NEW YORK -- What if the next time you walked into a music store, a compact disc sang to you? Or you reached for some beauty cream at the department store and the package began to glow, enticing you with a tiny video invitation to rediscover lost youth?
Wouldn't you at least stop and think about buying those products?
International Paper Co. is betting you would.
The Purchase, N.Y.-based company has signed a licensing deal with an Israeli firm, Power Paper Ltd., that soon could bring light, sound and other special effects to the packages of some consumer products. The key is new ultra-thin flexible batteries that can be "printed" on packages like ink.
Both companies expect the disposable batteries to help product manufacturers use packaging more effectively to entice consumers.
"The No. 1 reason (for using the batteries in packaging) would be the marketing advantage that would allow you to reach consumers one more time with an advertising or marketing or promotional message," said Jenny Boardman, an IP spokeswoman.
The batteries might potentially be used in CD packages wired to play song samples when a customer picks them up, or to enliven game cards handed out at fast food restaurants.
Packages powered by the new batteries could show up on store shelves by late summer. Boardman says International Paper is running trials, but has not yet signed deals with any customers.
Power Paper says it is readying to start Hong Kong-based production later this year. Neither company would comment on the terms of their agreement.
While the new battery will be used first in novelty items, the idea is rooted in practicality. It began taking shape seven years ago when Power Paper cofounder Baruch Levanon was hired by a medical supply company to help develop a stick-on device to deliver insulin through the skin of diabetics.
The challenge was to find a power source strong enough to push large insulin molecules into the skin, yet small enough to wear comfortably. That half-inch-thick miniature battery will soon be on the market, said Levanon.
But Levanon and his partners didn't stop there.
They kept working on their own, developing a battery only about half a millimeter thick composed of five layers of zinc and manganese dioxide.
The material can be printed on an ordinary press, and is safe for disposal, said Levanon, whose privately held company and is based at Kibbutz Einat in suburban Tel Aviv.
International Paper, whose packaging business accounts for 27 percent of industry sales, has tried to add zip to product boxes by adding holograms, embossing or die-cutting packages so that they're not always square.
The creation of e-packaging, complete with light and sound, continues that evolution, Boardman said.
The newfangled containers are part of a broad trend known as "smart packaging", using technology to allow products to communicate with manufacturers, retailers and consumers, industry consultant Mark Niemiec says.
While innovations like e-packages will be costly at first, he says the expense will decline over time and could make sense to consumer products companies who spend big on marketing.
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