By Rick Lingle in Food Packaging on December 12, 2017

Our ‘bestselling’ articles of the year identify three CPG brands, Frito-Lay, Green Giant and Mondelez, one retailer, Costco, two trend features and an atypical BIB package that readers found to be the most compelling food and beverage content posted here in 2017.

If you’re an avid reader like me, you sometimes look to the bestseller lists to see what books are hot nationally and which of those may spark interest for you, too.

That’s what we have in mind with our annual compilation of the best-read articles published at over the past year. It’s our data-driven way to share with you the content that’s must-read with your peers in food and beverage packaging and likely deserving of your attention, too.

We’ve condensed our comprehensive list to Packaging Digest’s 7 Bestsellers that achieved a particular high-benchmark status making them worthy of special recognition.

We’ll kick things off with a fascinating piece that teams up football, snacks and consumer-engaging smart packaging from Frito-Lay equipped with LED lights and sensors.

Sounds like a heady proposition, but that’s what the snacks brand delivered when it distributed Tostitos bags with built-in alcohol sensors at select Super Bowl LI events and parties on the day of the big game. It’s worth noting that the championship football game is typically one of the worst days of the year for impaired driving. The Party Safe bag permitted football fans who have imbibed to summon an Uber ride with the tap of a smartphone, thanks to near-field communication (NFC) technology also incorporated into the bag. Frito-Lay conducted the promotion with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Albeit a limited promotion, the application clearly demonstrates the power of packaging to directly increase consumer safety. I’d say the brand scored a marketing touchdown and may even have saved a life or two, that’s an MVP performance by any measure.

#6 Highly popular all-in-one printer-copier-scanners conveniently bundle those crucial functions into a single machine. What does that have to do with food packaging?

Well, what if you could have an all-in-one package that combines a bowl, carton and tray in a single flexible packaging format? And better yet, what if it could be run on form/fill/seal machinery?

Brand owner B&G Foods and vendor Sonoco Flexible Packaging co-developed the breakthrough PrimaPak bowl/bag/carton/tray packaging for the launch of an equally unique product, Green Giant Veggie Spirals.

While this was not the first PrimaPak that’s been commercialized, the previous launch early in 2017 was a much more straightforward version for Perfetti Mentos flavored mints. Green Giant’s requirements for the first frozen food using the format and in a microwavable structure were a far more stringent and challenging one, and definitely an inventive new twist in the category.

Jordan Greenberg, vp of Green Giant, and Roman Forowycz, CMO of supplier Sonoco Elk Grove (formerly Clear Lam Packaging, Inc.), answered all of Packaging Digest’s many questions about the innovative packaging that you can read here.

#5 While the name doesn’t quite pack the impact of our first two brands, Water Event has a lofty goal: it wants water to take its place among wine, tea and other beverages sold in bag-in-box (BIB) packaging.

The Carrollton, TX, company distributes AquaViBox water in 10-, 15- and 20-liter single-use packages that comprise a corrugated outer box with an ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) bag. The water tap, branded Vitop, is supplied and converted along with the rest of the bag components by Smurfit Kappa. In addition to converting the package, Smurfit Kappa contributed a significant advance to the product’s viability that separates it from the rest of the BIB pack: an adapter that allows AquaViBox to be used in almost all water coolers. The adapter was ready for the market in 2015, and Water Event launched AquaViBox in September 2016, the first commercial launch of bag-in-box water in the United States, according to Clark.

4. This post is really the story of a wildly successful article that begat another wildly successful story. That first story appears higher atop our list, but to get there we first present its more recent “offspring.”

It came about when I learned that the first article’s contact spun-off a standalone design website devoted to food and beverage packaging, Shelf. It served as a re-entry point for us to again tap principal Justin Johnson’s expertise, only this time rather than the initial case study he identifies emerging design drivers from a big-picture perspective. Johnson advises brands to tell their product’s story simply and immediately through the packaging design to connect with today’s mobile-savvy consumer.

