Tubes with Benefits

Today’s tubes offer unique dispensing features, unit-of-use formats, and other bonuses intended to heighten the consumer experience.


By Daphne Allen

Consumers enjoy tubes for their convenience. And tubes have gotten even friendlier over the years. For instance, most tubes now stand up, easing storage and enhancing product delivery.

“Tubes are the preferred vehicle for consumer packaging,” says Steven Ostrower, president of The Penthouse Group (Freeport, NY), a developer of packaging for beauty products companies. “If we can make a tube, in special shapes, and make it squeezable, consumers prefer it.”

Lou Della Pesca, president of 3C Inc. (Wyckoff, NJ), sees some of his beauty company customers replacing jars and bottles with tubes. “Tubes are a lot less expensive than jars and bottles. They offer flexibility in color and shape and versatility given the large assortment of flip-top caps and applicators.”

Now may be the time to enhance that flexibility and versatility. Michael Hoard, director, marketing and business development for Alcan Packaging Beauty, says that “tubes are very userfriendly and appealing, but companies always have to be thinking about what they can do to make tubes even more useful or interesting for consumers. There are really only a few ways to differentiate a tube and dispensing.”

For instance, recent Alcan innovations have focused on “bringing a level of functionality to the tube,” adds Hoard.

And although the economy has certainly had an adverse affect, observes Jim Kisthardt, marketing manager, MACtac Printing Products, he finds the tube labeling market in particular “still relatively healthy.” He explains that “consumers are continuing to demand new and innovative products. In many cases, a tube is the best way to deliver these products to the consumer.”


Adding Functionality

Several tube manufacturers are adding unique dispensing mechanisms designed to ease product use and enhance brand value. “Tubes with pumps, brushes,rollerballs, and other innovative applicators are great ways to offer high-end products with more economical tube packaging,” says Susanne Nichols, founder and CEO of International Cosmetic Suppliers (ICS; Hong Kong).

ICS has many options for tubes with pumps in both airless and dip tube styles, with various diameters, pump collar styles, and overcaps. “Tubes with pumps can be a more economical alternative to traditional pump bottles but still offer the same benefits,” Nichols explains.

Rexam Personal Care Division has developed lotion pumps for the prestige, masstige, and mass market categories for tube providers such as CTL Tuboplast and Linhardt, explains Virginie Lemeunier, Rexam’s product manager, lotion.

“Each pump features ergonomic design and ingenious engineering that stands up to even today’s most fragile active ingredients,” she explains.

Airless pumps are taking off, adds Lemeunier. Rexam offers the softactuating SP343 lotion pump. “Airless pump-tube assemblies help protect fragile formulations and build prestige brands in a wide range of fast-growing market segments. The SP343 pump is engineered to handle viscous creams and is available in a variety of materials for optimal application flexibility, with no precompression.” The pumps offer precise dosing potential, high package evacuation, and 360-degree application.

Airless tube popularity first caught on in Europe and is accelerating in the United States, Lemeunier reports. “It is used by firms such as Clarins, Pierre Fabre, Coty Lancaster, and Victoria’s Secret. In addition to skin and anti-aging crèmes, we see growth in men’s personal care products, sun care, and more.”

Tube manufacturer Hoffman Neopac AG (NJ; and Oberdiessbach, Switzerland)has developed an airless tube with MegaPlast (Pfaffenweiler, Germany) and its sister company Mega Pumps LP (Eatontown, NJ). The Polydose tube features a special head and adaptor to accommodate the airless pump from Mega. Appropriate for oxygen-sensitive products, the tube will be available in sizes ranging from 25 to 40 ml, reports Cornelia Schmid, marketing services, for Neopac.

Mega Pumps’ no-metal airless system can even control dosing by evacuating a repeatable dose, explains Janis Swindlehurst,vice president and general manager. “This is a big advance over the old dosage ruler or fingertip instructions used for normal tubes,” she says. “This is a way to deliver repeatable doses with each actuation.” She adds that airless tubes are suitable for dentifrice products (creams, lotions and natural products with low or no preservatives). The pumps can limit the amount of product dispensed in each actuation, especially critical in applications that contain peroxide, making it an advancement for dentifrice products.

Alcan’s Precitube features a valve system that relies on a pressure valve to keep air from reentering tubes, Hoard adds.

3C will introduce a soft tube incorporating an airless pump, Della Pesca reports. “Airless is the hottest dispensing system for cosmetic containers. We did add a standard pump to a tube a few years ago and now we are going airless.Thanks to these innovations as well as the layering of tubes, many new product formulations are now acceptable in tubes.”

