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Packaging and Filling—Working with a Contract Partner

Posted: November 26, 2012, from the December 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

Contract packaging/filling experts share insights and detail some overlooked basic considerations brand owners should keep in mind when working with a contract partner toward creating a successful beauty product and beauty brand.

Meet the Panel

Q: What are some of the basics a brand owner working to introduce a new line or extend a line should know when choosing a contract packager/filler?

Christine Lee: There are many points to consider when selecting a contract packager/filler. First is location; shipping is not cheap. How close or far is it to your distribution centers? Also, each filler will have strengths and weaknesses in its capabilities, so brands will need to find a filler that is best at filling their type of packaging in the most efficient way.

It should also be FDA approved if it is making OTC drugs (like sunscreens) and be current good manufacturing process (cGMP) compliant, which gives you the confidence that it has adequate quality control and other checks in place to perform professionally. And by all means, go visit the filler if possible.

Christopher White: Whenever we meet with a new customer, speaking about long-term goals is foremost, as short-term results do not help either of us. Also, [a contract partner must be] honest about what the company does best.

Judy Cervantes: Perhaps the most important thing is whether that contract packager is going to deliver the finished product on time. With any new launch, time is super important, and a brand owner needs to feel confident that when she says, “I need this completed by Friday of next week,” that the contract packager/filler is committed to that date and will work late or come in on a weekend if necessary to complete the job on time. It does not matter how good a “deal” a contract packager/filler gave you if the product is late.

Then, of course, specifics are very important. The finished product must be batched, filled and packed out just as the brand owner specified. And, lastly there is a budget to consider. I tend to go by the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” So, I would suggest to brand owners to be conscious and consider how detailed the filling or packaging is to the finished product and what quantities will be ordered [in order] to expect a realistic price. I always tell potential customers, the more we have to touch the product, the more costly it will likely be to pack out.

Q: Other than look and style basics (tube or jar, for example), what are some of the decisions that a brand owner needs to make about product packaging?

CL: A brand owner must keep in mind who their end user is, and how and where they will be using the product. I recommend putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes. How will they dispense the product—using one hand or two? Are they using it in the shower? Are their hands wet, etc.? Keeping in mind the environment and who those users are when selecting packaging will guarantee a good consumer experience.

CW: Quantity for packing—as in how many do you sell at one time so shipping is easy and predictable. Also, size dictates sell-through, so do not make the item too big.

JC: Cost, stock versus non-stock item, minimum order quantities, stability of the product itself, lead time and ease in filling and packaging. This last one is important because a bottle may be great on all of the initial points (cost-effective, stocked and easy to get, low minimums and quick delivery), but if it’s difficult to move down a [production] line, hard to label or fill, or not compatible with the cap or pump, etc., then all the other points become null because it’s a pain in the neck to fill and package, and thus more costly. This happens more than it needs to happen, and it simply causes too many delays and extra costs to brand owners.

Q: How can packaging impact filling and the associated costs, either negatively or positively? Does a brand owner need to also understand some filling basics before making final packaging choices?