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In Packaging, Less May Mean More

By: Terry Glass
Posted: November 10, 2008, from the November 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

In the 1980s, no one thought much about how hair stayed glued in position four inches away from the scalp, or what ingredient made eye shadow that infamous bright teal color. In the past, consumers may not have questioned how hair gel retained such vibrant color or wondered what made hand lotion smell so sweet. However, today’s more environmentally aware consumer is of a different mindset, and raises questions about chemicals, trace contaminants and the use of petroleum-based plastics — questions that the industry as a whole sometimes struggles to explain or justify.

Further, consumers today expect brand owners to provide sustainable solutions that perform, and brand loyalty can be weakened or strengthened depending on how well the owners embrace these solutions. Being proactive in finding both better and cleaner packaging goes a long way in building branding loyalty with these consumers. In fact, according to a recent Green AMPlified survey conducted by the AMP Agency (an Alloy Media + Marketing company), 60% of consumers are more likely to buy a company’s products or services if they feel confident that the company is mindful of its impact on the environment and society. Packaging plays a particularly hefty role, as 40% of consumers in the survey gauge a company’s sustainability efforts by the packaging of its products. With a quick look at the label, consumers have complete access to the ingredients found in all of the personal care products they purchase. While the packaging materials used in the supply of these products may be a little less obvious, brand owners and retailers are continually trying to keep ahead of the curve by offering improved package designs that support key societal and global issues.

On the processing side, converters continue to find ways to improve the efficiency of their products and processes. These companies invest capital in changing their machinery and molds to produce smaller lightweight containers for use in the personal and health care marketplace, but many such applications require the use of mold-release agents to optimize cycle time. To address these needs, new polymer technologies have been developed.

In the personal care marketplace, in general, there is a lot of confusion about the use of plastic resins and the necessity to include additives such as slip and mold release in order to make the packaging process more efficient. However, if properly formulated, many plastic resins can be used in the personal care marketplace with fewer additives, allowing for a more sustainable package by offering reduced costs and lighter weight plastic packaging that can replace glass or other non-plastic packaging.

For many marketplaces that fall under the general well-being umbrella, inclusion or removal of packaging additives is especially important because they can sometimes impact the product contents—either through reduced shelf life, reduced product quality or aesthetics. By reducing the amount or need for certain additives, brand owners are afforded the opportunity to offer more appealing products to their customers.