They first caught my eye a few weeks ago, when I pulled off a highway at a convenience store in southern Virginia. There, amid all the snacks and soft drinks, was a rack of unusually shaped containers. You couldn't miss them because of the brightly colored graphics all over the container, and because of their shape—like a tennis-ball can, but with a waist and wider shoulder that allowed them to hang on two wire rails. They were obviously of blow molded plastic. But the surprise was what they contained. Potato chips. Not in a bag, not in a cardboard tube. Potato chips in a plastic bottle! It was sized so it fit neatly in the cup holder in my car. That could be big news, I said to myself.
When I returned to the office from that trip, I couldn't wait to tell executive editor Bob Leaversuch about my discovery, since blow molding is his beat. But he was way ahead of me. He had a whole collection of curvy, contoured plastic bottles and cans swathed in eye-popping film labels, and containing all sorts of liquid and dry snacks, condiments, convenience foods, and also non-food products. He even had tortilla chips—in the first triangular blow molded container I had ever seen. Whatever was going on, it was bursting out all over the place.
Bob's cover story is all about what's going on, and it's huge. This opening into snack foods is very new, but in a few years, we could be looking at tens of billions of new demand for plastic bottles of all types—extrusion blow molded PE, multi-layer PP barrier structures, and oriented PET.
What makes it all possible, as Bob's story explains, is the new use of full-body shrink and stretch labels as a high-impact marketing tool. As Bob says, "Packagers believe that people buy with their eyes first." Bob's article should open readers' eyes to a whole supermarket full of opportunities.