Generic Juice :: Tropicana

Tried and true. A package design so familiar, yet only truly noticed once it was gone.

A package design so familiar, yet only truly appreciated once it was gone.

The name Tropicana is almost synonymous with orange juice. Yes, the company makes other products, and other big name companies make orange juice. But Tropicana, with it’s clever straw-stuck-in-the-orange concept, is really the biggest name in orange juice.

In a media-soaked society like ours, companies have to keep their products — and product packaging — fresh. And when Tropicana (owned by PepsiCo) decided it was time to add some freshness to their well-known orange juice cartons, they enlisted the help of Arnell, a NY-based firm.

Tropicana's new carton: whitespace gone wild.

Tropicana's new carton: whitespace gone wild.

And design they did. Gone is the recognizable straw-stuck-in-the-orange concept, gone is the comforting green gradient Tropicana logo, gone is the familiar orange band that boasts of pulp or no pulp. It is an entirely new design with scarcely the tiniest bit of the old package concept left — perhaps just the orange and green color — not really enough to retain any mindshare. I suppose Arnell and PepsiCo feel that the Tropicana name (which is not very pronounced on the new package) is enough to prevent customer confusion and maintain customer loyalty.

Not surprisingly, everyone is talking about this new package. But probably not in the way that Arnell and PepsiCo would like. The most common conversations I’ve heard go something like this: “Have you seen the new Tropicana packaging?”

“Yeah. It looks like a store brand.”

“Yeah.”

Okay, so there aren’t many ground breaking discussions happening in the juice aisle. And if it were a group of designers discussing the new package, the conversation would have been a lot lengthier, but not any more positive. But when your customer-base thinks your new package looks as generic as a store brand, you’ve got problems.

As a designer I can obviously appreciate the simplicity of the new design. Juice. In a pretty glass. Ahhh. And the new rounded cap that looks like an orange is awfully cute. (Yeah, I said it. It’s cute.) But when it comes to package design, which is really just another form of advertising, it misses the mark. The straw-stuck-in-the-orange wasn’t just about mindshare. It said fresh. Much more so than a pretty glass says fresh.

Companies rebrand and update their packaging all the time. Often we don’t even notice. Other times, we notice, but it’s not typically remarkable. However, in this case, it’s pretty easy to see that there are very few fans of the new design out there. Read a few other rants here and here and here. And surprisingly (kind of like the case with Coke and the New Coke of the 1980s), PepsiCo is responding. It looks as if the old packaging will be making a comeback and the new packaing will be enjoying an early retirement. Hooray! I sure hope PepsiCo now appreciates and respects what they’ve got with their  straw-stuck-in-the-orange image.

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