Adding Value to OTC Packaging
Compliance solutions are one way to earn the loyalty of OTC consumers.
It is too early to say whether Wal-Mart’s initiative to bring compliance packaging into the mainstream will have near-term repercussions in the competitive merchandising arena of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. But Wal-Mart’s report that consumers have embraced the “consumerized packaging” it has promoted for prescription drugs will not be lost on OTC drug marketers striving for an edge at the store shelf.
THE CONSUMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT
Consumers value the help with medications that compliance packaging provides. Communicating a compliance solution is one way to capture the attention and loyalty of consumers self-treating in the pharmacy aisle.
Distinctive compliance packaging also enhances the brand, providing “a unique and differentiated package while also providing much-needed functionality targeted to a major consumer need. Value-added packaging becomes part of the brand identity,” says Ken Bertram, manager of healthcare plastics, and product manager for Shellpak, Meadwestvaco (New York City).
OTC product packaging has increasingly addressed compliance to promote safe and effective use of products from drugs to cosmeceuticals, says Bertram. Compliance packaging is offered for products such as 81-ml aspirin for heart disease–prevention regimens and to promote cosmeceutical regimen adherence. Vitamins and supplements, such as in diabetes-care vitamin health packs, are pouched and packaged in convenient-dispensing cartons to help consumers become daily users.
In blister designs, pill counts that intuitively suggest compliance are taking hold. Examples include the Prilosec seven-count blister that reinforces daily usage, and packaging for Claritin and private-label Loratadine in seven-day formats, says Bertram.
“We see a lot of opportunities beyond calendared blisters. Compliance packaging is much more comprehensive and can be supported in many ways,” he says.
Packaging can heighten product awareness through graphic design and billboarding space, provide clear instructions about the product and its use, address ease-of-use, and afford portability.
Meadwestvaco’s packaging for the Kinerase skin care regimen is an example of a nonblister compliance package alternative. The package consists of a windowed SBS carton containing a thermoformed tray with four products, with fifth and sixth panels for extended billboard space and inclusion of an additional instruction card. It includes literature for consumer education and conveying scientific information with photos to relate product efficacy.
The need to accommodate Drug Facts continues to influence packag- ing choices. To help a company meet FDA’s labeling requirement, All Packaging Co. (Aurora, CO) recently devised a folding carton for pegboard-hanger display for an OTC product that had been using a carded blister with limited surface area. Real estate was provided by the carton exterior and folded inserts, says Ken Pepper, president.
Meadwestvaco’s Shellpak package promotes shelf “findability” while featuring F-1 child protection and compliance-supporting blisters. The molded plastic carton offers travel protection and addresses cost by eliminating blister card perforations, allowing more blisters on a card. “You can take a two-blister package and turn it into a one-blister configuration,” Bertram says.
“Our approach is working from consumer needs backwards. Consumers dislike peel-and-push CR blisters in the OTC environment. Shellpak’s CR feature is provided by its push-button technology, allowing the blister to be a simple push-through foil. We have received good traction for Shellpak in the prescription environment, and we believe it is very well positioned for OTCs,” he adds.
VasoActive Pharmaceuticals’ new topical lotion packaging features foil stamping and embossing elements for maximum shelf impact.
Bill Sharpless is very well aware of consumer distaste for unfriendly blister packaging and determined to change it. As global market director for Alcoa Packaging (Richmond, VA), he is helping to launch the company’s new “consumer-friendly” peel-push lidding structure. “Patients won’t be fighting with this material to get to their medication,” he says. Using a 50-µm PET film instead of paper, Safety-Pak Plus, part of the Safety-Pak family of lid stock, features enhanced peelability. It also features better puncture resistance than previous materials, increasing its child resistance. A broad sealing window offers increased operational efficiency.
Sharpless believes Safety-Pak Plus is particularly suited for OTC drug applications given another of its traits—enhanced printability. Coated with an acrylic print primer, the material “holds a nice print for merchandising. We can do things with Safety-Pak Plus not possible with paper,” he says. It is compatible with solvent- or water-based inks, and trial printing has been run using digital printers from CSAT America (Louisville, CO). The material’s polymer layer may be better suited for incorporating security printing options than a paper surface, he adds.
At Pack Expo International this fall in Chicago, Alcoa handed out promotional packages bearing a clear reproduction of the Mona Lisa printed on the back of a 10-unit blister package by its Downingtown, PA, plant.
“I envision this material giving OTC drugs a lot of color and pop,” says Sharpless. “It is a premium material, but not with a premium price.”
VasoActive Pharmaceuticals (Danvers, MA) employed foil stamping and embossing elements as part of a package redesign for its three flagship topical lotions. The cutting-edge design helped secure the products’ first retail distribution and has stimulated consumer sales, says Stephen Cataldo, marketing director.