The airless pump tube can dispense creams and serums. “It is designed to be stronger than a standard pump,” Della Pesca says.

Tubes with brushes are another added-value option, says Nichols. “Brushes offer hands-free application, making them a great option for foundation formulations, skin care products, and lotions.” ICS offers several tubes with brush options in various sizes. One particular design is a 16-mm-diam tube with a brush that has a patented locking mechanism. Other options include a showerhead applicator as well as a doefoot that is ideal for lip formulations and concealers.

Alcan Packaging offers the Wellness Brush for large-volume tubes. “The brush applicator allows consumers to scrub, lather, or massage using one hand, without touching the product,” explains Hoard. “It is intended to be very convenient and efficient and suits foot care products as well as facial washes and acne scrubs. The use of specialty applicators makes consumers feel as though they are being taken care of—almost like getting a spa treatment.” The brush can be transparent, pearlized, or colored. Sponge applicators are also available for pharmaceutical formulations.

Alcan’s Artist Family includes smaller tubes ranging in volume from 5 to 15 ml featuring brushes and other applicators. For instance, the Artist Soft Bevel and Artist Roll-on offer professional application of formulations. Through use of either an elastomer applicator or a metal roll-on ball, the tubes ease precise application. Artist Roll-on’s metal ball also provides a unique massaging sensation during application. And, with its delicate touch, Artist Soft Bevel is ideal for facial care and lip gloss.

ICS offers several tubes with rollerballs, including 35- and 19-mm-diam versions. The 19-mm style can employ either a polypropylene or steel ball.

Neopac is designing a roll-on tube, reports Misdom. “Many users have been asking for a steel ball because it cools skin on contact,” he explains. “We are exploring the use of a steel and a plastic ball, according to customer needs.”

Alcan Packaging Beauty and now Neopac utilize the Pinpoint dispensing closure from Seaquist Closures (Mukwonago, WI) for selected tubes. Pinpoint features a silicone valve with a 0.110-in. slit that controls dispensing. Part of Seaquist’s SofTips line, the conicalshaped valve cuts off product precisely, keeping the package hygienically clean with every application.

Alcan incorporates Pinpoint into 19 mm-diam tubes and will soon do so for 22-mm-diam tubes. “Pinpoint has done very well in the United States, and we are now launching it in Europe and Asia,” Hoard reports. “It combines functionality, aesthetics, and science, given the material properties of silicone and the valve system.”

Neopac is incorporating Pinpoint in its Polyfoil tube in a 19-mm-diam style, with a filling capacity of 10–30 ml. “We get feedback from customers that the stability of their products is much higher with the combination of Pinpoint and our Polyfoil tube compared with that of polyethylene and coextruded tubes,” says Misdom. “Product stability is a serious consideration when choosing a primary package for a pharmaceutical product.”

Seaquist reports that Pinpoint has been selected for Kao’s Biore See The Future Fortifying Eye Cream, part of the skin preservation collection; Estée Lauder (for Prescriptives), Neutrogena, and L’Oreal (for Biotherm) have also chosen Pinpoint.

One Is Better Than Two

Providing two products in one package is a novel approach for combination therapies. Consumer convenience is enhanced because users don’t have to store or carry around two separate items.

World Wide Packaging Inc. (Florham Park, NJ) has developed a dualchamber tube for a major cosmetics company launch this year. One 1⅜-in.-diam 35-mm round tube is inserted into a 2-in.-diam 50-mm round tube and attached to two injection-molded heads that lock together through robotic assembly.

“The two products do not touch until they meet in the consumer’s hand,” explains Jeff Hayet, vice president of global sales. “Migration of product has always been the biggest concern.” Tubes will be shipped to the customer in June. The current order is 8 million tubes, or 4 million dual-chamber tubes.

World Wide Packaging built a generic form of a dual-chamber tube three years ago, but never produced it commercially, Hayet explains. At the times the challenge was finding a customer willing to invest in specialty filling. “Our customer has invested in filling in various global locations.”

The next challenges will be to adapt the head technology and assembly technique to oval tubes and to add a dial that directs product dispensing in specific percentages.

The Penthouse Group, too, has developed tubes for housing separate product formulations until use. Relying on its Japanese partner’s packaging manufacturer Yoshino, The Penthouse Group has offered cosmetics company a highbarrier aluminum tubes (HAT) with an invisible seam and tubes with one-way valves that prevent air from reentering tubes during use.

