Christmas in July: Your Holiday Packaging Checklist and how can we plan for next year – 2022 Trends?

Planning for your holiday packaging should start early, but how can you start planning? Robert Catalano, Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) and Co-Founder of The Spearhead Group discusses how brands can start that planning and what trends we can hope to see in 2022.

When should brands start planning for the holidays?
That always depends on the quantity and how much customization you want to put into your project. Give yourself at least 6 months if you want to develop a custom product because you will need a few weeks just for R+D. Particularly right now, it might be best to buffer than even more due to the supply chain uncertainties in the current environment.

What are the top items The Spearhead Team recommends to keep in mind when planning for Holiday 2022?

  1. Good forecasting is a must. Brands need to try their best to start the project with a good understanding of budget, quantity, and timing. Not having this clearly defined from the start can result in the project going in wrong direction. Don’t be afraid to share your budgets with your partners.
  2. Focus on your brand demographic. Make sure that you partner with someone that listens and understands what your brand represents. I have seen so many examples of VAPs in the spirit space all start to look the same. Find ways to express the voice and heart of your brand and make sure you are working with people that embrace it!

What trends do you hope to see in 2022 for packaging and Physical Brand Enhancement™?
I am starting to see some change, but I think we should unfortunately expect to see a little bit more of the same. It takes a lot of time to change mindset – we are working hard on this to educate. However, we expect to see more of the same in 2022. Spearhead has put R+D in place to prove what we are creating with minimal packaging will succeed and while I would like to see these changes come sooner rather than later, I think it might take some time.

 How can a brand get in touch with you to start planning?
If your company wants to take the first step to planning for your brand, please reach out to Lana Toler.


The Spearhead Group and Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) Turin Announce Second Design Contest Winners

One of the main ways that The Spearhead Group is able to drive innovation is by collaborating with creative people. We see supporting design and engineering schools, such as IED Torino, as an important path by creating a collaborative program. The collaboration with Istituto Europeo di Design Torino, Italy launched in May 2019 with the initial program developing spirits brands and any Physical Brand EnhancementTM that supports them. Unfortunately, because of the Covid-19 pandemic we were not able to run the 2020 competition.

For the 2021 program, The Spearhead Group created, sponsored, and supported an exclusive innovative program with IED Torino students. The students were invited to create innovative upcycled products using the element of PVC rods recovered from industrial processes. Students were briefed on the program by The Spearhead Group, challenging them to create and design objects, products, accessories, or toys using PVC rods along with only common and accessible materials.”Collaborating with companies is a fundamental element of the IED training method. It allows our students to test the skills acquired, to learn to relate to client requests, to understand the dynamics of the market,” declares Paola Zini, Director of IED Torino. “The collaboration with The Spearhead Group makes us particularly proud: it is a great result for us and especially for our students to see how their projects become reality.”

Our 2021 program took a sustainability focus rather than a branding and package development one, by featuring a creative upcycling and reuse element of PVC rods recovered from industrial processes. Through one of Spearhead’s production processes, a waste product of dunnage in the form of PVC rods is created. While it is possible to reuse and/or recycle these rods, Spearhead decided to investigate the possibility of upcycling as a much more environmentally friendly alternative.

The program featured selected participants of six teams, two students per team, that were selected from the Product Design and Jewelry & Accessories Design courses at IED Torino. The teams then competed for 1st and 2nd prize/place. The winning designers each received a cash prize; first place: Euro800 (US$950) and second place: Euro300 (US$350)

Utilizing 50 to 200 rods per team, the students created images/drawings of the proposed idea or product, a physical product and a simple video showing the design concept, solution, and instructions for step-by-step production of the new product. Students were then judged on overall design, functionality, and innovative thinking. Students presented their ideas at the end of May 2021 to Heather Fritzsche, Robert Catalano, Natale Bauducco and Giovanna Pinna.

