Ever looked at a piece of packaging and wondered why it was a strange shape, or what that little sticking out bit does? Or thought how impractical it seemed? There’s probably a reason for that, and here we’re recapping the worst kept secrets in the packaging industry.
Those little sauce containers you get at fast food chains always look a bit odd and flimsy don’t they, plus they don’t hold a lot. Wrong! The outer shell is designed to fold out flat BEFORE you fill them, creating a fan shaped holder to fill to your heart’s content.
Happy Meal boxes
Staying on the fast food theme, McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes have held the same basic design for a long time – since the 1970’s, in fact. Neither the UK nor the US, where the chain originated, hold the honour of actually thinking up the Happy Meal idea, however – the credit goes to a lady called Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño from Guatemala whose husband José actually owned all the franchises in the country. She imagined a child’s version of the main menu and so the original “Happy Meal” was born – then called the Menu Ronald after the lovable clown who we actually don’t see much these days (and hands up who misses the Hamburgular in particular!).
Anyway, back to the boxes. Menu Ronald was eagerly received by parents and the main Chicago management of McDonalds took it and ran with it, giving it a new name – Happy Meal – and a new box, the design we know today, complete with golden arch handles.
The Happy Meal boxes don’t just hold food though and this is something that many people overlook – they come complete with a tearaway strip at the bottom that separate the main bulk of the container from the box bottom. This then gives a handy mini version for the eater to enjoy their McNuggets from without any mess of moving the contents to a tray or having to fight past the outer packaging every time they want to take another handful. Practical in every sense of the word and fully recyclable to boot (we approve!)
Drinks can tabs
We’re not just all about the food – what about those tabbed cans of drink we see on the shelves every time we go into a shop. Most people pop the tab and drink directly from the spout but if you are using a straw, don’t overlook the humble tab. This was designed with a hole specifically to put your straw through and stop it sinking too far into the can. Always annoying when the tab falls off mind you!
Sticking with the drink theme, did you know that most juice cartons have handles? Let’s be honest, it’s mainly the youngest generation that use a juice carton and the designers thought ahead as to how to prevent against accidental drops and spills. If you open up the flaps either side at the top of the carton, these turn into little handles that little fingers can easily grab onto to drink on the go.
Every opened a new tube of cream or toothpaste and found that foil lid really hard to peel off – so tiny, and why doesn’t it have edges you can pull at to get it off? The answer is simple – the plastic cap will 9 times out of 10 have a spike on the outer end, so you can flip it round and piece the foil. Simple!
Drink bottle lids
Back to drinks again, have you ever seen that little disc that sits inside the lid on a bottle of something fizzy, like lemonade or sparkling water? They aren’t just there to look pretty, they’re inside to create a seal that keeps the carbonation and liquid inside. Even though you can still seal the bottle fine without one, the contents inside will go flat much, much quicker.
The magic ‘57’
Glass bottles of Heinz ketchup have a ‘57’ etched into them near the shoulder – have a look, you’ll see it. It’s a great marketing ploy, but that aside, it’s also the spot on the bottle that Heinz say is where you should tap if the ketchup gets stuck. This will shift it towards the business end a lot more effectively than banging the bottom, so, give it a go next time!
There are many more innovative packaging features out there that we haven’t covered – get experimenting, you never know what you can do!