The expanding reliance on e-commerce, the need for products to stand out on crowded shelves, continued demands for sustainability, and advancements in protective properties are all potential game-changers for brands looking to succeed in the nutraceuticals space.
Online vitamin and supplement sales are increasing 12% faster than the e-commerce average. In fact, 77% of vitamin and supplement sales are made through Amazon alone, according to data from Slice Intelligence. As more nutraceutical brands look to boost online sales, these companies must also tackle the challenges posed by an e-commerce supply chain.
When selling through brick-and-mortar stores, brands need only ensure the product arrives in perfect condition when traveling from the manufacturer to the retailer location. Thereafter, the primary and/or retail ready packaging (RRP) must withstand the handling of retail employees and consumers. However, the e-commerce supply chain requires the additional step of shipping products that are not necessarily built to ship together. Particularly, if a nutraceutical brand sells through a third party online retailer, the company will have even less control over the environments that the product travels through in the latter steps of shipping.
Ultimately, the e-commerce supply chain poses challenges to minimizing expense, maximizing speed of delivery, and enhancing protection of the product. This means that brands must focus on weight, size, and durability. Packaging must not add weight—especially as the use of drone delivery looms on the horizon. These delivery tools will require even more restrictive weight limits than trucks or airplanes.
For the same reasons, size presents a challenge. Minimizing dunnage, which adds bulk around a delicate packaging material, will be important to keeping costs down for both manufacturers and retailers. The importance of reducing bulk and weight in packaging underscores the need to utilize highly durable materials that can provide adequate protection against the elements, withstand a jostling alongside other products, and arrive at the consumer’s door in the high-quality condition they expect. Damaged packaging is a turnoff for consumers and deters them from making repeat purchases.
Stand Out with Disruptive Designs
Whether consumers purchase their nutraceuticals on Amazon or inside a GNC, they are flooded with options. Product and brand credibility is important to a consumers’ purchase decision, and it is essential for nutraceutical companies to invest in the right packaging to communicate this attribute. At the same time, differentiation amid a crowded retail landscape is also critical to success—especially as the global market continues to grow.
For manufacturers of supplements, thinking outside of the traditional bottle may be the solution. Consider the example set by U.K.-based sports nutrition company, Roar Ambition. The company increased profits by 300% after a dramatic redesign for its 4 Gauge pre-workout supplements targeted to both men and women ages 18 to 35. Roar Ambition partnered with packaging company TricorBraun to create a powerful, bullet-shaped package design which features a red HDPE (high density polyethylene) bottle topped with a gold-sheathed custom PP (polypropylene) lined closure.
Innovative re-designs aren’t just for supplements. At the intersection of legalized marijuana products and nutraceuticals lies ebbu, a cannabis research, development, and distribution start-up. The company’s products primarily include purified cannabis concentrates. Alongside its goal of making cannabis predictable, consistent, and reliable, ebbu also aimed to elevate its new offerings to premium lifestyle brands. The products produce specific effects like energy, relaxation or healing, and consist of concentrated cannabis for vaporizer (vape) pens and for “dabbing” or mixing into drinks, packaged in a cartridge and a dram vial, respectively.
To create functional and appealing packaging, ebbu worked with design agency Trinity Brand Group. The resulting cartons for its brands, ebbu BOLD and ebbu WELL, work either as sleeves with slide-out boxes that hold the primary package, or as flip-up sides and top panels. Consumers open the box to find interiors decorated with a burst of color and the brand artwork. The new formats provide maximum impact without taking up a large footprint on store shelves and easily stack or nest for display or transportation.
A Holistic Approach to Sustainability
Just as important as shelf appeal, sustainability is inherently connected to many other packaging attributes, including functional design and cost efficiency. Over time, a heightened sense of environmental responsibility has driven consumers to become more conscious of sustainable packaging than ever. They are wary of products that are packaged with too much material and appear wasteful.
Those concerns align well with manufacturers’ focus on right sizing, minimizing material, and lightweighting to save transportation costs. In fact, PMMI’s 2017 Global Packaging Trends report identified environmental concerns—with emphasis on recyclability and reusability—as one of the top three global trends. The report also cited conservation efforts as a key marketing component for brands.
