Much can be learned by looking at the package

Increasingly, consumers today are less enticed by products that simply fill a need than they are by products or services that provide an experience that fulfills their desires for being responsible shoppers. One of the most obvious examples is in food and beverage purchases, where packaging plays an important role in helping brands deliver on meeting such goals.

At Tetra Pak, we do this by educating consumers, directly and together with our customers, about the vital role of carton packaging used in their food and beverage purchases.

As a Swedish, global food-packaging and processing provider, Tetra Pak is aggressively building consumers' "carton passion" for our packaging products in the US and Canada like never before. Yet we're doing it through channels that some would say make for odd bedfellows for a b-to-b manufacturer.

If you are unfamiliar with the company, you might say we are becoming a b-to-b-to-c manufacturer. We educate consumers so they understand the benefits carton packages can bring in the context of the product and brand - whether it be milk, juice, soup, broth, sauces, or wine - they are buying. By connecting carton packaging to consumers' growing concern for the environment, packaging is suddenly a hot topic.

Sustainability has been core to Tetra Pak since its founding in 1952. To share the many aspects of our story with our customers and their consumers, we began using the growing social networking channels in early 2009. Tetra Pak's executives hosted a Tweet-up to engage influential environmental bloggers in direct and open communication. Since then, those bloggers have become committed brand ambassadors for not only Tetra Pak, but carton packaging.

Several years later, social media and online tools remain one of the most effective methods to communicate our messages. Last year, we partnered with our customers at Horizon Organic and Organic Valley to educate moms about the benefits of single-serve, shelf-stable milk in cartons. Together, we launched the "Trick or Tweet Me" social media campaign that provided games, information, and coupons using Facebook, Twitter, and a standalone microsite.

In addition, we partnered with Robin Miller, host of Quick Fix Meals on the Food Network, on a satellite media tour to reinforce the benefits of shelf-stable milk and convenience of the package for the lunch box. During back-to-school season this year, we will use Facebook and Twitter to help promote one of our most iconic packages, the "juice box," by celebrating its 30th birthday.

Social media and online tools are just one way to connect directly with consumers. We also participate in high-profile event sponsorships that put Tetra Pak right in front of trendsetting consumers. For example, during the September 2010 New York Fashion Week, Tetra Pak facilitated recycling and worked to offset carbon emissions from the event, making it carbon-neutral for the first time.

We have also sponsored Toronto's Fashion Week and during this summer we will be sponsoring a series of events called Today's Parent Kidsummer throughout Canada. Tetra Pak's activities include a sampling area and a trivia wheel where moms and kids can win prizes for answering questions, as well as other carnival games. Each activity is designed to share the convenience and benefits of Tetra Pak's lightweight, compact, and recyclable packaging with moms and kids in a way that is fun and informative.

Taken together, these tactics might not be considered pioneering. However, for the packaging industry, and the b-to-b space in particular, many would consider them maverick. In the end, for Tetra Pak and our customers, it's all about connecting each consumer to the world of good provided by sustainable packaging, now and for generations to come.

Carla Fantoni is VP of communication and environment in the US and Canada for Tetra Pak, a leading food-processing and packaging company. In her post, Fantoni works closely with both customers and suppliers. Tetra Pak products meet the needs of hundreds of millions of people in more than 170 countries every day.

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