Mounting pressure to be ecofriendly and sustainable. Intensified competition. An economy that is limping towards recovery. The perfect storm, right? Not to hear wipes packagers tell their stories.
From individual packaging and oval canisters to stand-up packages to innovative resealable closures and custom packaging featuring logos and designs, packagers are coming to the rescue with a slew of awesome novelties to help wipes’ producers ride the waves and differentiate themselves on store shelves.
At the same time, they are busy on the sustainability front, using ecofriendly and sustainable materials as well as coming up with ways to reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging.
One company delivering a hot idea to help wipes producers differentiate themselves from the pack is HTI Plastics. The company offers Option Pak, a line of oval-shaped canisters and lids.
“The Option Pak oval is a versatile, portable and innovative package that will guarantee shelf impact for any brand. HTI Plastics designed the Option Pak product line to help our customers ease into a unique package without the high cost of a production tool,” said Jodi Dobbs, HTI’s national sales manager. A stock item at HTI Plastics, the Option Pak comes in a variety of sizes with lids to match. “It’s an ovalshaped product, which differentiates itself in the market because most of the wipes packages are round,” Ms. Dobbs added.
Emphasizing that oval canisters provide an advantage in the retail setting because more of these containers can fit on a shelf than round ones, Ms. Dobbs said, “You also have a larger panel for the face front advertisement than you do with a round. With ‘ovals,’ you are guaranteed that your advertising and brand name will be recognized at face value on the shelf.”
On The Run
Convenient pocket-sized packaging for ‘on-the-go’ use is another trend that is not going away any time soon. HTI Plastics offers a pocket-sized oval for wipes that consumers can toss in their purse, gym bag or place in the side door panels or drink holders in their cars.
“The key seller for this particular shape and design is a handy travel take-along-with-you wipe that is sturdy and something that will hold the life of the product. It is designed to fit as a travel pack, as a convenience. Five years ago convenience was the main key in packaging. That will continue to grow,” said Ms. Dobbs.
Single, individually packed wipes are becoming all the rage in a wide variety of applications. Wipes producer Diamond Wipes is making inroads with single or individual packaged wipes. A producer of microwavable “hot” towels for restaurant use, Diamond is seeing increasing requests for single, individual pack wipes in a wide variety of applications including make-up removal, nail polish remover, body deodorant, shoe shine, SPF 30, insect repellent, antibacterial, sunscreen, lens cleaner, and computer and cell phone screens cleaners. The company manufactures wipes for branded companies and also sells them under its own La Fresh.
Eve Yen, Diamond Wipes’ president cited several advantages to single-use wipe products. “Every time you use the wipe, it is fresh. Individual pack wipes usually have a longer shelf life and they are easy to take along with you. The packaging material is based on PTE foil laminated or paper foil laminated material. When you have a formula with alcohol, it evaporates more easily so single pack wipes become very important,” said Ms. Yen.
All Dressed Up
Decorative packaging for wipes featuring company logos is another trend that is gaining momentum.
“Consumers look for packaging that stands out and that can be decorated,” said Ms. Dobbs.
HTI Plastics, which owns multiple molds, offers companies the ability to affix their logo on the lids. “We have a stock item that the customer can customize at a limited cost. People are looking to customize their product without having to go to a full new tooling,” said Ms. Dobbs.
Doing What Comes Naturally
Europe has been a trendsetter when it comes to sustainability, especially when it comes to reducing the amount of plastic in packaging, but the U.S. market is catching up.
Prime Label & Screen, a longstanding player in resealable closures for wipes packaging is seeing a growing movement by wipes producers in the U.S. to jump on the sustainability bandwagon.
In response, Prime Label & Screen offers Rigid Lens II, a rigid closure that can replace injection molded fitments that appear on top of flexible packages such as high stack counts, flat packs and baby wipes. Rigid Lens II is expected to hit the U.S. market this summer in a variety of different wet wipes products, including household and cosmetic applications.
Barry Scott, Prime Label & Screen’s president, said, “Rigid Lens II provides an excellent closure for the tops of these packages at somewhere around 50% or more of the plastic weight of molded fitments. We created a rigid label that has a hinge on it that functions much like an injection molded piece and is able to work with high stack count wipes products.” Mr. Scott continued, “There is a significant trend in the world of wipes packaging to take as much plastic and weight out of the packaging. The Wal-Mart Initiative to continually create sustainability and make products friendlier is going on in the U.S. What we are seeing and getting contacted about in Europe is they are getting to the point where they are having plastic weight reduction targets when it comes to taking out as much plastic out of the packaging that is possible.”
