By Marie Redding
Tube suppliers and fillers say business is growing. New innovations in structure, closure, and decoration are all helping to fuel the demand for tubes.
“Overall, the demand for tubes has been as good as it’s ever been,” says Jerry Ruud, vice president sales and marketing, Berry Plastics (Evansville, IN). “Both marketers and consumers prefer the many advantages tubes offer,” he says. A tube’s advantages include portability and ease of use, since the product is always ready at the orifice.
“Tubes have come a long way. They’re looking better, and feeling better,” says Jeanine Recckio, trend forecaster and head of package development at Mirror Mirror Imagination Group (New York City). “They’re so convenient, nothing will ever replace them,” she says. Recckio has been seeing a lot of interest lately from hair care companies looking for new types of tubes, for new product launches.
Sandy Nagel, co-owner, JSN Cosmetic Packaging (Irvine, CA), agrees that there has been a recent spark of interest in tubes, saying that both marketers and consumers are migrating more towards the package. “The trend comes out of Europe, where there is an amazing range of products in squeeze tubes—even for food items that traditionally are sold in jars, like mustard,” she says. Examples of food products in tubes include tomato paste (sold for quite a while in France, Italy, and specialty shops in the United States, among others) and Colman’s English Mustard in the United Kingdom.
Recckio has also been seeing more unique types of food products being sold in tubes, especially in Europe and Japan. “When food—and even cosmeceuticals—are in tubes, then technology like purity sealing becomes important,” she says.
Ted Sojourner, regional vice president for the Americas, Essel Propack (Danville, VA), also says the demand for tubes has been strong. “In terms of the economy and new business development, what we’re seeing has been very encouraging,” says Sojourner. “We’ve been growing and investing in both the production side as well as in our printing capabilities,” he says.
The right label can transform the look of a tube, and provide always sought-after shelf presence. Advances in labeling materials that allow greater freedom when designing a tube’s decoration often inspire package designers.
JSN Cosmetic Packaging often works with labels that are made from a material and adhesive that can withstand the heat required for crimping. This allows the label to extend to the end of the tube. “The label design runs all the way down to the crimping area, rather than having to leave a blank space at the end,” says Michael Yankaus, a graphic design consultant based in Palo Alto, CA, representing JSN.
JSN recently decorated a tube for Philip B with a full-wrap label that extends to the crimp. “The label has a spot matte UV varnish, enhanced with a tone-on-tone gloss foil stamp, and a separate gold foil ornament application in the center,” says Yankaus. The cap is hot-stamped with the Philip B logo.
Sometimes just finding the right-sized tube and closure can be a challenge. Marketers often need large bonus-sized packages, especially for personal care products. A typical large tube holds approximately 14 oz, and many suppliers offer standard closures up to 2 in. So what are your options when you need something larger?
“Extra-large tubes and closures can be difficult to find,” says Ruud of Berry Plastics. The supplier began offering a selection of large dispensing closures in December 2009.
Earlier this year, Berry Plastics worked with Kao Brands, switching its bottles with tubes in the John Frieda Frizz Ease line. A tube that could hold 15.5 oz was needed for a hair care product to be sold as a bonus size. This tube required the development of a dispensing closure with a 2 3/16 in. diameter.
“No other company had ever produced a complete tube and closure package this large before,” says Ruud of Berry Plastics. The supplier’s collection of different size closures fit tubes with diameters ranging from 1⅜ in. to 2 ⅜ in.
Functional Applicator Tips for Unit-Dose Tubes
Unit-dose tubes with uniquely shaped applicator heads offer new ways to dispense and apply products—and may soon inspire the development of new types of beauty products.
New customized applicator heads in different shapes were recently developed by James Alexander Corp. (Blairstown, NJ) to fit its patented ampoules, which are small injection-molded tubes. The applicators can be made from materials such as cosmetic foam, felts, wools, polyurethane, and uncompressed melamine, to name a few.
“A specialized tip can be developed to fit your product and application needs. We can do different angle cuts, or laminate a tip for a coarser application,” says Carol Gamsby, director of sales, James Alexander.
The new applicator heads have been generating a lot of interest by hair care companies, especially for new temporary hair color products, the supplier says. The largest of its unit-dose tubes is a triangular shape, and holds up to 5 ml. The largest applicator heads are a 1½ in. wide rectangle, and a circle with a 1-in. diameter.
Suppliers Develop “Green” Ways to Cut Costs
Tubes that are more environmentally friendly, by utilizing less material and streamlined production processes, are always a topic on the minds of both suppliers and marketers. Cutting costs, however, is an even more important need, suppliers say. Both goals are directly connected, and are being attained simultaneously by some tube suppliers.
Over the past 3 months, Essel Propack developed a “trimless” project for its printed laminate. “Printing to the exact width of the tube cuts down on the amount of scrap that is produced, which would otherwise be destroyed or sold as salvage,” says Sojourner.
It is a much more efficient and environmentally friendly printing process, and could add up to double-digit savings on the cost of materials, according to Sojourner. “We’re continuing to look for new ways to cut costs and pass that savings to our customers,” he adds.
JSN Cosmetic Packaging also makes a conscious effort to utilize tube production methods that eliminate waste. “Our inline tube extrusion process cuts tubes to actual length, so there is no trim waste,” says JSN’s sales manager, John Ulibarri.
“We have also selected cap-making machinery with the built-in ability to use the scrap it creates. Excess material is added right back into the production process,” says Ulibarri.
Alcan Packaging Beauty (New York City; Washington, NJ) introduced a new tube at the Luxe Pack New York show earlier this year. The tube contains more than 50% FDA-approved HDPE post-consumer recycled (PCR) material. It can be made in mono or coex construction.
“There has been a lot of interest this tube,” says Doug Jackson, market manager, North America, for Alcan Packaging Beauty. “When it is combined with our Slender caps and Pixel Graphics, a truly sustainable package can be offered to the consumer,” he adds.
The supplier’s Pixel Graphics, which includes CMYK flexo printing and silk screen decoration, are in-line print technologies for plastic and laminate tubes.
“In the past, silk screen decoration was done as a separate process, occurring after the standard offset printed tube-making process. Combining the two processes is a ‘greener’ manufacturing method,” says Jackson.
Pixel Graphics also offers the level of enhanced graphics previously only obtained with labels—but now these types of graphics can be directly printed on tubes. “This eliminates the need for a label and an additional application process, offering another “green” benefit,” he says. Printing directly on a tube can also cost less than a label.
Alcan Packaging Beauty’s snap-on, flip-top caps for tubes, called Slender, are still the most lightweight available in the industry, the company maintains. Reducing the amount of plastic needed to make the caps lowers material and shipping costs, while also being “green.”