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“Quality dietary supplements should be presented for retail in high-quality packages” a slogan all of us would support. It‘s always the package which catches the eye of a customer before he or she actually sees and feels the product and its various details.
A positive basic attitude towards a product, which initially causes a customer to buy, can be lessened or even turn into disappointment by inadequate packaging, thus preventing further purchases. All these are known facts, however, reality shows that project developments of dietary supplements sometimes dedicate nearly 100 % of the project time to the actual creation of the formula and technical manufacturing of the dietary supplement (e.g. capsule, tablet). And then at the end – and usually pressed for time – a contract packager is approached with the request “we need some sort of package, can you make us a proposal?”
Packaging may be understood as the summation of look and feel as well as the technical properties. This article concentrates especially on technical concepts in contract packaging for optimum presentation of dietary supplements. Naturally this is only possible by using examples, however, it should raise awareness for these “minor” details and the major effect they may have on sales and success.
During the development of a product the approach is often to combine all active ingredients in a capsule or tablet (All in One Concept). Sometimes this may be quite an advantage, “just one capsule a day” and it may be easier for the consumer, thus encouraging frequent and consistent use of the dietary supplement. Another approach is to divide the individual active substances into capsules and tablets of different shapes, sizes, colors, etc., which the consumer can then easily distinguish just by the look. This separation can be utilized to present advantages and benefits of the individual active substances (Factorial Product Benefit Concept). With this approach several distinctive factors can be presented to convince consumers of the product benefits.
A good example are the oily omega-3 fatty acids, e.g. vegan DHA algae oil, filled in a vegan soft-gel capsule, and to integrate other important substances for vegans, the powdery ingredients, e.g. vitamin B12, iodine, iron, L-lysine, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B2 and calcium in a vegan hard capsule. Since the size of capsules or tablets is restricted by the constant request for easier intake, a separation of the active substances into two smaller capsules as a daily dosage is another advantage. Plus it needs less excipients since the powder can be filled in an ideally suited hard capsule and the oil in an optimally suited soft capsule.
These two individual products can then be placed together in a so-called combi blister pack. Combi blister packs are not commonly used in the market, and as such they convey a “sense of value and quality” to consumers.
Combi blister packs can also be manufactured semi-automatically (with low investments in blister tools – higher blister manufacturing costs) or automatically in single feed mode (higher investments in blister tools – lower blister manufacturing costs). This allows for an upscaled packaging in a tiered investment concept, as permitted or dictated by the product‘s success.
Another appealing solution is to pack several capsules in a daily dosage envelope (made of transparent or opaque foil). Several capsules and/or tablets can be packed in one small packet. In addition to the presented factorial product benefit, convenience is another benefit recognized by consumers. Intake of the daily dosage is always easy even with the hustle and bustle of today‘s lifestyle. It‘s perfect for travel, whether it‘s business or pleasure you can always take the right number of packages with your daily dosage. There is no need to interrupt the intake routine of dietary supplements when you are away from home. Easy visual distinction of the individual components (capsules or tablets), primary by it‘s galenic formulation and secondary by the respective color, shape, and size is a key aspect.
Another variety of the Factorial Product Benefit Concept is the separation of tasty components and some less tasty components. The first group, the tasty components for example, can be integrated in an aromatic powder mix and offered as stick, which can be added to water, the other group, e.g. bitter, metallic, or sulforous tasting powdery substances can be offered in a hard capsule, which is then swallowed as a whole. Any negative odor or taste of these substances can thus be masked.
Especially in todays lifestyle we see that consumers like to make their own choices when it comes to the intake or preparation of dietary supplements, e.g. by adding or mixing them. Many consumers appreciate a high degree of involvement.
In a new approach to a packaging solution, product samples for sales promotions should always be considered as well. Compared to costly marketing campaigns the product samples are a low-cost promotional messenger and should not be neglected in the overall concept. Either they are used as additional means in large marketing campaigns or as a main component in case of a limited budget.
The consumer receives first hand experience about the product benefits, in addition to the positive experience of getting a “free sample”.
The contents of the sample should be dimensioned in such a way that the product is seen as a tangible benefit (e.g. a few capsules/tablets or a taste sample of a stick), however, it should contain less than the smallest retail package, also to keep costs down.
Technical possibilities are numerous, a few examples are listed below.
In case of folding boxes with blisters, special smaller blisters can be put in a smaller box holding only a few capsules/tablets.
An especially interesting variation for folding boxes with blisters is the use of identical formats for product samples and retail packages. For the sample some of the blister cavities can be blanks, i.e. instead of 15 blister cavities in the retail product, only 3 or 5 cavities are formed in the product sample. So the box of the product sample has the same size as the retail box with identical design and identical placement of the statutory required nutrition facts for the dietary supplement. In other words, the consumer receives a copy of the actual retail product, which may in turn result in a lasting recognition factor for the branding of the dietary supplement. A smaller variation is the packaging of a single blister on a cardboard blister card.
Packing capsules or tablets in small, sturdy, and food safe sample jars, e.g. made of polystyrene is just another suitable option. They would be perfect for mailing in robust envelopes. By the transparency of the sample jar the consumer immediately sees the outer product characteristics of the dietary supplement upon opening the envelope, and will be pleasantly surprised at the same time.
Capsules and tablets can also be packed in sachets, small foil packs, either square or rectangular, sealed on all four sides. The surfaces allow for attractive design ideas, e.g. four-color print, and the key features of the brand can be implemented even in small areas.
Sticks, these are oblong foil packs filled with powders or granulate, can easily be attached to single cards or inside double folded cards by means of easy peel-off glue dots. The size of cards, whether single or double folded, offers additional space for product advertising.