He also shared this clever analogy: “Shopping in a supermarket is like speed dating, it’s quick and shallow with lots of choices, but once you find someone to ask out for dinner you can have deeper, more meaningful conversations and really strengthen that bond/relationship. Getting the product at home is more like going straight to the one-on-one relationship.”

He also answers the burning question: “What’s the biggest challenge in the food & beverage market?” and two other questions we’d posed, all of which you can read for yourself in the 3 sizzling design trends in food and beverage packaging

#3. We struck brand-driven gold again with this trends piece that turned loose the creatively insightful perspective of Gil Horsky, global innovation head from chocolate, biscuit, candy and gum brands powerhouse Mondelēz Intl.  who identifies four key subtrends in the snacks market:

1. Mission Nutrition: From the addition of functional ingredients to catering for health conditions and intolerances, snack companies must meet consumers’ wellness agenda.

2. Pure Pleasure: From chocolate inhalers to lollipop cakes, clever producers are turning “snacks” into “experiences” that enliven and enrich.

3. Social Snacks: Consumers don’t want to snack alone. Sharing and personalization can turn snacking into a social activity.

4. Instant Everywhere: Buy-on-the-go lifestyles demand new retail and vending formats that make snack buying instant, affordable and fun.

C’mon, chocolate that you breathe in? And chewable coffee cubes, really? Yes, really; read about these and more in 4 snacking trends and their packaging implications

At the top of our bestseller list we reach the lofty “evergreen” portion of our coverage, a term we use for older articles that have amazing stamina in continuing to draw reader interest many months after they have been published. Such is the case for the Top 2 most-read articles of 2017, starting with the runner-up that resonated as much with readers this past year as it did when posted in May 2016.

It’s a trends piece, but obviously one whose focus on only the fast-moving trends in food and beverages struck a nerve with the audience for packaging’s largest market segment. One of those trends is Personalization. Mintel’s global packaging director David Luttenberger explains that “there’s a parallel path between brands striving to engage customers on a more personal level and consumers’ expectations for packaging to deliver that experience.”  Technological advancements help drive the surge of personalization.

The second trend identified as for Cleaner and clearer labeling, wherein consumers are demanding that the labeling on their food and drinks packaging is clear and concise. When trying to choose which products to buy, consumers don’t want packaging to be overloaded with messages; they want the most important information—such as ingredients and nutritional value, function and safety—to be communicated to them in ways that are visibly clear and easy to understand so that they can make informed purchasing without confusion. More information on these and two more trends can be found in 4 fast-moving trends in food and beverage packaging.

And now we present the #1 “bestselling” article of 2017 as measured by readership numbers, another of Packaging Digest’s evergreen features, this one that continues to collect solid interest monthly since it was posted in April 2016. It was our interview with Justin Johnson, principal of More Branding, a design agency, in a feature  article that centered on the firm’s design work for Delici, a high-end dessert in premium packaging sold exclusively at Costco. The chilled product is a beautifully layered and luxuriously presented single-serve dessert glass. Johnson said the visual beauty of the dessert flavors drove the engineering and design of the package.

Upscale meant that the design team atypically chose heavyweight glass cups. “Those have been a huge factor in the success of this product,” Johnson said. “Real glass gives the product a high-end feel, they are reusable and it gives the package an unexpected weightiness.”

Other packaging components include a plastic lid that seals each cup, a 6-pack thermoformed plastic tray and a glossy, “perfect tolerance/tension-tight product sleeve with heavy varnish.”

The result was a deftly-executed packaging design that delivered the goods for Costco and its customers told through an article that delivered the editorial goods to broad-based and attentive audience. The entire success story is served up in Decadent Delici dessert packaging designed for Costco.

Because you’ve read this far, we offer you a special preview teaser of a coming attraction: Johnson has created another upscale package with a decidely unique format that we’ll be presenting in early 2018.

Lastly, we offer a toast of thanks to all the brands, companies and managers in 2017 who gave up their time and information to work with us in a way that cumulatively benefits the packaging community. We also look forward to another year of exciting packaging developments, so cheers to all for a prosperous and innovative 2018!