Cool New Products

On packaging and quacking

ATLANTA -- Once upon a time, I was an editor with a packaging trade publication. We wrote about everything from a package’s design to the machines that would fill them, create them, mold them or distribute them. So when I walked into the Cool New Products room at The NACS Show in Atlanta, I was struck by two things: the importance of packaging innovation in new-product rollouts and, well, we'll get to the other one in a moment.

It’s safe to say I had a déjà-vu moment from my previous career when hit by all the chill-activated cans, dosing bottles and resealable cans for ready-to-drink beverages. Suppliers are focusing just as much on the vessel as what’s inside of it, anything to enhance the customer experience.

You can now buy a can of Coke and see when it’s cold and ready to drink: ice cubes appear when the can hits 46 degrees. The 16-ounce aluminum can is printed with special thermochromatic ink that reacts to temperature by changing color.

If you want something stronger, a company called Independent Distillers USA has a product called Big Shots—four individually packaged shots in flavors such as Kamikaze and Margarita.

After the shots, you might need a breath freshener. In that case, pick up a cute little bottle of Scope To Go, a portable, pocket-sized package of mouthwash with a bend, snap and twist-off cap feature.

And it wasn’t just about function; aesthetics also played into the packaging innovations found in the Cool New Products room. Everfresh’s new Premier Varietals line of premium 100% apple juices featured colorful, slender glass bottles that emphasize the natural ingredients within. The tobacco category saw a number of products packaged in slick tin cases, and Neuro brought a pop to the display with its artistic bottles of vitamin-enhanced drinks.

Beyond the package, it was apparent from the product mix that consumer tastes are becoming more and more sophisticated—or at the very least more daring.  From Cheddar Jalapeno or Wasabi varieties of the new Chex Chips from General Mills to dill pickle popcorn from Van Holten and Tabasco-flavored chocolate bars, it’s clear that adventurous customers will have a lot to choose from in the snack aisle.

There was one trend that likely did not start in an R&D lab or a focus group, but rather stemmed from sheer consumer buzz: the infiltration of “Duck Dynasty.” The reality show has jumped the TV screen and entered the licensing market in a major way. Honestly, I had to call a friend and ask her what it was all about. Given the amount of products featuring “Duck Dynasty” branding and characters--hats, DVDs, lighters and countless other show-related swag--it’s apparently must-see TV.

From what I can tell, it’s only a matter of time before the Duck Dynasty fellas open their own c-store. I can see it now: Ducky Mart—Quick and Quack. They’d certainly have no shortage of cool new products to stock it with. Doritos-flavored duck calls? Hey, whatever sells.

See this year's NACS Cool New Products list