The first-place winners were Alberto Boscolo & Marta Scialdone with their product “Build It Green (B.I.G). Through the creation of simple structural joints and the insertion of a rope in the pipe section, they designed various outdoor structures for home and garden, leaving the user wide freedom of choice and fulfillment. The first-place solution is a unique connector design that people can easily download, and 3-D print, along with instructions and different applications.

The second-place winners were Debora Raimondi & Giuliana Noto, with their “Pipe-It Up” project. They focused their design on creativity and the connection to mental health, a very pointed topic.

“This year, again, we have been very impressed by the creativity and professional ability of the IED Torino students who took part in this very focused project,” said Natale Bauducco,
European Advisory Board Member.

“I particularly wish to thank Marco Piacentino of FabLab Torino for his leadership and competent coordination of the whole project.  We are happy to have had the opportunity to share with him our vision of this “upcycling of PVC material” project, a major part of our Group “cleaner world” vision.”

“We are proud of all the participants at IED Turin; Once again they have proven our methodology that collaborating with creative minds outside of your industry is one of the best ways forward. Special thanks to all those that help make this a successful program.” stated Robert Catalano, CINO and Co-Founder of The Spearhead Group.

Please follow us on our blog and LinkedIn to see more announcements about this year’s program and the previous program, including videos of the winners.

Spearhead Welcomes Tapones Premium to Pioneer Program

As you know, The Spearhead Group’s Pioneer Program was created for us to partner with only a few exclusive suppliers
that are experts and true innovators in their field. We are very proud to announce the latest edition to our Spearhead Pioneer Program,
Tapones Premium.

Tapones Premium, based in Mexico, is a true innovator in their work with metal medallions, ornamental bottle neckers and cork closures. Having been in business for 25 years, the team at Tapones have created and supplied fantastic Physical Brand Enhancements™ for spirits brands all over the world. Their reputation for quality, on-time delivery and, most importantly, innovation, makes Tapones a great addition to our Pioneer Program.

“When we first began working with Tapones some years ago, we recognized the difference right away to others in the industry,” said Robert Catalano. “They are extremely responsive and truly embody Spearhead’s core values, particularly in their creative and innovative approach to every opportunity. Now with a strong Pioneer in metal medallions and bottle closures, I believe Spearhead has become unstoppable in the market of all things related to Physical Brand Enhancements™.”

About Tapones
Tapones Premium was established in 1996 and is based out of Jalisco, Mexico. Tapones specializes in manufacturing metal and wood closures, labels, medallions, charms, and accessories by customizing products to distinguish brands from the competition. Tapones Premium is a pioneer in the industry and transforms ideas into something producible, providing the technology to manufacture your product with the highest quality standards.

Spearhead Family: Giselle Mudge, Senior Logistics Manager

For our Spearhead Family post this month we are highlighting Giselle Mudge, Senior Logistics Manager at The Spearhead Group. Giselle joined Spearhead in 2020 to help lead logistics for PPE supplies. Since then, Giselle has been working to help the team “spearhead” their sustainability goals in new directions and helping clients with shipping and logistics success. Giselle shares more with us about joining The Spearhead Group and what inspires her to work on innovative projects.

Tell us about why and when you joined The Spearhead Group.
Giselle: I joined during the pandemic, and because of the pandemic. Spearhead was in the middle of a valiant effort to pivot and source PPE’s made to go in the hands of essential employees. They reached out to me to lead logistics behind this, and I accepted because to me it was another rescue mission. Spearhead is always about doing the right thing, and I could not have joined a better team who I see eye to eye with.

Tell us a little more about your background and what excites/inspires you to work on innovative projects on the logistics side?
I have been in logistics for 15 years, and have been doing a mix of volunteer and contract work for the welfare of people, animals, and the environment even longer. For as much as the world gives you, I strongly believe it is as important to give back and leave it a better place than you found it. In my current industry, as straightforward and dry as it seems there is so much opportunity to modernize and improve every aspect of the supply chain process. It begs for innovation (some processes are still dependent on pen and paper!) as much as it does creativity and new ways of thinking, but it won’t happen overnight. One of the projects I’m working on is to capture our sustainability metrics and find ways to decrease our carbon footprint without impacting service to our customers. This may seem impossible with the current global shipping crisis, but this is by far the best time to gather worst case scenario data and use it to our advantage as research. We are already starting to offset our carbon footprint with parcel shipping, but will be at a point where we can truly make a larger impact with our containership and over-the-road volume.

