iCone adds twist to carton packaging

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Coffee

The 'iCone' is the big new idea in carton packaging from Elopak,
intended to fend off competition from plastics and provide a new
vehicle for premium soft drinks.

Elopak's iCone, which has now reached the pilot stage after three-and-a-half years in development, moves from the rounded bottom of a paper cup to an asymmetrical top and more recognisable opening of a juice carton.

The new design shows how carton makers have had to become more imaginative to beat back the onslaught of PET, and help premium products stand out on the shop shelf.

"We've hit the bullseye with this one,"​ said Arne Mohn, director of special projects at Elopak and the brains behind the iCone. "It's got a front, it's got a backside, it's got personality."

Mohn, who spoke to DairyReporter.com​ at last week's Anuga FoodTec expo, developed the idea for the iCone by asking his local McDonald's for a few spare paper cups and then taking home to begin some improvised origami.

He said Elopak were looking for new ideas to hold off competition from PET bottles and plastic packaging in liquid product and beverage sectors.

"Ten years ago cartons dominated, but plastic has grown. With plastic you can go to manufacturers and shape it any way you want, but new carton packaging takes three-four-five years to develop."

Rapidly rising costs for plastic over the last year have not dented its dominance in packaging, added Mohn.

Carton packaging is still widely used in juice and dairy drinks, however, and Elopak believes the iCone can take this trend forward. The group said consumer feedback had been very positive, with 89 per cent and 78 per cent of consumers in France and Britain respectively calling the iCone "unique and different"​.

Mohn said the iCone was a new opportunity for manufacturers to emphasise their product as premium, as well as ensure the images they use on packaging really stand out.

"We don't want to talk too much about cost-savings. This should be something where the customer says: 'this is where I get my premium price'. Brands have to find some way of justifying the extra cost of their products"

The temptation to sign a lucrative private label deal with a retailer is likely to be big, but Mohn said he would rather not see the iCone packaging a basic, private label drink.

Branded players, or even higher end private label lines like Tesco Finest, would be more welcome.

The iCone comes in a range of sizes and Elopak plans to have its corresponding, compact filling machine commercially available by early next year. Europe and the US will be the initial target markets.

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