This July, Mars Food Australia is rolling out its new Masterfoods Herbs & Spices packaging, sporting a new closure system by Cormack Packaging, and produced on a revamped, automated packaging line at its Wyong, NSW manufacturing plant.
The packaging overhaul – which marks the biggest process improvement project made on this packaging line in its 25-year history – demanded capital investment of more than $3 million, including new labelling, capping and foreign object detection equipment.
In addition to the capital spend, Mars made a sizeable resource investment into the sourcing and installation of the new equipment, which was complex during the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mark Harry, R&D Lead at Mars Food Australia, told PKN access to technological support for installation of some equipment had to be done virtually.
“The expertise for some of the equipment, which required virtual installation and testing, is limited to only a handful of people in different time zones. The challenges of Covid-19 required greater problem solving, a heavy reliance on the technical expertise within the business and flexibility,” he says.
Despite the insatllation of a number of new technologies on the MasterFoods Herbs and Spices line, Harry reports that the production rate has not been compromised by the packaging upgrades. “If anything, it is operating even more efficiently,” he says.
The redesigned Masterfoods Herbs and Spices jars sees the PVC tamper proof neck sleeve replaced with an induction seal and flip top lid. This increases the ease of use for less dexterous or older consumers, as the PVC sleeve could be difficult to remove.
Harry explains that the application of an induction seal will also limit the amount of moisture ingress during the supply chain, which is a major issue with flavour salts and seasonings, causing them to clump.
“In the new packaging, our herbs and spices will arrive on shelves as fresh, and in the same state, as they left the Mars Food Australia manufacturing plant,” he says.
Another functional highlight of the new packaging design, is the use of a simple flip top cap and proprietary butterfly hinge which springs the cap open, past the 90-degree point of the cap.
The new lid will allow consumers to easily flip the lip and with one hand add a sprinkle to their cooking, without interrupting their ‘cooking flow’. The old design required a consumer to unscrew the lid (two hands required) and ‘dose’ out the product.
Harry explains that one of the key principles of the redesign project, was to introduce benefits that responded to the consumer packaging tensions while maintaining the high production line efficiency, use of Australian packaging materials and local manufacturing and logistics.
To deliver on this principle, Mars Food Australia partnered with Cormack Packaging to design a lid system which suited its needs and could be manufactured at Cormack’s Sydney plant.
Selecting Cormack as a supplier is in line with Mars Foods’ commitment to support Australian businesses, which shorten the supply chain and ensure production of both the packaging and products are all Australian.
Elements of some of Mars Food Australia’s packaging has a legacy of being manufactured offshore. To repatriate some of the packaging elements, secure the supply chain due to Covid-19 and improve the CO2 footprint, a packaging implementation quick evaluation tool (PIQET) assessment was undertaken. The results of the assessment informed the design so that it substantially enhanced the consumer experience while maintaining palletising and logistics efficiencies -- elements such as height and width dimensions, remained unchanged.
The secondary packaging of the Masterfoods Herbs and Spices portfolio is shrink wrapping rather than cardboard boxes or corrugated board. Harry explains that using shrink wrapping provides efficiencies both in the amount of wrapping required, as it uses the least amount of packaging per kilo or product, and substantially lowers the use of water and grey water in the manufacturing of packaging material process
The herbs, spices and seasoning category is complex due to the number of products available and consumer desire to be able to locate easily and quickly what they want or be inspired by something new.
Responding to the complexity of in-store navigation, the Mars Food Australia redesign project team delivered a clever solution – Australia’s first ever notch rail racking system. The gravity led rail racking system will improve navigation for consumers whilst also dramatically reducing the time required by retailers for 'face up' replenishment.
“The new label design which addressed consumer tensions, was not without its challenges as well, that required ‘out of the box’ thinking,” Harry says.