However, nutraceutical companies must balance sustainability attributes with protective qualities. No matter how minimal the carbon footprint of a new package design, a container that cannot stand up to the conditions of the supply chain—thus, resulting in fully-costed waste—is not sustainable. Brands that under-package their products only to see them prematurely land in the landfill contribute to food waste, one of the biggest environmental problems facing the world today. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about a third of the food produced in the world for human consumption each year (roughly 1.3 billion tons) is lost or wasted. This amount is equivalent to more than half the world’s annual cereals crop.
For this reason, it is critical for brands to take a holistic approach to sustainability. This can be done in many ways, starting with the sourcing of ingredients. For example, ReGrained, a San Francisco brand makes its nutrition bars out of leftover grain from breweries. Packaging also provides a wealth of opportunities to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. These include specifying reusable or recyclable materials wherever possible and ensuring that the package design provides the necessary structural integrity to protect the product throughout the entire supply chain—whether it ends at a brick-and-mortar retail outlet or with home delivery to the consumer via e-commerce.
If a company opts to utilize a material or container that is unfamiliar to consumers, providing proper disposal instructions on the label and proactively marketing the sustainable innovation will help to ease the learning curve. Additionally, nutraceutical manufacturers should also minimize energy and utility consumption throughout their operations. These measures may include streamlining production lines to fit a smaller footprint and enhance efficiency. Companies can also install equipment optimized for quick, but thorough wash downs with minimal surface area. Not only do these measures contribute to a well-rounded sustainability effort, but they also help to cut costs.
Preserve Brand Integrity with Packaging that Protects
Protective attributes remain some of the most important considerations for packaging professionals at nutraceutical brands. As indicated, the level of protection provided by the primary package can make or break designs aimed at enhancing sustainability, shelf appeal, or adapting to the e-commerce marketplace. Failure to provide the necessary structural integrity or features that stand up to the conditions of the supply chain will result in a poor consumer experience that can reduce sales and even spell the end of the brand.
The first step to providing adequate product protection is to ensure that the substrate and format meet the needs of the product. Does the packaging structure provide adequate support to prevent the product from being crushed and spilled during transportation? Is it necessary for the packaging material to retain or eliminate moisture? Should the package be resealable to accommodate multiple servings while preserving freshness? Would investing in UV additives or oxygen scavengers extend the shelf life of the product to compensate for extensive shipping periods or just to support a better consumer experience? Decision makers must address all of these questions and more along the design process. If sustainability is a priority, they must ensure that any material reductions, lightweighting or format changes do not compromise functionality.
Additionally, product protection can also include measures to enhance brand security. PMMI’s “2017 State of the Industry – US Packaging Machinery” report identified traceability and serialization as a top industry-wide challenge. However, brands are working with suppliers to fight back against threats posed by counterfeiters with advanced track-and-trace solutions, self-monitoring equipment, integrated Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) products and smart sensors.
Find More at PACK EXPO East
Whether nutraceutical manufacturers seek packaging solutions to their e-commerce, shelf appeal, sustainability or protection challenges, suppliers are stepping up to the plate with new solutions. Attendees at PACK EXPO East, (April 16-18, 2018; Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia) will have the chance to explore the latest technologies from the makers of packaging equipment, components, materials, and containers for nutraceuticals that serve companies of all sizes. The three-day event features 400 exhibiting companies and spans more than 100,000 net square feet, providing the opportunity for attendees to exchange ideas with 6,000 peers. The intimacy of a regional event and the show’s more focused approach allows attendees and exhibitors to easily pinpoint solutions and to spend quality time understanding each other’s operations and the challenges both sides of the table face. For more information and to register online, visit www.packexpoeast.com.
PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents more than 800 North American manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, components, and materials as well as providers of related equipment and services to the packaging and processing industry. The PACK EXPO trade shows unite the world of packaging and processing to advance the industries they serve: PACK EXPO International, PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Healthcare Packaging EXPO, PACK EXPO East, EXPO PACK México, EXPO PACK Guadalajara and ProFood Tech. Learn more at pmmi.org, packexpo.com, and pmmimediagroup.com.