Packaging encapsulated herbs and vitamin pills in standard plastic bottles works just fine for most dietary supplements marketers, but for others alternative packaging formats such as a shots, stick packs or liquid tubes represent a key point of differentiation on-shelf at retail.
Foothill Ranch, CA-based Alacer Corp. created its own niche for single-serve supplement packs more than two decades ago when it launched its Emergen-C brand effervescent powdered drink mix. Today the company sells 10 flavors of its original Emergen-C formulation, five flavors of a complete Multi-Vitamin line in formulas for kids and adults, and four specialty formulation flavors, the most current of which is Emergen-C Planet, a dragonfruit flavored fizzy vitamin drink mix.
And while most consumers associate shot bottles with energy drinks, functional beverage shots like Dream Water, a 2.5 oz shot from Miami, FL-based Sarpes Beverages, offer consumers a quick and tasty way to enjoy the benefits of supplements in a convenient format.
The diminutive but as-powerful sister beverage to the company’s original 8-oz. Dream Water Drink, is available in two flavors—Lullaby Lemon with Hints of Tea and blueberry pomegranate Snoozeberry—and formulated with gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), melatonin and 5-HTP to help promote relaxation, induce sleep and improve sleep quality for those dealing with bouts of mild insomnia, according to the company.
Sticks and Tubes
Even smaller than a shot are single serve (or unit dose) tubes that are prefilled with liquid. DreamPak of Alexandria, VA, is a manufacturer and contract filler of LiquiTubes, which range in size from 10 ml to 2 oz. The packages are created using high impact PVC material, in addition to HIPS material, and feature a perforated tip that can be snapped open or torn off to dispense the liquid contained inside either in shot fashion or for mixing into a beverage.
Waleed Gamay, DreamPak’s account manager said that in addition to two well-known consumer brands (undisclosed for privacy agreement reasons) currently using the LiquiTube delivery format, DreamPak is also in the midst of developing its own nutraceutical formulations to make use of the package. Slated to debut in the first quarter of 2011 under the Enhanca brand name, the products address four condition-specific needs: Joint Health, Multi-Vitamins, Memory & Focus, and Hair, Skin & Nails. There are also plans for an energy product as well.
“The main benefit of our products is that they deliver the complete recommended dosage of nutrients for any given condition in just one serving,” Mr. Gamay said. “As an example, our Hair, Skin & Nails product contains 5000 mg of hydrolyzed collagen which is equivalent to five large pills of other 'beauty-from-within' products (i.e. Neocell). Our unique liquid delivery system allows us to deliver large amounts of nutrients in a liquid drink mix that is easier to swallow than pills and easier to use than powders (i.e. less stirring, less undissolved particles).”
Packaging liquids in this format isn’t an easy undertaking, as shelf stability presents a much greater challenge for liquids than it does for powders. “Over past few years, we have been constantly improving the shelf-life that LiquiTubes deliver both through packaging innovations and liquid formulation,” Mr. Gamay explained. “We have upgraded our LiquiTubes to extra-high barrier packaging material which reduces moisture loss and oxidation. With regard to liquid formulation, our R&D team has excelled in understanding the individual properties of nutrients and how they react in liquid form, allowing us to ensure that our products meet their label claims both at the beginning as well as the end of the shelf-life.”
Like tubed liquids, extra care is also required when processing with effervescent powders and tablets. “Because of their volatile state, the tablet or powder will begin reacting as soon as it comes into contact with moisture,” noted Jason Provenzano, president and founder of Nutricap Labs in Farmingdale, NY. “Therefore, it’s necessary for us to package and seal the product in a controlled environment upon production.”
In the realm of alternative delivery formats, Nutricap Labs offers stick packs and enteric coating of tablets and softgels. “Stick packs offer convenience because they can be taken and consumed anywhere,” Mr. Provenzano said. “For example, we’ve found that those people looking to manufacture a sport drink powder opt for a stick pack as opposed to a jar or a bottle because their customers can take the stick pack with them and can consume it when they need it.
While alternative packaging formats can offer a unique spin on how a supplement is presented and delivered, the costs associated with implementing such differentiation is one that should be carefully considered. Mr. Provenzano explained that with the exception of established companies that are buoyed by a large amount of capital, the demand for alternative delivery or unit-dose-packaged nutraceuticals has been low due to the expense and volume of processing specialized delivery systems. “Unless you have a large company or a lot of capital, it’s probably best to stick with a more traditional delivery system,” he cautioned. “Otherwise you’ll find that a large amount of your investment will be tied up in inventory.”