With a transparent label, limited space to communicate the SKU and all the nutritional information on the packaging, the artwork (designed by brand agency Cowan) needed to grab consumer attention and be easier to locate than it currently would be. In order to do this, Mars Food Australia partnered with label supplier Abaris Printing to provide a white ink which increases vibrancy under the ultra-violet lighting found in supermarkets but simultaneously is clear and easy to read.
For the new, angled in-store, rail shelving system, Mars Food needed to ensure that two things happened concurrently: 1. orientation of the lid was opposite to the notch on the jar; and 2. orientation of the variety (SKU) label was perfectly centred so when racked it is readable.
“To ensure these two elements occur for each jar is no small feat. In fact, as each bottle has two notches on each jar in order to be racked. There was a 50/50 chance that the labels would be placed backwards each time. The solution was the installation of a vision system on the labeller which places the body labe," Harry explains.
Masterfoods is an iconic brand found in nine out of 10 Australian pantries. With its heritage in specialty foods and herbs and spices, MasterFoods has for more than 75 years evolved to satisfy and delight Australians' changing tastes, set food trends, and introduce international, multicultural flavours.
In 1945, the brand’s herbs and spices were imported, with a small number mixed on-site. Today, all 98 MasterFoods’ Herbs and Spices SKUs are manufactured on-site at Wyong on the NSW Central Coast.
“While we know from consumer feedback, that the MasterFoods Herbs and Spices have a strong following, we have recent data that indicates the packaging is losing consumer relevancy. This was confirmed in conversations with our customers,” Harry says.
To address consumer tensions around the old packaging, Mars Food took a number of steps.
It removed the inbuilt sieve in the top of the bottle replacing it with a with a flip-top lift top, to allow a standard sized teaspoon to be inserted into jar.
The application of a self-adhesive label on the top of the jar allows for quick, clear identification of the product in-home and in-store. The new packaging labels are produced using in-line printing, which provides the supply chain with greater flexibility for Mars Foods 98 SKU inventory.
A clear transparent label replace the previous paper label. These labels will include a laser date coded on a bespoke panel to ensure the Best Before Date (BBD) doesn’t rub off over time and shelf-life information for products can be seen easily and quickly at a glance.
For easier in-store navigation that is both aesthetically eye catching and space efficient, the new, angled rail shelving system will be used to showcase the newly designed herbs and spices packaging. The system, which as mentioned above is the first of its kind in Australia, required the new packaging design to have notches at the top and bottom of each jar.
The notch allows for gravity fed replenishment and reduces time to restock and ensures the product names are always face up and the display is neat.
The new shelving will use a simple three colour coding system to make navigation in-store even easier. The coding system, on jar lids, will be Green (Spices), Orange (Spices) & Burgundy (Seasonings).
As also mentioned, the company removed the PVC tamper proof neck sleeve which is difficult for less dexterous and older consumers to open.
A lot of the packaging changes were driven by the company's sustainability ethos.
“Mars' recyclable packaging commitments are aligned with APCO’s National Packaging targets: 100% of all of our packaging to be reusable, compostable, or recyclable by 2025,” says Harry.
The sustainable elements of the new design includes:
- removal of the PVC tamper proof neck sleeve, which is un-recyclable, from both pack sizes
- removal of the inbuilt sieves which contaminated the glass recycling stream, as consumers tended not to remove on disposal
- the new transparent labels were designed so as not to limit the glass jar from being recycled and assessment using the APCO PREP tool criteria for label body percentage provided confirmation
- the new lids are larger and if the lid remains open through the recycling stream, will be collected through a MRF as they are greater than 50mm x 50mm in two dimensions
In addition to these changes, Harry says all packaging will have the Australian Recycling Label (ARL) to educate consumers on how to effectively recycle the packaging post use.
"We are also working closely with our glass and closure suppliers to introduce higher levels of recycled content into the packaging. We expect the glass to be well over 35 per cent recycled content and the closures over 50 per cent by 2025. Clean food grade recycled material is currently the limiting facto," he explains.
The new packaging was awarded a high commendation in the 2021 Packaging Innovation & Design Awards, food category.