Tube Truths—Or Myths?
Published: October 24th, 2012
Are tubes more expensive than bottles?
There are a few challenges that are discouraging some brands from using a tube. Experts help dispel them.
By Marie Redding
We’ve all heard about all the user-friendly benefits a tube provides. They’re more portable than a bottle, and you can squeeze out every last bit of a product.
Even though tube use keeps growing, it’s typical for a brand to have one or two products in a tube—not an entire line. Why? What’s holding marketers back from using more tubes? I asked a few brands and suppliers.
Are tubes better suited for thick creams?
Beecology has some of its products in bottles. “The thinner lotions were okay in our bottles—we didn’t have any issues, so we only use the tube for our thicker creams,” says David Rzepka, cofounder, Beecology.
Suppliers do report that there are certain types of caps that are designed for products that have a lower viscosity, such as a lotion or even a toner.
Changing a tube’s orifice size will allow you to use the package for any type of product. “A large orifice will easily dispense a thick cream, or you can reduce it to 10 mm for less viscous products,” explains Ted Sojourner, regional vice president, tubes & laminates, Essel Propack (Danville, VA).
“A smaller orifice size, or using a special type of valve inside the cap, can also reduce the flow rate, or desired dispensing. This makes it possible to use a tube for even very watery products, such as cleansers,” says Sojourner. In addition, there are some caps and closures fit for a tube that can deliver a metered dose.
Like most suppliers, Global Packaging (La Habra, CA) also supplies tubes with small orifices. “We have made tubes with very small, 1-ml orifices for some customers,” says Vinay Upasani, president, Global Packaging. “These are perfect for a facial toner, and the flow of the liquid is reduced when you choose the right size.”
If the product is very watery, Sojourner suggests adding a valve. “A small orifice combined with a valve will ensure that a controlled amount is dispensed,” he adds.
Are tubes less prestigious than bottles or jars?
Not at all, according to experts. “There are many examples of fabulous-looking tubes that contain prestige products—just look at what the tanning industry is doing,” says Jeanine Recckio, beauty ‘futurologist’ at the trend forecast company, Mirror Mirror Imagination Group (New York City; Palm Beach). Recckio says that she will often say to clients that it can be nice to have a beautiful jar on your vanity, but tubes are a more modern package.
“I feel that more often bottles are more often perceived by consumers as a cheaper packaging option,” says Upasani of Global Packaging.
A brand that sees the other side of this debate is Estrea. “I can see how a bottle with a pump can have a greater appeal, and why a consumer would consider it a more prestige package,” explains Zsolt Boros, president, Estrea USA.
Boros feels that sometimes it is difficult to make sure a tube looks as high end as consumers expect from a beauty brand. “This is what I have experienced,” he explains. “But when a consumer uses a product often, I think they do find that they prefer the convenience of a tube,” he adds.
Recckio says that image isn’t an issue with the right design. “Check out some of the decorating processes that are elevating tubes. Some have glamorous metallized caps, or they’re ‘pierced’ with charms,” she explains.
Silk screening, combined with hot stamping, is what most companies will choose for a tube if they want a very high-end look, for a prestige product, according to Marie Boyan, vice president of operations, Vivid Packaging (Cleveland). “It is a more-expensive printing method than offset printing, but its price will be reflected in its quality look,” she explains.
Gradient offset printing is another option, according Upasani. “It’s a unique look,” he says. “There are many other ways to make sure a tube will look high end, such as custom colors, or pairing one with an airless pump,” Upasani explains.
Murad’s wrinkle cream shows how a tube can have a prestige, yet minimalist, look. It embodies the image of a prestige skin care brand with its sleek shape and silver-pearl resin. It is decorated using a silk screening process.
The team at Rock Your Hair also put a lot of thought into the design of its tube. “Like our Pink products, Rock Your Hair Hard Gel was designed to make a big first impression on the retail shelf,” says Kym Riffel, COO, Rock Your Hair. The tube is deep black, with a finish that was chosen to look like chrome, according to Riffel.
The brand MUD Cosmetics, by Make-up Designory, chose silver and dark gray for its mascara tube, because it looked ‘timeless,’ according to Yvonne Hawker, senior sales representative and educator, MUD Cosmetics. The color was achieved by spraying, and a silk screening process was used for decoration.
Are tubes more expensive than bottles?
Not necessarily—cost depends on many factors, such as the supplier and where it manufactures and order size. Some might assume a tube should always be less expensive than a bottle, since they are made with less plastic.
However, bottles can run at higher speeds on a production line, which drives costs down, explains Kunal Kuthiala, regional innovation manager, Essel Propack. So when it comes to price, it’s difficult to make generalizations.
One cost-saving feature Kuthiala mentions is that companies can print directly on a tube—no label required.
Marie Boyan, vice president of operations, Vivid Packaging, says that offset printing is the most economical decoration for a tube. “It allows up to eight colors, at the lowest cost,” she explains.
Manufacturing a tube overseas will decrease costs, often significantly. “A smaller tube coming from China can be priced very competitively,” Upasani says.
However, the quality of your tube will affect your costs, overall, points out Christopher White, president, The Filling Station (Flemington, NJ). “I have been seeing more tubes that are much better quality coming out of China lately, than in the past,” says White. “This matters, because I’ve seen many small companies use tubes that are a few cents less because they are made in China, but then so many can’t be filled that it ends up costing them more,” White explains.
When it comes to price differences, size also matters, according to Global Packaging’s Upasani. “In my experience, bottles can be more economical than a tube, in certain sizes. But a tube smaller than 8 oz is generally less expensive than the same-sized bottle,” he says.
Boros has found that Estrea’s tubes have been less expensive than its jars or bottles with pumps. “Using more tubes allows us to provide better pricing for our customers,” he says. “But, price will always depend on who your manufacturer is.”
Beecology’s cofounder Amy Rzepka says that their bottles had always been less expensive because they were able to fill them by hand, since they are a young, growing company. This isn’t possible to do with a tube, so when they repackaged their hand and body cream, they would have the extra filling expense.
“Now that we found a local filler, our tubes are more cost-efficient,” explains David Rzepka, cofounder of Beecology, who is also married to Amy.
Although purchasing their own tube-filling machine would be a major investment for Beecology, some suppliers say it’s an affordable option that a small company should consider.
“Some of our customers that purchase tube fillers are large companies, but others are mom-and-pop shops,” says Fredrik Nilsson, sales manager, Norden (Branchburg, NJ). “When you consider the cost of machinery—if you are ready to make that investment—then there are many advantages of using a tube instead of a bottle or jar,” explains Nilsson.
Filling a tube requires purchasing only one machine, according to Nilsson, but a bottle line will typically include several parts, such as an unscrambler, filler, and capper.
“The footprint of bottle line machinery can be very long,” Nilsson explains. “Floor space in many plants today is very scarce, and the production you can achieve per sq ft with a tube filler is hard to beat,” he adds.
Essel’s Sojourner says that filling costs will become an issue when a tube is larger than the standard size. “Most tube filling operations are set up to accommodate tubes with a 2-in.-diam or smaller. Filling anything larger may become more difficult and costly,” he says. For this reason, Sojourner says they’ve been seeing a lot of suppliers making tubes that are longer, but not wider. “Then, they can accommodate more product but filling doesn’t become a challenge,” he adds.
If you haven’t considered using a tube, for any of the reasons above, perhaps it’s time you do. “Tubes have come a long way,” says Upasani. “There are so many options to choose from, to accommodate any type of product,” he adds.