The Spearhead Group has 5 core values (1. Focus on Sustainability and Diversity; 2. Innovative Thinking; 3. Do the Right Thing; 4. Acts with Equal Respect for Clients, Colleagues and Suppliers; 5. Go the Extra Mile with Entrepreneurial Spirit). How do you practice these values?
This began with my reason for joining The Spearhead Group. There is no one core value that can operate independently from the other. Every client is a VIP in my eyes no matter how big or small. I love how The Spearhead Group helps startups from one hour and shifts to innovative projects for conglomerates to the next. In the same spirit, every shipment that comes my way is treated with urgency as I present the fastest, creative, and most sustainable options that will meet their needs and timeframes. It is the norm to go above and beyond the typical workday to help out a client especially in this uncertain climate. This included chartering private aircraft to deliver emergency supplies, identifying the best less commonly used delivery routes with the least carbon footprint, working in various time zones to secure shipments, etc. What puts me at ease with this work ethic is that every single person in our team gives this same all within their scope of work. I may be helping clients navigate through another atypical shipping year for now, but there is a silver lining where we can soon dedicate more efforts as I envisioned towards sustainability in the road towards global recovery.

Christmas in July: Physical Brand Enhancements™, Sustainability and Holiday Gifting Trends

What can we look forward to seeing on the shelves this coming holiday season?
One of the biggest things everyone has been talking about is premiumization. If you look at the spirits industry, everyone has been doing Value-Added Packaging (VAP) forever and they are all starting to look the same. It’s usually a couple of glasses, a thermoform and a simple carton. There hasn’t been a massive change in that footprint in decades. People will start to see “jazzed up” cartons. Spearhead is a leader in changing this format. Premiumization sounds fancy but really, we are trying to get away from gift with purchase format. Consumers are getting bored.

How does The Spearhead Group help brands plan for holiday Physical Brand Enhancement™?
We approach holiday just like we approach any Limited-Time Offer (LTO). We look at the ultimate goals of the brands and cues for what they really want to promote. The package should be an extension of the brand and not cover the brand. We are working to minimize the use of packaging so that the brand is highlighted more. Imagine less paper and more brand popping. Particularly in the spirits industry, the bottles usually are the highlight. A lot of thought and pride make up the brand so we look to embrace it, frame it, expose it, and at the same time minimize the amount of packaging materials used. We do this by working closely with engineering and R+D who are always looking for different materials and ways of creating boxes and then reaching out to brands to embrace this new way of thinking. We are the only company that makes a living out of selling packaging but encourages people to use less of it.

What sustainability trends for holiday gift packs are you looking forward to seeing?
I am looking forward to seeing less materials being used in gift packs. Spearhead is proud to be working towards with a patent pending pressure fit system that minimizes the need for thermoform and substrates and works to frames the product. In addition, I am looking forward to seeing more ecofriendly materials. For Spearhead, we utilize substrates from BillerudKorsnäs, which is one of the most sustainable paper mills in the world. We also work with Ecological Fibers who eliminates plastic with the use of a new line of 100% Plastic Free, Organic Coated Packaging materials that decompose.

How can a brand get in touch with you to start planning?
If your company wants to take the first step to planning for your brand, please reach out to Lana Toler

Spearhead Partners with Inclusive One World Brands

As part of our Core values, The Spearhead Group always looks for ways to support diverse and/or women-owned business enterprises, either as suppliers or clients. We actively seek these opportunities in an effort to always pay it forward.

