In 1994, Sucrets came out with a new version of their container for sore throat lozenges. Where, for the previous 60 some odd years, the brand had used a tin box, the company then came out with a new polypropylene box with a clear, round (porthole style) window in the lower right corner.
This box was designed and patented by Kornick Lindsay.
As with Laura Handler’s bottle for Perry Ellis, the window is flush with the surrounding opaque surface—the porthole giving a nice, luxury-liner touch to a fast-moving-consumer-good.
The roll-out was carefully orchestrated, by Ketchum Public Relations, with contests and research into the different ways that consumers had reused their tin Sucrets containers in the past.
Announcement of the new package was framed as a “Sucrets Early Retirement Package” party for the old, tin package.
The company estimates that between a fifth and a third of the boxes manufactured since 1932 were kept for other uses after the lozenges were consumed during at least two billion bouts with sore throats.
Uses for the tins were as varied as the customers who bought them.
Some of the British crown jewels were kept in the tins while Queen Elizabeth II’s crown was being reset during the 1950s, the company said.
In letters to the manufacturer, Vietnam veterans praised its airtightness in keeping photos of wives and girlfriends — as well as cigarettes and matches — dry during the monsoon season.
“But it’s had a lot of other uses,” Lindsay said. “It’s been used often as a coffin for goldfish and pet turtles.”
During the tin’s 60th anniversary two years ago, SmithKline asked consumers to list their post-sore throat uses for the boxes.
The favorite: a storage place for sewing items. Other favorite items put aside included office supplies such as paper clips and staples, hair accessories, small pieces of hardware, coins, jewelry — and, of course, other medicines such as antacids.
Reading over all the press releases and publicity that their change in packaging received at the time, it’s surprising not be able to find more photos online of the “new” 1994 packaging being announced.
So what happened?
(Asked and answered, after the fold…)
Only a few trade journals really focused on the benefits and technical features of the new packaging.
PP ‘tin’ is clear win for Sucrets. (new polypropylene container for Sucrets)
SmithKline Beecham invests $1.3 million in packaging machinery and materials for updating the image of Sucrets via a new PP ‘ShowCase’ container for blister-packed lozenges. Two-step process spin-welds a clarified PP window into the one-piece injection-molded opaque white container to permit viewing of a single lozenge within an inner blister-pack.
A new injection-molded polypropylene container with a living hinge and a spin-welded clear window is replacing Sucrets’ 62-year-old tin box…
“Our primary reason for the change to plastic,” explains associate brand manager Frank Dzvonik, “is to modernize and update Sucrets’ image. We’re sensitive to consumer perception. While the tin has a strong heritage and people have grown up using it, it’s given us an older type of image. The Sucrets ShowCase positions the product right where we want. It has an innovative window that we feel is very unique. The package graphics are clean and draw attention to the window. And it’s easy for consumers to find the brand on the shelf.”
The new white container is decorated with front and back panel pressure-sensitive labels, and a security label on an opening tab that helps prevent the hinged container from opening before purchase.
Packaging Digest, 1994
After this fall, the flip-top trademark tins supplied by J.L. Clark Co. will no longer be available. Instead, the lozenges will come in a new updated, plastic package also provided by J.L. Clark. Similar to the tins, the new polypropylene box has the added benefit of a small, round window so consumers can immediately identify the flavor of the lozenges. The package is the same height and width as the tin, but is about one-quarter-inch deeper and will contain 18 blister-packed lozenges.
The new packaging can still be used as a “catch all” container, the company says. And the clarified-polypropylene window also lets consumers who reuse the box see what is stored in it.
Packaging Magazine, 1994
“The easy-open, low profile design incorporates a clear window so consumers can view the product inside.”
Good Packaging, 1995
New Sucrets Box After producing nearly 450 million metal tins for Sucrets. J. L. Clark recently began manufacturing an innovative plastic container for the famous lozenges manufactured by SmithKline Beecham PLC. The new container is one-piece and utilizes a proprietary living hinge. The easy-open, low profile design incorporates a clear window so consumers can view the product inside.
Happi (Household and Personal Product Industry) Magazine, 1994
Clearly a lot of effort and expense went into the roll-out…
A historic search of Sucrets advertising revealed that Charles Kimbrough, news anchor Jim Dial on the popular CBs sitcom Murphy Brown, had appeared in a Sucrets commercial in 1977. Ketchum recommended that Kimbrough be the spokesman for the package change story because of his previous association with the brand and because Jim Dial’s image was a good fit with the Sucrets brand character: steadfast, trustworthy, conservative, and likable.
Because a packaging change is not hard-core news, a highly visible event was needed to attract media attention. Since the tin was sixty-two, the big idea was to take advantage of its early-retirement age and build a program around retirement. This theme flowed naturally into a retirement celebration and a historical review of the tin’s life. The challenge was to create a newsworthy program that would retire the tin but not the brand and introduce the new packaging in style.
To capture national media attention, Ketchum staged a retirement party/news conference at the Rainbow Room of New York’s Rockefeller Center. The invitation consisted of a tin of Sucrets reclining in a miniature wooden rocking chair. [see also: anthropomorphic packaging] When the box was opened, a voice chip was triggered to deliver a personalized message. The event featured Charles Kimbrough and Dr. Ramunas Kontratas, a curator of the Smithsonian, who accepted the tin into the National Museum of American History.
SmithKline Beecham applied for trademarks covering a variety of names for the new container—Freshcase, Showcase, Lozenge-Locker (all now abandoned). They also sought trademark protection for Kornick Lindsay’s package design (below).
Why is this container not for sale on eBay?
According to the Sucrets website: nostalgia.
In 1994, the tin container was replaced by plastic, in part to allow customers to view the lozenges through the small window in the package.
But nostalgia for the old tin remained. And now, the lozenge that has provided serious sore throat relief for more than 75 years is back in the tin!
(This concludes “porthole packaging week.”)