Planning for Growth

A focus on growth segments by contract packagers includes emerging formats catering to convenience.
Contract packagers have devised support for brand companies’ new product launches and packaging strategies for mature products, while establishing capacity for promising generic and OTC markets.
Stick packs are among emerging formats with promise for pharmaceutical companies looking to differentiate their brands in crowded fields and capture consumer loyalty.
Pharmaceutical companies are investigating digital marking of packages for mobile marketing applications, enabling patients to receive marketing messages and support with their treatments through their “smart phones.”
“Customers in prescription and OTCs are actively testing out the viability of our Media Enhanced Packaging technology,” says Bill Hartzell, product manager for adherence packaging, Catalent Pharma Solutions (, which has the exclusive rights to Digimarc’s water marking technology for healthcare packaging in North America.
“The Media Enhanced Packaging technology serves as a portal to the Internet that creates dynamic packaging with markings that are imperceptible to the human eye, without consuming package real estate.
“A company could offer multi-language instruction, or videos on how to use a syringe. The real-time content management can allow you to distribute coupons or utilize for recall management through a smart phone app to a web site. The goal is to increase the users’ engagement with the package. [The technology is] an element that is being incorporated today in our adherence solutions,” Hartzell adds.
Supported by recent investment in plant facilities and machinery, Aphena Pharma Solutions ( offers a broad range of packaging, repackaging, and manufacturing services. The newly named contract packager aligns four seasoned contract packaging companies as a single source provider of turnkey services, with five FDA-registered facilities in the US. Following the latest acquisition last year of TestPak (Whippany, NJ), the company has been organized into three divisions, solid-dose packaging division, and divisions in liquid and topical and health and beauty.
“We took a very strategic path in acquisitions, for the most part purchasing capabilities we didn’t have. In addition, we have redundancies where needed such as with our government contracts, which represent a good portion of our business,” says Renard Jackson, president and CEO.
“The majority of our focus is on generic drugs and OTC products, as well as private label—segments that are growing significantly. We also have huge arrangements with major branded companies for providing sample packaging,” Jackson adds.
Through its multiple locations, Aphena Pharma Solutions can offer simplified supply chains with reduced freight costs in addition to redundant production capacity.
PrePak Systems (Cookeville, TN) and Integrated Pharmaceutical Packaging (Franklin, KY) comprise the new Aphena solid-dose division with primary services in bottling. With the acquisition of Celeste Contract Packaging (Easton, MD), Aphena expanded into liquids and topicals manufacturing and packaging. With TestPak, Aphena gained high capacity in blister manufacturing.
Celeste Contract Packaging last year launched a new health and beauty business unit, now Aphena health and beauty (AHB), expanding blending capabilities for large-scale manufacturing. New tanks and explosion proof mixing capability were added along with two new lines for liquid, cream, and ointment packaging.
“We are planning to develop unique package designs for the pharma side based on health and beauty packaging. AHB package designs for applications such as pouching for liquid topicals are easily moved to pharma applications,” says Eric Allen, director of sales and corporate marketing.
“This is packaging that will meet pharma requirements for stability as well as the preferences of customers and patients,” Allen adds.
In Tennessee and Kentucky, a recent $1 million investment in new equipment adds to the company’s large bottling capacity. In addition, a new 135,000 sq ft bottling facility opened last year at Glasgow, KY, that—besides providing a redundant site for bottling—enables new capabilities. The facility features a six-pallet-high racking system, with space for large-scale hand assembly projects.
“For high-volume OTCs that need second and third levels of packaging, we have the space to provide a full turnkey program with assembly of retail-ready, point-of-purchase displays. [In addition] we can store a massive amount of inventory to support brand launches,” Allen says.
Services and expertise at facilities of excellence for solid dose and liquid packaging will be expanded throughout the company. “We have been a leader among outsourcing organizations in implementing the latest technology and quality systems. On our bottling lines, we have established camera-based vision systems. We are well prepared to help customers meet package coding requirements with the capability to serialize packaging on our bottling and blister lines,” Jackson says.
For fulfilling its federal government contracts, the firm has implemented serialized 2-D bar coding and an e-pedigree solution for tracking drug custody.
Turnkey services that Aphena Tennessee has offered in-house for package design and new product launch management will be expanded company wide for customers at any facility. “The whole organization will now offer this support working directly with customers’ sales and marketing teams if requested. We can be a strategic partner with the many small pharmaceutical companies and virtual companies in managing a turnkey program in private label,” Allen says.
“Some years ago we began streamlining our internal processes to support lean manufacturing. These have included in-house development of systems for scheduling software and electronic batch records, and proprietary vision system software. We are implementing these best practices among all our facilities,” Allen adds.
The launch of the new contract packager is “perfectly timed” for meeting the requirements of a changing market place, Jackson says.
“Pharma companies have realized that in-house packaging is not accretive to their bottom lines. It makes much more sense for them to spend their hard-earned dollars on additional research and bringing to market products that provide much better margins [without the costs of] manufacturing and packaging. We can partner with companies looking to bring product into the United States or looking to expand capabilities with minimal capital expense.
“The outlook is very positive for organizations that establish customer confidence with strict quality procedures and high service levels,” Jackson adds.
Ropack ( is inaugurating a new stick pack packaging facility. The15,000-sq-ft Class 100,000 facility for primary packaging is a “plant within a plant” developed last year in a portion of a secondary packaging facility in Montreal at a cost of $8.5 million.
The facility includes dedicated environmental and temperature-controlled suites for stick pack, sachet packaging, and encapsulation, says Paul Dupont, Ropack’s director of business development for North America.
“This will be the largest facility of its kind for the packaging of humidity and temperature-sensitive product in stick pack format outside of food for North American markets. We have approximately 40% of our stick pack line capacity presold,” Dupont says.
The stick pack suite features a vertical form-fill-seal stickpack machine with ten lanes integrated with a cartoner for commercial production in a small foot print,” Dupont says.
A second one-lane platform supports stability packaging and other small capacity requirements. The stick packs move in a continuous flow from the FFS machine to the cartoner where the packs are soldier packed to cartons in increments of seven or ten. The cartoning aligns the packs in tight, neat rows with branding surfaces oriented to the same side.
The FFS machine is a top-of-the-line model from a leading manufacturer that fills up to 1000 stick packs per minute. Fill weights range from 0.02 g to 4 g subject to products’ properties such as density and flow characteristics.
The high-speed filling is combined in the machine with “extremely high fill accuracy,” with a filling variance of 0.02 grams. “Fill accuracy becomes critical when you are packaging expensive APIs. With more precise filling you can save a pharmaceutical manufacturer hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Dupont says.
Suitable for any product that can be rendered in granular or powder form, stick packs are ideal for products where excipients or flavorings add to the gram weight of a unit dose beyond that of a normal tablet, Dupont says.
Dupont predicts the U.S. market will adopt stick packs in greater numbers, as a format that provides portability and convenience for consumers. “In conventional tablet formats, the product is often exposed to humidity. The dosage is always guaranteed to be perfect with a stick pack,” Dupont says.
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