Products for nutritional supplements come in the form of tablets, capsules, soft gels, gummies, liquids, and powders. The segment growth is primarily driven by gummy products, which are continuing to expand into all supplement categories. Protein powder is another segment experiencing healthy growth, from sports nutritional products to meal replacement and weight management solutions.
When considering packaging for supplement products, options run from generic bottles and blister packs to unique custom designs that make an impact on the shelf. Packaging can offer brands unique identity, providing shelf impact in a “sea of sameness.” Product requirements, the needs of the end user, and marketplace competition must be considered in the selection of a packaging format. The package is the interface with the consumer and will be a major influence in purchasing decisions.
Gummies, the largest single growth segment, are almost exclusively packed in generic PET, allowing the supplements to be clearly visible. The product, which can look like a confection, also supports the use of child resistant packaging. Conversely, products used by baby boomers would suggest the need for senior friendly packaging that is easy to open and easy to read. Powdered protein products are making their way from gyms to general retail as the market becomes more mainstream. This offers opportunities to create packaging that targets specific market segments of the casual or amateur athlete with features that make the products convenient to use.
Few marketers have moved to custom designed packaging for nutritional supplements, leaving opportunity for customization to differentiate products beyond bottle color and label graphics. Market consolidation will open the door for more customization as brand owners look to stand out on the shelf. Optimization of designs/shapes and convenience add-ons (e.g., scoops, dispensing closures, dosing and dispensing devices) expand opportunities for unique solutions.
Cost is also a key factor in a commodity-driven packaging market. Optimized production to drive down costs/prices (e.g., light-weight bottles produced on state-of-the-art equipment) and products that offer a competitive distinction and reduce expenditure will provide suppliers an advantage, and benefit customers and consumers.
The role of packaging is containment and protection. Package functions include freshness protection, re-closure, communication, and tamper evidence. Influences impacting packaging are dispensing, compliance, communication of information/labeling, tamper evidence, anti-counterfeiting measures, environmental issues, unit-dose packaging, administration aids, product branding, and direct-to-consumer advertising.
Many packaging and product delivery trends on the rise focus on the ease-of-use of products to support the consumer’s various needs. These trends include: Single Use (quick clean-up, no storage hassle, use & toss, pre-measured dosage); On-the-Go (impulse buys, convenience storage—car, purse, pocket, etc.—and travel friendly); and Blister Packs (easy to keep track of, directions right on immediate package, pre-Measured Dosage).
An important part of this trend is maintaining affordability as well as offering cost efficient alternatives to standard sized packages.
As the world becomes more concerned with the environment and sustainability, brand owners and packaging manufacturers are trying to rein in their environmental footprint. Brand owners are lessening their manufacturing footprint by outsourcing packaging. Packaging companies are finding different ways to become sustainable through the use of responsible materials, recycled or recyclable products, switching from one standard pack-type to another with an improved footprint, and trimming waste/reducing package weight.
Choosing the Best Option
Plastic bottles, canisters, and jars are the preferred format for supplement packaging. Plastic bottles can contain nearly all types of liquid, solid, and powder products and offer moisture, vapor, and light protection, design flexibility, recyclability, and safety. Plastic bottles are also lightweight, cost effective, and do not easily break. Tamper evidence can be accomplished through inner seals or shrink bands. Plastic bottles also have options for child resistance through a variety of closure designs.
Glass bottles can contain any product type, including tablets, capsules, liquids, and powders. Weight, breakage, and cost are causing a shift toward plastic bottles.
Other components used with bottles may include labels, closures, seals, outer boxes, tamper-evident seals, internal cotton, desiccants, and package inserts. Dosing and dispensing devices such as droppers, oral syringes, and dosage cups are provided with liquid products where precise dosing is desired.
Blister packs are designed for single-dose dispensing. Blisters are used to package tablets or capsules. They provide tamper-evidence and child resistance while maintaining freshness.
Pouches are used on a limited basis for supplements, primarily for powders. Flexible pouches offer material use advantages but may be messy and less easy to use.
Stick packs are designed for single-use, offering on-the-go convenience and controlled dosing. Stick packs are applicable to powder or capsule/tablet/gummy products. They provide tamper-evidence and child resistance and maintain freshness.
The outlook for consumer health products is expected to be positive through 2020. Growth for the vitamin and mineral supplement (VMS) segment is primarily driven by gummy products. Gummies are continuing to expand into all VMS categories with protein powders also demonstrating healthy growth.
Optimization of designs and convenience add-ons (e.g., scoops, dispensing closures, dosing, and dispensing) will expand product options. Customization and unique shapes will also help distinguish products on the shelf. Meanwhile, optimized materials support the sustainability efforts of manufacturers and marketers.
Sue Benigni is nutraceutical category manager, for Comar, a specialty packaging and dispensing provider with a national footprint and a full complement of molding technology to produce bottles, canisters, closures, and other related products for the nutritional supplement and related markets. For more information contact Sue Benigni at 856-507-5495, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://idworks.comar.com; www.comar.com.