As part of Wal-Mart’s efforts to address its environmental footprint, the company two years ago developed a five-year plan to reduce packaging globally 5% by 2013 and has introduced a scorecard system to help suppliers reach this goal.
Stand-up pouches are being offered as an ecofriendly and cost-effective alternative to molded plastic canisters because they use significantly less plastic, advised Mr. Scott. “There are a lot of people who are exploring whether their products can be packaged in a stand-up pouch, which would use significantly less plastic and have a much smaller footprint as far as the amount of plastic that would be used from a weight standpoint. These explorations support the initiatives that are coming from retailers like Wal- Mart. If you have a product that accommodates and supports that movement, you will enjoy the fruits of that movement and enjoy strong business. In most cases it is also more cost efficient,” said Mr. Scott.
In the quest for sustainability, biodegradable films are also being explored by players in the wipes packaging industry. “Everybody is looking hard at some of the biodegradable-type films. I think there will be continued development. I don’t know if they are quite ready yet,” said Mr. Scott.
He advised the following questions must be answered before selecting a film: Do these films have the same moisture vapor transmission rate properties that some of the standard wipes structures have? Are these films good enough? Will they do what we need them to do? What’s the shelf life of the product? Will it house the product for the shelf life that’s required? What about printability and how well it runs on the equipment and what types of products it can hold?
When it comes to reducing plastic from packaging, experts caution that there are also many considerations. “The trick is to take as much plastic out as possible without making it so flimsy it’s not functional,” said HTI’s president Paul Almburg.
Mr. Almburg cautioned that packages need to be able to withstand and be compatible with the chemical ingredients in wipes, especially cleaning and household products. “If you have a product that is thinning in certain spots because of the reduction in material, you will have product that is leaking,”Mr. Almburg said, adding, “We have looked into reducing some of the material. At this time we have not. It doesn’t mean we won’t in the near future. Quality and superior service is our main concern with our stock products. We do not want to impact the product by reducing material if it takes away the quality of the product.”
PCR and Regrinds
In the meantime, HTI is participating in the ecofriendly movement by working with regrinds and PCR (post consumer regrind). “California has very strict laws as far as percentages of PCR they put in their product. We work with companies that ship or fill in California and they have certain requirements, especially with canisters. With some medical grade products you cannot run PCR. They require a virgin grade material, ” said Ms. Dobbs.
Noting that HTI is located in the Midwest near companies who are leading the way in biodegradable or bioplastics that are made from corn, starches and other natural ingredients, Mr. Almburg said, “We’ve met with them and talked about using their product in other products we manufacture. We have several products in industries that we serve, whether it be custom tooling or stock items. We have worked closely with these companies on biodegradable resins. We are in the infancy stage of testing and working with those.”
Mr. Amburg added that the company is hoping that biodegradable resins will be used in wipes packaging in the future. “That’s our hope, it’s a good marketing tool,” he said.
Diamond Wipes is housing its single-use wipes in reusable cotton
bags for a a more ecofriendly approach to packaging
Packaging machinery manufacturers are also heeding the call to go green. One such company is Optima Group Nonwovens.
Mark Steinbrecher, sales manager said, “On the side of sustainability, we see this as an ongoing process that can only be improved over time. We strive to advise our customers on the ecological impact that their packaging may have from a sustainability point of view. For instance, when the customer contemplates introducing a new package type or technology, we quantify how this new package or technology can lead to a reduction in transport costs of the product and a more economical use of materials and a reduction of waste.”
It’s In The Bag
Another ecofriendly trend in wipes’ packaging is the use of single wipes being packaged in reusable cotton bags. Diamond Wipes offers reusable bags for multiple count wipes for its La Fresh line of wipes. The black and pink bags are attractive and can be used as travel bags. “When the singles are used up, they can refill the bag. In packaging there’s a concentration on reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Ms. Yen.
Peering in the Crystal Ball
When it comes to the future of wipes packaging experts agree that with giant retailers like Wal-Mart pressing ma nu facturers to meet sustainability and eco friendliness requirements, the U.S. will soon catch up to Europe.
Mr. Scott summed up the future in these words, “Based on what’s going on in Wal-Mart and Europe there will be interesting times going forward in the next two to three years regarding how you take the plastic weight out of the package? If you have a vehicle that helps facilitate our innovation, you will be enjoying some nice opportunities. It’s early in the process but it’s interesting to see what Europe is doing because they appear to be a few steps ahead of us from the standpoint of sustainability and being environmentally conscious. We’re getting there. Some of the retail customers are starting to drive some of these requirements for plastic weight reduction. Wal-Mart’s initiative is a big thing. Where that goes and how much people are going to be able to comply, time will tell.”