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Packaging and Filling—Working with a Contract Partner

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

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CL: Depending on the filler you select, some may be more automated than others; some may have more options as well. Find out what a filler is good at before making a decision. There are many small add-ons in filling that can impact the labor of a job very quickly. A brand owner should think about the total finished good from the beginning, and discuss this with the filler to get the most accurate quote without any add-on surprises later. Will there be a shrink seal over the cap? Is there an individual carton? Is there any special tag that will need to be hand placed? Is special coding needed? All of these can add cost.

CW: Yes. Brand owners need to understand some basics. For instance, if they intend to use the cheapest package [sourced from overseas], then the waste factor will be higher and lead times will also be longer. And what if customs holds the packaging you’ve purchased from an overseas supplier? It does happen.

JC: Yes. For example, a tapered bottle at the base will not be stable on an inline fill line and therefore will be difficult to fill. It will also be difficult to achieve the most accurate torque when capping because the varying diameters of the body of the bottle will affect the capacity to automatically torque.

Quality of components is of utmost importance. For example, a tall clear bullet- or cylinder-type bottle that has the minimum weight of plastic to pass its specs will be very difficult to label because the walls of the bottle will be so thin that it’s nearly impossible to apply a pressure-sensitive label. Screen printing is the best way to go with these bottles versus labels.

Q: When starting with stock packaging options, what is the best approach for then building and adding customized aspects such as decoration to the packaging? Is this a collaborative process between brand owner and manufacturer?

CL: Our customers handle their own artwork, but should the brand owner want some guidance, I believe that the manufacturer would be able to give some direction to enhance decoration of packaging. But in my opinion, the product is owned by the brand, and the brand should make the final decoration decision. The manufacturer can be there to guide in terms of what is realistically achievable, because all packaging will have some limitations.

CW: Usually, it not a conversation we have unless the decoration is something that may be marred in the filling process. However, we feel that anything to make the item look better is a great sales tool.

JC: We don’t sell stock packaging, but I often recommend it to customers who are looking for the most cost-effective components. Then I emphasize investing in a designer to design a beautiful label or screen art to place on the stock packaging. I always tell brand owners to look at Kiehl’s brand—basic stock packaging. And the brand works because its labels communicate what the products do and then the products deliver just that.

Q: What are your recommendations to create a cohesive package strategy beyond choosing a packaging family?

CL: If you already have selected a packaging family, just make sure you highlight the product benefits clearly to the consumer. Make sure that the packaging is clear and easy to understand and read when on display/shelf. Don’t skimp on printing, and use good quality labels so they don’t scratch or peel off when wet.

CW: Make sure that the items are always available for sale, and lead times are also a priority. The last thing you want is to build a theme and then find out packaging components are not available. We have had it happen to customers.

JC: Availability and quick lead times. When a brand owner is starting a brand, she has sales estimates and forecasts, etc., but what if the brand takes off faster than expected? In this case, a brand owner needs more components quickly and likely does not have 8–12 weeks to wait for more packaging to be available and ready to run.

Q: With more consumers seeking lower price points and added value options in product packaging, what challenges are brand owners facing when considering packaging/filling, and what are some strategies to overcome these challenges?