Hassle-Free Packaging for Nutritional Supplements

Manufacturers of nutritional supplements are on the lookout for unique, easy-to-use packages.

Ani Grigorian, Managing Editor

Lose weight fast, get energized, relax, and feel better about yourself! Packaging for over-the-counter (OTC) nutritional supplements tells us all of those things and more. For this message to sink in, however, manufacturers must look for ways to make their total product, nutritional supplement plus package, more appealing and easy to use for consumers. Companies are faced with the task of choosing a package that will not only offer all of those benefits, but also meet functionality and production requirements as well as regulatory standards.

Manufacturers benefit from packages that are aesthetically appealing to consumers. "We always like to see a better mousetrap. We'll explore anything consumer friendly and cost efficient that works and maintains the integrity of the product," says Michael Carlson, vice president of operations at Enzymatic Therapy (Green Bay, WI), a manufacturer and distributor of natural medicines and nutritional supplements.

Even more important than the aesthetic appeal of a product is its quality and how its package works to maintain that quality. This is what will keep consumers coming back for more.

THE CONTAINER

Whether the product is contained in a bottle, blister pack, or point-of-purchase package, manufacturers are working alongside their packagers with ease-of-use matters in mind. "The American consumer loves convenience," says Howard Thau, president of Sonic Packaging Industries Inc. (Westwood, NJ). Manufacturers are going to him with requests for packages with precounted doses containing seven to eight tablets because consumers want all of their supplements to come out of a single package.

Since nutritional supplement manufacturers commonly recommend that their products be taken daily, packagers are devising designs that will help patients comply with daily usage recommendations. The shape of the Duma Pocket from Superfos Pharma Pack (Vaerlose, Denmark) allows end-users to comfortably carry it in their pockets, says sales manager Søren Pedersen. "We are seeing an increasing demand for products that are different from the traditional round or square containers," says Pedersen. "The Duma Pocket, for example, is becoming popular for use with products that are sold over the Internet and sent by mail to the customer because its oval shape allows it to be shipped in a standard envelope and to fit through mail slots."

The compartment on the Duma Combi from Superfos Pharma Pack is ideal for additional product information.

Consultant C. Jeanne Taborsky of SciRegs Consulting (Columbia, MD) adds, "Blisters might be a suitable addition to the market, so that people do not have to carry bottles around all of the time." In addition to providing convenience, Taborsky notes that blisters may provide better product protection than some of the unit-dose containers currently in use with nutritional supplements.

Some manufacturers are packaging their products in point-of-purchase pouches. These packages offer conveniences similar to those of precounted-dose or blister packages.

Sharp Corp. (Conshohocken, PA) is offering child-resistant (CR) features for its array of pouches. Although OTC drug manufacturers are more commonly using CR pouches for sample packs, the CR pouch may be a useful option for manufacturers of supplements containing levels of iron that could be harmful to children.

Sharp developed the CR pouch with Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requirements in mind. The pouch could be opened by folding the sealed foil at one corner, which exposes a notch in the film and allows the user to tear open the package. However, a pharmaceutical company working with Sharp felt that if children were able to feel the exposed notch, it would be easier for them to get into the package. As a result, Sharp modified its CR pouch production operation by adding a function to its vertical form-fill-seal unit that would seal the pouch and cut the notch simultaneously. A second die station was added right under the existing sealing station to smooth out the notch. The result was a pouch with no telltale sign of a notch that met strict CR standards.

THE CLOSURE

Since the CR requirements for nutritionals are not as rigorous as the CR requirements for prescription drugs, manufacturers seem to be turning more to easy-to-use closures for their products. However, Phil Lambert, product manager at Rexam Closures & Containers (Evansville, IN), advises, "If a manufacturer deems their product could be harmful to a child, a CR package should be used." He adds, "Some manufacturers standardize on a CR package to create brand recognition. The consumer will perceive their product differently from that of a manufacturer using a non-CR package."

In addition to considering CR packaging for nutritional supplements, companies should consider whether the type of closure being used will affect product stability. During the "2001: Container/Closures for Solid Oral Dosage Forms" conference session at Interphex 2001 in Philadelphia last March, speaker Taborsky cautioned that flip-top closures may not always provide the necessary protection of the product from water, oxygen, and light. She says, "Flip-top caps should be tested on repeated use because many caps stretch and liners compress, no longer affording the required protection."