To house two-part product formulations for Avon, the two partners developed coextruded LDPE/EVOH tubes in semicircle shapes that fit into one custom dispensing closure. A dial with four positions allows users to choose from 100% of either of the two formulations or 60%/40% or 40%/60% blends. The dial can also be turned to a shutoff position.

“One of Avon’s products was a microdermabrasion product with an eight-week program in which the concentration of the formula was gradually increased,” explains Ostrower. “This dual-tube package was functional for the end use of the product.”


Neopac is also aiming for dosing precision with its high-barrier Dropper Tube. Suitable for both water- and oil-based liquids, the squeezable tube is designed to dispense the same-sized drop regardless of the amount of pressure applied, says Misdom. The tube is supplied with a tamper-evident cap with a tear-off band.

Unit-of-use tubes provide a convenient, professional means to ensuring precise dosing, Hoard says. Alcan offers a wide family of single-use tubes for beauty and healthcare products. One of Alcan’s recent projects entailed developing a 13.5-mm-diam tube with a twist-off top and screw-on closure for mass-market skin care treatments and other applications where a dose or sampler package is required. “Twist-off tops can be molded with a brand’s logo for increased recognition,” Hoard reports.

Rexam Pharma offers small-sized injection-molded tubes for unit dosing. “At this small size of a tube, injection molding allows us to be more precise in the volume of a tube than extrusion would,” explains Patrice Lewko, marketing director. “We can adjust the length of the tubes easier.” Rexam is currently injection molding 1- to 5-ml tubes in polypropylene and high-density polyethylene with tamperevident, twist-off closures. Often employed by rectally applied drugs, the unit-of-use tubes are also now being produced by Rexam for a liquid vaccine.

Lewko says that it may be easier for users to dispense complete doses from unitof-use tubes than from 1- to 2-ml bottles or other rigid packages. “It is easier to squeeze contents out of a small tube than pour from a small bottle or rigid tube,” he says. In addition, capping such small bottles can present its challenges, he says.

Plastic injection-molded ampules from James Alexander Corp. (JAC; Blairstown, NJ) also offer dosing convenience. Available in pencil or triangular shapes in 2- or 5-ml sizes, the single-use ampules are available in either a custom blend low-density polyethylene or in polypropylene. They can be outfitted with a dropper tip, a swab tip, or one of 12 different foam swab applicators. The dropper tip is composed of polyethylene, the swab applicator tip is composed of polyolefin, and the large foam applicators are available in a variety of polyurethane foams and configurations. Flat, rooftop, and angled tips are available, including a Hytrel-nylon tip with a tapered design for more-precise applications. While liquids can flow through the applicator materials, holes can be fashioned in the applicators to dispense more-viscous liquids, too, explains Carol Gamsby.

Users dispense the liquid by squeezing the ampule once to rupture an internal membrane and then again to release contents onto the applicator tip. Users control the dispensing rate and flow of the liquid. “There’s no cutting or unscrewing. Just squeeze at the saddle and dispense,” she explains.

JAC was originally known for its crushable glass ampules. “We still get a lot of people looking for the glass, but it does have limited use,” explains Gamsby. “The Plastic Ampule is a larger package with more tip options, and it allows onehanded use. The dropper tip also allows for oral dosing.”

Larger ampules may one day be on JAC’s menu. “We do have a prototype for a 10-ml ampule, and someone did recently ask us for a 2-oz version,” Gamsby says.

The ampules are available translucent or opaque in any Pantone color, with three-color printing. JAC is a custom filler, too, so the company can handle mixing and filling, along with package development.

Unicep Packaging Inc. (Sandpoint, ID), maker of the MicroDose and Twist-Tip dispensers, has recently expanded its mixing capabilities to increase its support for cosmetics and prescription, over-thecounter, and oral pharmaceutical companies. Four additional 2500-gal tanks have been added, increasing capacity and allowing Unicep to partner with companies in a “much wider scope,” says Clint Marshall, vice president of business development.

Great Midwest Packaging LLC (Antioch, IL) offers a single-use tube with a built-in premoistened, single-use swab called the Pro-Swab. With a snap-open design, the Pro-Swab is manufactured in polypropylene in 4- and 5-in. sizes with capacities ranging from 0.25 to 2.5 ml. Applicator tip options are rayon, foam, or custom. President and CEO Darrell Van Dyke calls the Pro-Swab a convenient, sanitary, mess-free package for health and beauty aid, cosmetic, dental, veterinary, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, medical, and industrial markets.

Wrap Up

Consumer-friendly and familiar, tubes can still offer a few surprises, especially when it comes to dispensing and dosing. Consumers stand to benefit the most when such innovations enhance product use. 

Published in Tube News, May 2009

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