According to the US Senate committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, “Over the last 10 years, minority-business enterprises accounted for more than 50 percent of the two million new businesses started in the United States …. Yet, despite that growth, there is still a disparity when it comes to access to capital, contracting opportunities and other entrepreneurial development opportunities for minority-owned firms. Though minorities make up 32 percent of our population, minority business ownership represents only 18 percent of the population” (1)  This is why we are so proud to announce that Spearhead is now in collaboration with Inclusive One World Brands, America’s only First Nations Native American and woman-owned spirits company.

“I could not be prouder to have the honor to collaborate with Inclusive One World. Their story and all-inclusive message, truly embodies everything that The Spearhead Group stands for,” said Heather Fritzsche, CEO & Co-founder of The Spearhead Group. “World harmony, peace and protecting our environment.  I could not imagine a more fitting relationship between two organizations, and I look forward to seeing how we can bring some unique Physical Brand Enhancement™ to life together.”

Inclusive One World is owned and operated by a First Nations Native American, whose journey began when she was born on Mohawk Territories of the Iroquois Confederacy where she is proud to say her family resides to this day. As a woman, being raised on an Indian reservation, she learned at a very early age the meaning of inclusivity. That is one of the reasons she decided to enter into a career of entrepreneurship and established a company that is dedicated to inclusivity, acceptance and tolerance for all. The word Inclusive is straightforward; it encompasses all and excludes none.

“Inclusive One World will always be a socially responsible company with resources working to protect our environment like my ancestors have done for hundreds of years and to give back to the communities and organizations that work to improve peace and world harmony and acceptance for all, said Warisó:se, chairwoman at Inclusive Brands. “We believe that one simple word “inclusive” can change an industry and the world.  Our products are not mass produced and will only be available in select markets, but our commitment will never change to produce our Brands from the finest ingredients with integrity, honesty and trust.”


Case Study: 6 Month’s into the Year, What’s Next? 6 Questions with Lana Toler, Marketing & Innovation Manager

We’re halfway through 2021, and that means it’s time to start planning for Q3 and Q4. At The Spearhead Group, we set out to revolutionize the industry and redefine how packaging and brand work together. Our team is often planning months ahead to make sure we “spearhead” innovative ideas. Recently, we sat down with Lana Toler, Marketing & Innovation Manager, to find out what’s next.

Now that we are 6 month’s into the year, what are a few trends in packaging/physical brand enhancement we can look forward to?
Continuing to see evolution of the carbonated beverage category and the packaging that will help create a point of difference. We may be seeing more alternative shapes and design applications than ever before. As the world is returning to their post-COVID summer routines, creative Cocktails To-Go (CTG) including packaging that encourages consumer participation for preparation will surely be on the rise. Reveal E-commerce and experiential packaging will continue to draw consumers to easy gifting and group activities.

What exciting innovations for cocktails-to-go are you hoping to see with the opening of more on-premise locations this summer?
In the next months, the cocktails prepared for the To-Go category will most likely continue to evolutionize and encourage consumers to try fun and unique cocktails with tequila and bourbon. There packaging opportunities are limitless and will continue to convert to more ‘hand-made’ type of containers and labels while starting to focus on the sustainability aspects of the packaging. Experiential cocktails-to-go will also continue to share the cocktail preparation process with consumers as fresh fruit, juices and other details can be added or adjusted to taste by the consumer.

What does the suspension of tariffs mean for the packaging category?
The recent announcement of the suspension of the tariffs will continue to promote the spirits business companies to globalize their brands and sell more product. As these companies continue to expand globally, the opportunity for innovation within brands and creating new brands will become more accessible.

What are you most excited about this year in sustainability?
Companies are starting to talk about becoming ‘the most sustainable’ in their categories and actually defining what that means. The concept that companies ‘are sustainable’ is just not cutting it for consumers expectations anymore.  I expect to continue to see not only definable sustainability goals becoming required of brands, but diversity and inclusion as well. As a whole, Spearhead will continue efforts to help clients with sustainable options as well as present diversity and inclusion opportunities as well.