Public media warn increasingly about the dangers of falsified medicinal products.
As of February 9, 2019 prescription medicinal products in Germany must be tamper-proof in compliance with the EU Directive 2016/161. The protection against manipulation should be guaranteed by serialization and by safety features preventing manipulation.
Pharmaceutical serialization stands for a system, which allows tracking of individual packs from the final point of delivery, the pharmacy, all the way back to the original pharmaceutical manufacturing site.
The serialization is based on a twodimensional data matrix code recording various properties (such as batch, expiry date, product code, and for medicinal products a national reimbursement code and identification number). The pharmacist will be able to read the data matrix code in the pharmacy and verify the product’s authenticity by comparison with the central data base.
Serialization can be applied likewise to foods and dietary supplements: Absolute traceability of dietary supplements all the way back to the manufacturer to exclude falsifications and tampering.
For this purpose a unique data matrix code will be printed on each individual package, usually a folding box. A scanner, following after the serialization line, checks legibility of the code and rejects packages with smudged, illegible codes, which however are a rare exception. This guarantees that 100.0 % of the packages can be identified later on. Afterwards, when the folding boxes are placed in a shipping carton there is a recording process, which is referred to as aggregation. Aggregation here means that the data matrix code of each and every folding carton is photographed when it is placed in the shipping box, which in turn is then marked with its own data matrix code. So even in the warehouse it is possible to see – in a simplified way – that for example in cartons with 40 units each, the folding boxes no. 401 – 440 are in the shipping carton no. 11.
However, in contrast to the pharmaceutical field there is no centralized data base for the dietary supplements, so this data will only be recorded in an individual data base accessible by manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements. The Internet then allows for consumers to verify authenticity of a product package by simple verification means. The consumer can go to the Website of the supplement manufacturer, enter the code of the purchased package and compare it to the provided data base to verify authenticity (e.g. green = original, red = fake). This takes care of the last leg of the supply chain to the consumer, who can be 100 % sure to have purchased an authentic product and not a fake product. Some innovative manufacturers of dietary supplements are planning on implementing or even implemented such serialization solutions.
The blisters, which hold capsules or tablets in individual cavities tightly sealed by lidding foil, are an excellent tamper barrier. Usually those blisters are then packed in a folding carton.
The folding carton itself can be considerably improved by applying a tamperproof security seal.
The security seal, referred to as tamper evidence, is a small round or square label (approx. 25 mm in diameter), usually made of transparent foil, folding around the opening flap and covering both sides of the box equally in a half moon shape. The tamper evident seal has an adhesive coating and is attached to the folding carton where it then forms a bond with the surface of the box, removing it will destroy the surface thus clearly indicating that the box has been tampered with. This security seal can be attached by an automatic Tamper Evident labeler machine, following in the production line after blister and cartoning machine.
There is a wide variety of authenticity features on bottles, jars, and vials. These can be integrated features such as a tear tape or insert in the lid.
In recent years the inductive seal became more and more popular. Here the inductive foil is already inserted inside the cap. In the packaging line the lid is then mounted and passes under an induction plate, where the foil is sealed on the bottle or vial rim.
The press seal became obsolete and today it is hardly used at all, especially in European countries. By the pressure applied when the screw cap is attached, the press seal inserted in the cap is bonded to the bottle or vial rim. However, it can easily manipulated and consumers often associate it with a cheap solution.
Complete shrink wrapping of bottles or folding cartons, also referred as sleeving, offers an additional authentication protection. Especially for dietary supplements, which quite often are purchased via Internet sources, this method becomes more and more popular. Cosmetic product packagers have been using this method for a long time and for the majority of cosmetic products. In addition to the authenticity proof the consumer knows that he or she is the first one to open his or her dietary supplement after removing the shrink wrap. A shrink wrapped cap – with or without tear tape – is another method for tamper proofing.
The trend nowadays goes towards sustainable solutions, and this also applies to the field of dietary supplements. More and more organic, plant-based, and vegan products are offered. The critical consumer will also question the packaging, since labels and bottles are often based on fossil materials. Today there is an increasing number of bottles made from renewable, plant based materials. They are produced with environment, resources, and sustainability in mind. Bottles made of biopolymers naturally have to meet all the quality requirements for food safe packaging of dietary supplements, since there is direct contact with food (primary package).
A further step would be to integrate even the label in a complete packaging concept. There is an alternative available using stone powder. These labels are only containing 20 % polyethylene (of recycled PE), they are liquid proof, definitely more tear resistant than paper, printable by all kinds of means and eco-friendly. The manufacturing process does not require any water, trees, acids, or bleaches. Printing of design elements on the labels is achieved by environmentally safe means.
With this eco-friendly bottle-label solution the supplier can offer and advertise an absolutely sustainable product. This may even pave the way to higher retail prices.
There are numerous technical possibilities for optimum presentation of dietary supplements.
Naturally, these solutions may involve costs, which would then be added to the product price. However, the market proves that consumers happily pay a
higher price for better quality and this may even turn into a profit for the suppliers of dietary supplements. Justified trust in product quality and product authenticity represents an immense value for corporate branding of dietary supplement suppliers – even if it is hard to quantify or put a number on it.
Therefore the technical possibilities should be considered right from the beginning of a product development.
is the sales manager in the Goerlich Pharma, she joined our company 15 years ago, and she is familiar with all the products and services offered by the Goerlich Pharma. Ms. Weiland and her team are competent partners for all your requests, requirements, and development projects.
is the manager of production and logistics in the Goerlich Pharma. He has been with the company for 12 years. Mr. Wimmer was actively involved in designing the production lines and has detailed knowledge of each and every one of the production machines. With his team he stands for highquality production standards.