Packaging Natural Health Products

November 26, 2013
Joanna Cosgrove

Dietary supplement and functional food and beverage brands are increasingly turning to packaging to provide important differentiation at retail.

The dietary supplement aisle can be an overwhelming place. There are shelves full of supplements, each vying for the attention of perspective consumers. Nowhere is packaging more important than on-shelf. While its most important function is to safeguard product integrity and viability, packaging also serves as a brand ambassador, delivering the first point of tangible contact between supplements and consumers, establishing a vital link for cultivating the beginning of a consumer relationship.

“Consumers are more connected to products and packaging that are interactive and stimulate their senses whether it be through multi-panel labeling, tactile coatings/inks, embossing, foil stamping, or promotional QR codes,” says Brent Anderson, packaging advisor for Nosco Inc. (Waukegan, IL).

Using packaging as tool to connect with consumers is something Adam Leeb had in mind when he founded the dietary supplement company SunDaily (Royal Oak, MI). Leeb set out with the specific goal of putting his product design, branding, and customer experience on equal footing with the premium quality of his vitamins and minerals, and he partnered with Nosco to help turn his vision into a reality.

“We came to Nosco to develop a unique dispenser carton that would be eye-catching, consistent with our brand image, configurable, and highly functional,” Leeb says. “We already had a custom bottle for our products. Now we needed a dispenser carton [that was] just as unique and innovative for our packets.”

To develop the carton’s dispensing doors, Leeb and his team designed, prototyped, and tested multiple times to work out the kinks. Nosco, however, was able to rapidly develop conceptual shapes and geometries using its computer-aided machining tools (commonly referred to as CNC tools). “The final design pushed traditional capabilities like die cutting to the limit, as can be seen in the cutouts in the outer carton,” Leeb says. “The result is an eye-catching carton that is incredibly functional and innovative. The product provides a wow experience for every single customer.”

Andersen says one of the most common packaging challenges facing dietary supplement and functional food and beverage companies is brand consistency. “As supplement companies continue to grow, brand/color consistency becomes a challenge,” he says, adding that the challenge gets more complex when working with multiple print vendors on various types of packaging, such as labels, cartons, pouches, and inserts. “Consistent color and print reproduction is crucial to consumer brand recognition and confidence. It is important to understand the color management system of potential print vendors.”

To that end, Nosco is in the process of installing a new HP Indigo 30000 technology for the production of digital cartons. “We see a growing trend in lower-volume runs, which led us to this investment,” he says. “The use of digital technology also allows for variable data for customized packaging.”

Nosco bills the HP Indigo 30000 Digital Press as the breakthrough offset-matching solution the folding carton industry has been seeking for years, because it offers zero setup, minimal waste, and easy versioning capabilities. “With its 29-inch format, the press empowers packaging converters to profitably address the evolving needs of their customers and gain a valuable competitive edge,” Andersen says.

Improving Ease of Use

Tablets and capsules have long been the dietary supplement delivery formats of choice, but the gummy medium continues to evolve into a huge supplement trend-both for kids and grownups who are kids at heart. “What started off as a children’s vitamin format seems to be equally popular with adults, and now every type of supplement, from multi-vitamins to pre-natal vitamins to fiber supplements, can be found in an easy-to-chew gummy format,” says Marny Bielefeldt, director of marketing at Alpha Packaging
(St. Louis, MO).

The soft, chewy nature of gummy supplements requires special packaging to prevent the gummies from drying out and for optimum user experience. In this case, traditionally shaped polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles just won’t do. “The gummy trend has created a need for wider-mouth, straight-sided packaging, since gummies are both larger than most traditional supplements and also ‘gummier,’” says Bielefeldt. “Since gummies tend to stick together sometimes in the container, the wider mouth allows the consumer to get his or her fingers into the container to pick out individual vitamins, and the straighter sides also make it easier to pour gummies out of the container.”

Most of the gummy packaging produced by Alpha Packaging is clear PET, a trend illustrated by Disney brand gummy multivitamins. “Gummy vitamins are usually brightly-colored, and the brand owners want people to see the product inside the package,” says Bielefeldt. “Some brands shrink-wrap the entire bottle, but leave a clear window in the package so you can still see the product inside.”

Beyond the gummy realm, Alpha Packaging also has its sights on improving the packaging experience for consumers in the sports supplement category. Bielefeldt recognizes a need for better large canisters that range from half-gallon up to two gallons and typically hold between one to six pounds of powdered supplements. She says that traditional round canisters usually have an opening of 110 mm or 120 mm (so you can get a scoop inside them), and because they can be ten inches wide or more, they are big and heavy. “They are hard to carry around, and you usually need two hands to grip the package and then set it down on a counter to scoop out the contents,” she admits.

In an effort to ease the strain, Alpha Packaging is offering several square jars with built-in pinch grips that allow consumers to comfortably grip the container in one hand, freeing up the other hand to scoop out or pour out the contents.

Drink Packages with Functionality

Vita Coco is one of the most recognizable brands in the coconut water segment, thanks to its smart branding and packaging. When the company decided to launch an extension of its product line, specifically for kids, Vita Coco turned to Moxie TM Inc. (New York City) for its design and Tetra Pak (Vernon Hills, IL) for its packaging.

“Translating the distinctive Vita Coco brand voice and bringing it to life in the kid’s category required finding just the right tone,” says Tammy Vaserstein, creative principal at Moxie. “We wanted to retain the whimsical and quirky personality of the core brand, but in a kid appropriate way that balances the better-for-you message for parents while being fun and engaging for kids.”

Moxie TM created a unique look that combines the brand’s tropical heritage with colors, shapes, and characters that appeals to both kids and their health-conscious moms.

The beverages are housed in a 6 fl. oz. Tetra Pak Wedge package that includes a straw. The package was chosen because its fits easily into kids’ smaller hands. Its convenient shape is also lunch box-friendly, and, according to Moxie, it slips easily into cup holders and mom’s purse.

The packages are embellished with colorful, tropically themed graphics and age-appropriate activities like connect-the-dots. The beverage’s health benefits are printed on the side and back panels.

Vita Coco’s Tetra Pak packages rolled out nationwide in July and are sold in single-flavor multi-packs (Apple Island, Paradise Punch and Very Cherry Beach).

Sunrich Naturals (a subsidiary of SunOpta Grains & Foods Group; Hope, MN) also partnered with Tetra Pak when it developed and launched SōL, a creamy beverage made from sunflower kernels. Because of the product’s naturally high antioxidant and phytochemical content, the company sought a special package that would preserve the integrity of its ingredients. Sunrich Naturals chose the Tetra Brik Aseptic Edge, a recently-launched aseptic carton from Tetra Pak that features a sloping top that promotes easier access for grasping and opening the package’s wide-mouthed, easy-to-pour, ridged cap. In addition to its light weight and compact, shelf-stable appeal, the recyclable package is also composed of 70% paper.

“The new Tetra Brik Aseptic Edge packaging is ideal for SōL and all of our non-dairy beverages,” says Tina Nelson, vice president of consumer product sales and marketing at SunOpta Grains & Foods. “It offers superior preservation of the fresh taste and nutritional content of the product in addition to prolonged shelf life. And Tetra Pak’s commitment to protecting the environment, which includes the package’s recyclability and renewability, matches our own commitment to sustainable practices.”