Where can we meet up with Spearhead later this year?
We will be at 2021 DISCUS Conference in Austin, TX (October 6-8). Also, if you are in Louisville in August, we will be at the BOURBON WOMEN CONFERENCE.

How can brands start thinking about planning for their next Physical Brand Enhancement™?
Define your brand and what she stands for! Using PBE™, Spearhead is able to help clients communicate not only what the product is, but what the brand/founder(s) stand for and why. Think about who you want your brand to sit next to on the shelf or back bar and then decide how to differentiate and share your brand story with your packaging.

Interested in connecting or finding out more about Physical Brand Enhancement™? Reach out to Lana Toler at

Spearhead Family: Giovanna Pinna, Marketing Coordinator – Italia

For our Spearhead Family post this month we are highlighting Giovanna Pinna, Marketing Coordinator – Italia, at The Spearhead Group. Based in Italy, Giovanna shares more with us about joining The Spearhead Group and what inspires her to work on innovative projects.

Tell us about why and when you joined The Spearhead Group.
Giovanna: Europe and, especially Italy, are world renowned for design, attention to detail, material

quality and creativity. After graduation from the University of Turin in economics and commerce, I worked for over 20 years in advertising and marketing. During that time, most of our creative designers and talented people came from Istituto Europeo di Design (IED). It was through the IED schools that I had the opportunity to meet The Spearhead Group. One day, after helping to organize a design project with Turin (my beautiful hometown!), we decided that a closer collaboration would be a perfect fit! That was the start of this challenging adventure!

Tell us a little more about your background and what excites/inspires you to work on innovative projects?
Giovanna: After my graduation in economics and commerce, I worked for Armando Testa, a major Italian advertising group. My responsibility was following large and well-known clients, such as Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Fiat, Iveco, Fineco, and Sodalis, and gaining valuable experience in the world of advertising, communication, branding and packaging as an account manager. This allowed me to get to know different companies and to be able to understand and anticipate the needs of customers.

Currently I am working as regional commercial manager with the prominent financial Italian newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, along with the Marketing Coordinator role at Spearhead Group.

I think innovative projects are the future, and we are building the future. If we make people and companies aware of sustainability, respect for the environment and giving attention to diversity, inclusion, and respect we will all live in a better world!

The Spearhead Group has 5 core values (1. Focus on Sustainability and Diversity; 2. Innovative Thinking; 3. Do the Right Thing; 4. Acts with Equal Respect for Clients, Colleagues and Suppliers; 5. Go the Extra Mile with Entrepreneurial Spirit). How do you practice these values
Giovanna: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work’ Confucius said. And that is it.

As I have said before I totally agree with the core value of The Spearhead Group and I particularly love their approach with Clients, Colleagues and Suppliers, but first of all I love their passion for their work. I really enjoy my collaboration with The Spearhead Group and I find it a great pleasure. I am also proud to be involved with the talented IED, Istituto Europeo di Design, and to bring a little of the “American way of thinking” to Europe. It is very fulfilling!

Pioneer TPC/Greener Planet Expanded Capabilities


One of the main reasons we created the Spearhead Pioneer Program was to be able to work with a very exclusive group of innovators in their specific fields of expertise and passion. Today we are so very proud to announce that our Pioneer, TPC/Greener Planet has made substantial investments in creating a unique, high speed rigid box line in their Chattanooga, TN facility.

“With travel restrictions easing, I finally had an opportunity to visit TPC/Greener Planet. Naturally, we have been in constant communication with both so I really was looking forward to actually seeing all of the equipment up-grades in person,” said Ray DeCarlo, Head of Domestic Sourcing & Pioneer Relations, The Spearhead Group. “As soon as I set foot on the production floor, I was blown away by new state of the art equipment they’ve installed. From the new (10) color press with cold foil capability, to the SCODEX machine and most recently the installation of a KOLBUS Rigid Box line, TPC/Greener Planet, along with our other Spearhead Pioneers, is taking the lead in offering our clients unique and innovative packaging options and solutions that are necessary in today’s marketplace. The Spearhead Pioneer Program, which is comprised of leaders in a wide range of packaging expertise, was conceived and developed to be a ‘game changing’ resource that clients can come to develop and bring to life.”

