovation. Consumer companies are increasingly relying on proprietary packaging to make their products stand out. “To say the industry is closely watching the development of the first shaped can is an understatement,” says Paul Cobbledick, director of sales and marketing for Reynolds Metals Co.’s can division.
But the contoured cans face myriad hurdles. For one thing, if consumers are underwhelmed, the notion may die in test markets. Even if it proves popular, mass-producing an irregularly shaped can poses technical problems, as do shipping and stacking. Such problems explain why, despite many design changes on the surfaces of soft-drink cans, the shapes have pretty much stayed the same even as bottles have evolved.
Still, industry executives say that if Coke can pull this off, other soft-drink makers are likely to start experimenting with the sizes and shapes of their cans.
…But some are skeptical that the new Coke can will have much impact. “I find it hard to argue that this can is going to knock anybody’s socks off,” says Emanuel Goldman, a beverage analyst at Paine Webber, who has seen a steel version of the contoured can, which was tested in Germany.
Coca-Cola bottlers also wonder whether the aluminum cans will keep their shape when stacked one on top of the other. The cans were supposed to be test marketed in 1996, but the introduction was pushed back as Coca-Cola worked out production kinks, bottlers say.
The biggest issue is cost. Currently, bottlers say, they can easily switch from filling cans with Coke to filling them with Diet Coke or Sprite. Bottlers worry that a differently shaped can could mean stopping production lines, adjusting machines and then restarting them, adding to production costs. Meanwhile, bottlers might not be able to recover the higher costs any time soon because Coke may want the retail price of the contoured cans to match the price of regular cans.
Says Mr. Goldman, “If they don’t price it right, consumers will buy the regular can because you don’t drink the can.”
Nikhil Deogun, Coke to Test Curvy Can in South, Midwest
The Wall Street Journal, 02/06/1997
… and the detractors’ predictions that the “curvy can” would ultimately flat-line, turned out to be correct:
The company pulled the contoured, red 12-ounce can from four of five test markets as it tries to resolve problems and come up with a can that repeats the success of its curvy bottles that lit up sales four years ago.
Consumers liked the cans, but not enough to pay extra for it, company officials said. There also were problems fitting the cans into some vending machines.
“This is just a natural part of the testing (and) learning,” company spokeswoman Polly Howes said Tuesday. “We continue to work on it.”
The company had tested the cans for about a year in Terre Haute, Ind.; Tucson, Ariz.; Las Cruces, N.M.; and Brownsville. The cans are still available in El Paso as development continues.
One problem to work out is the cost of production. Mike Harris, sales manager at Coca-Cola Bottling in Tucson, said some consumers balked at paying the extra 10 percent to 12 percent it added to the cost of a Coke.
The contoured can was used only for Coca-Cola Classic in the test markets.
John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest, said he expects testing of curvy cans to continue because Coke’s contoured bottle has been so popular. He said production costs will eventually come down.
“Coke’s test was just that — a test. When and wherever we see the shaped can again is dependent upon an awful lot of variables.”
Coke pulls back curvy test cans
The Associated Press, 4/15/98