Manufacturers agree that both closures and containers should be subjected to validation tests to ensure the stability of their products. Lambert explains, "Seals against water and oxygen are usually achieved with an induction heat seal (IHS) liner, which also provides tamper evidence." However, Lambert adds, after the initial opening or if a liner is not used, the seal of the closure is critical to ensuring product efficacy. To this end, Rexam has developed a convenience closure with product stability issues in mind. The LCC-2 series tablet dispenser, which is a flip-top closure with a ball-and-socket hinge construction, has been designed to provide a seal sufficient to meet USP requirements, claims Lambert.

Another possible solution to the product stability problem is a linerless closure that has been integrated into the container and meets USP requirements. The Duma Pocket container from Superfos is just one of the company's products that has an integrated cap with a visual sealing system. In reference to the Duma Pocket's flip-top cap, Pedersen says, "We believe that our linerless designs are the right way to go for several reasons." He explains that with a linerless design, you avoid the seal, the induction sealing process, and the retorque of the cap on the filling line. Instead, product protection is obtained every time the package is closed, and from an environmental standpoint, you save by eliminating unnecessary materials.

THE LABEL

Richard Johnson, senior vice president of marketing for Enzymatic Therapy, says that Americans spend an estimated $16 billion annually on dietary supplements. "It's time for nutritional supplement companies to increase consumer understanding about what supplements do and how they should be taken."

One of the simplest ways to increase consumer awareness of nutritional supplements is through the labeling itself, and to get consumers to read labeling, you need color. "Where once supplement manufacturers may have used one or two colors for their labeling, they now need six- or seven-color graphics to compete effectively for shelf awareness and consumer 'grab factor,' " says Rick Harris, marketing and sales manager for the packaging business team of FLEXcon Company, Inc. (Spencer, MA).

The ball-and-socket hinge construction of these flip-top closures from Rexam provides a seal that sufficiently meets USP requirements.

Stand-alone containers commonly used for nutritional supplements require product information to appear directly on the label, explains Harris. Label suppliers are adapting to the surge of easy-to-use packages with convenient labels that can contain all of the detailed information required by regulatory directives on the container itself. "The evolution of FDA labeling requirements may force supplement manufacturers to adopt the same sort of packaging innovations as those being used in the OTC market. These include expanded label geography, as manifested by wrap-around labels and fold-out accordion-style labeling," says Harris.

The Duma Combi from Superfos is an innovative labeling solution for nutritional supplement manufacturers. It features a literature compartment on the container that allows for additional information to be included with the end product, says Pedersen. "This particular product gives manufacturers a lot of new possibilities. The flat facing of the container makes the label easy to see and gives label makers more freedom when designing the label because they don't have to take into consideration the limitations of, for example, a round shape."

Enzymatic Therapy took advantage of recent labeling innovations to present easy-to-use dosage recommendations. The industry standard for dosage recommendations has traditionally been based on age indicators. Enzymatic Therapy has developed a package for its Heart Health line that features guidelines for determining individual dosage levels. The Heart Factor Chart, which is included on the back of the label, divides dosage levels into three different categories based on dosage quantity and frequency. Enzymatic Therapy's Carlson says, "This industry continues to work with label suppliers to efficiently place the vast amounts of information required on each product in a limited amount of space."

Bearing copy space requirements for labels in mind, manufacturers should explore the functionality of labels. Harris explains, "Labels must survive the chipping and rubbing that occurs during dispensing and distribution, and withstand the rigors of everyday use." High-performance, pressure-sensitive films and adhesives, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, and acetate films, are capable of withstanding end-use application challenges including moisture, humidity, handling, and exposure to container contents, says Harris.

THE END

Powerfully driven by consumer needs, nutritional supplement manufacturers are scurrying to discover or create the next best product. However, matters of convenience and product stability should be considered jointly. Creating a quality product becomes a balancing act between choosing the right container, closure, and label, among other things. And every manufacturer wants to be able to offer consumers an easy-to-use product. But in doing so, Carlson states, "You cannot undermine the integrity of your product."

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