The company’s Osteon and A-R Extreme, for muscle, joint, and skeletal pain, and its athlete’s foot remedy, Termin-8, were first launched for sale on VasoActive’s Web site.
The redesign creates a new brand identity with innovation and action themes that convey the attributes of its proprietary PentoCore technology. The PentoCore delivery system allows more-effective ointment penetration, without greasy residue or strong odor, says Cataldo.
A package redesign for ScheringPlough's Coricidin cold and flu remedies highlights the products' suitability for patients with high blood pressure.
Cataldo says the products debuted in August in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey supermarkets and health and beauty stores, including A&P, Super Fresh, Waldbaums, Pathmark, and Shop Rite. Wright Design (Acton, MA) created the packaging.
“We think the new packaging graphics created by the Wright Design team truly reflect the distinct difference of these products. We have distribution in all the retail locations of each chain we are in and are already receiving reorders.”
The design minimizes the use of white in earlier packaging. Products are differentiated through graphical elements and color coding to appeal to the particular target audience, yet they are tied together as a family of products with common elements such as reverberating-wave graphics and a new silver and green VasoActive “V” logo.
Foil stamping and embossing add vibrancy and dimension that helps the packages stand out from numerous other topical alternatives in the categories, says Cataldo.
Cataldo says the design will enhance brand recognition for planned future products and line extensions, and will support promotion and advertising in other media formats.
“We recently produced a television spot for A-R Extreme, where we animated the image of the runner on the box to run off the box, into the streets, and through a tunnel,” he says.
Alcoa Packaging has introduced a blister lid stock using PET film for enhanced graphics and peelability, Safety-Pak Plus.
Shelf presence is key in the cough-and-cold category where cold and flu sufferers are making quick decisions from among a host of multisymptom, multiingredient products. To boost shelf facings and sales, Schering-Plough revised packaging for its Coricidin cold and flu products to highlight the brand’s suitability for individuals with high blood pressure.
Coricidin does not contain decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, that have been linked to high blood pressure, providing a meaningful point of differentiation with other leading brands.
In recent seasonal television ads, the company emphasizes Coricidin’s advantage for those with high blood pressure. But “facings were a real problem for them,” says Jonathan Alter, president Dragon Rouge (New York City) the package designer.
The redesign highlights the four-SKU line of cold and flu products as “decongestant-free cold relief for people with high blood pressure.”
The design retained elements of the original graphics while imparting more emphasis to the HBP benefit. “Their big concern was not to make it hard for customers, shopping once, maybe twice a year, for a cough/cold product, to find the product in the stores,” says Alter,
Hitting shelves this past fall in time for the flu season, the package relocates and upsizes the “HBP” designation below the Coricidin logo where it is more legible and adjacent to defining language. A red heart icon replaces a heart graphic that could be mistaken for the letter “C,” says Alter.
PACKAGING PRIVATE-LABEL OTCs
A large component of private-label OTC packaging at McKesson’s RxPak contract packaging division (Memphis) is cartoned blisters. RxPak emphasizes Single-Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) principles to efficiently produce the variety of cartoning styles required by customers, says Kevin Carter, sales executive, RxPak.
Packaging lines require retooling to accommodate different carton styles and sizes when private-label firms seek packaging with a similar look to the brands for which they are providing alternatives. In addition, package graphics and shipper configurations for an individual private-label drug are often customized to retailer requirements, Carter says.
“The same blister is going to different retailers under different store-brand packaging, while the physical dimensions of the package remain the same. Production becomes less efficient given the multiple changes to the secondary and tertiary packaging. For example, a production run of one-half million blisters may require five or six label changes, which will include cartons, inserts, and shipper labels. You lose 30 or more minutes of production time for each changeover required,” says Carter.
Standardized processes for machine changeovers, storage systems for tooling and packaging components, and CGMP line clearance procedures make production more efficient. “Much of the changeover preparation is done while the line is in production,” he says.
RxPak uses integrated Uhlmann UPS 4 blister machines and C2200- series cartoners. An integrated HAPA Model 730/29 digital UV printer allows for direct transfer of artwork from a PC, supporting on-demand printing of Reduced Space Symbology codes, human-readable codes, and other variable data on the blisters. The system retains the benefit of UV inks, but eliminates the need for a print mat used in standard flexographic in-line printing.
Carter says that private-label firms are more likely to consider package-material alternatives than brands that stick with packaging they know. “The private-label OTC companies seem to be more willing than the brand companies to pursue lower-cost packaging-materialalternativesbecause their market is more price conscious,” says Carter.
“We are testing production of face-seal blister cards and wallets that can replace catons. However, these components can add costs when handling multiple blister configurations requiring multiple line changeovers. The challenge is to standardize components and processes for automated high-speed production for multiple products,” he says.