Interested in learning more about rigid boxes, please reach out to Lana Toler, Marketing & Innovation Manager. Learn more about our Pioneer Program by contacting Ray DeCarlo, Head of Domestic Sourcing & Pioneer Relations.

Spearhead Group’s IED Torino 2020 Luxury Design Competition Winners

The Spearhead Group continues to invest in R&D of new Physical Brand Enhancement™ offerings, and one of our favorite ways of doing so is working closely with design and engineering schools such as IED Torino –  Istituto Europeo di Design. At the end of 2019, Spearhead created and sponsored a spirits brand development program with IED Torino – their assignment was to create a brand identity and packaging for a hypothetical global Brown Spirit designed to attract the global millennial market, particularly with their focus on social media for learning about new brands. We were so impressed with all of the designs presented by the students, particularly with the winners of the competition. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic we were unable to showcase all of these creations until now, starting with the winning team.

This winning team created a brand they called “SpeakEasy” a complete design throwback reminiscent of the 1920’s in America. We love the design so much that we decided to commission our global R&D team to make this design come to life. This includes not only the glass bottle but also the extremely unique box design that has a “secret locking mechanism” (like the secretive nature of a real speakeasy) which utilizes the matching glassware included in the set as a “key”. This unique function requires some fun engineering, combining art and function. Luckily, the winners Elena and Anita provided CAD and engineering files as part of their response to the project. Read more about the last year’s winners announcement here.

“At The Spearhead Group, we really enjoy working with design students because they do not limit their imagination to basic market offerings. When design engineering students dream, they dream big, bold and unapologetically! I love this bold design created by the winners of Spearhead’s previous year’s competition, Elena Frigerio & Anita Solero,” shared Robert Catalano, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-founder, The Spearhead Group. “I am so proud to be able to commission these designs into Spearhead’s lineup of offerings to our clients. The bottle, closure, glassware and luxurious wood box will all be production ready very soon, and our clients can take advantage of a complete packaging and brand identity that is ready to go for the right liquid.”

“We are happy and enthusiastic to have had the opportunity to participate in this project which has proved to be extremely interesting and stimulating and thanks to which we have been able to explore new areas of design, interfacing with a large international company such as The Spearhead Group,” said Elena Frigerio & Anita Solero, Alumni of IED Torino – Istituto Europeo di Design

About IED Torino –  Istituto Europeo di Design

IED Torino –  Istituto Europeo di Design was founded in 1966, product of the remarkable vision of Francesco Morelli. Today IED is the only Higher Education Institution in the creative field to have maintained a completely Italian identity over time. Every year IED launches innovative training projects in the fields of Design, Fashion, Visual Arts and Communication, developing new forms of learning and designing new models for interpreting the future. IED is an internationally recognized network consisting of 11 sites, 7 of which in Italy – Milan, Cagliari, Como, Florence, Rome, Turin and Venice – 2 in Spain – Barcelona and Madrid – and 2 in Brazil – Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. IED educational offer includes Undergraduate courses (First Level Academic Diplomas, Título Superior en Diseño, Diploma de Bacharelado, BAH Diplomas and IED Diplomas), Postgraduate courses (First Level Master and IED Master courses) and Continuous Training courses. IED counts on a network with over 1,900 teachers, active in their respective sectors, to ensure the perfect functioning of IED training experience.

If you would like to learn more about the availability of this design, please contact Lana Toler.

Welcome to The Spearhead Group Blog

The Spearhead Group provides Physical Brand Enhancements to clients in the spirits, beauty and personal care industries. Headquartered in Yardley, PA midway between New York City and Philadelphia, The Spearhead Group offers companies a modern, full-service, consultative approach from concept to reality.

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