“Packaging can be theater; it can create a story.” – Steve Jobs
The packaging of products is the first tangible thing a potential consumer can experience. This presentation shapes the expectation of customers to obtain value. It is responsible for the impression given/created or reinforced, along with all the marketing efforts to make a brand successful.
Obviously, the package must be of sufficient size to contain the quantity of product a brand wishes to deliver. Size determinations are frequently simple, based on what will fit and the package will perform on the packaging line, not for the consumer experience. Other considerations are the materials used and the overall performance of the package to preserve product integrity. Does a dispensing closure make sense? Is there a need for a desiccant to be included? Is there a resealable option? Are there environmental factors or applications to be aware of? All these items are determined during the preparation for marketing the products. Unfortunately, what is often not considered during this process are the attendant regulatory requirements. These are quite often simple and are required to comply with regulations.
First, the package cannot contaminate the product. It seems easy and is usually not a problem. However, it’s important to qualify appropriate materials, especially when using novel packaging. Then a brand must determine whether the package protects the product sufficiently to avoid contamination or adulteration. This applies to storage of the product under the stated conditions during transportation and shelf life. This requirement is frequently not difficult to determine, but the necessity of it requires consideration. This may be reflected in the materials, the color or opacity of the container.
The shape and type of packaging play a role in the regulatory requirements. How the package is designed may affect the ability to present compliant labeling, such as type size requirements. For example, a carton designed to contain a bottle of product must have at least one panel identified as a principal display panel. The information panel has requirements as well and, dependent on the complexity of the formula, may use of a good amount of packaging space. This obviously affects the overall design and marketing presentation; it can’t just look pretty or enticing in a void of regulatory compliance.
The bottle inside the carton has the same requirements. The label design is dictated by packaging size and must meet regulatory requirements. Regulations define a principal display panel and an information panel only. All required copy must appear on one of these two panels. Most bottle labels are shown in a three-panel format, but no regulation defines what that third panel must contain. Thus, it is potentially space that could contain all of the information necessary. For labels with only two panels—with the principal display panel on the left and the information panel on the right—the problem is mitigated, but the appearance may not keep with the presentation desires.
“Slack fill” presentations must also be considered. The fill of the package cannot be deceptive (i.e., large container with a small volume of product), which can happen when the labeling requirements make the package larger. The inclusion of “non-functional space” in the package must be in conformance with federal and state regulatory requirements. Some brands choose to present an image of the product in actual size on the label. Products may naturally settle during transit or storage but should also be considered with packaging selection.
The considerations for what a package should be for a given product must include evaluation of materials, protection of the product and the design, while allowing for compliance with the regulatory mandates to deliver the product to the consumer attractively and in a compliant manner.
For more information on packaging considerations, download the Unboxing Everything About Packaging digital magazine.
As chief operating officer, Jim Lassiter oversees all consulting operations at Ingredient Identity (ingredientidentity.com). He has more than four decades of experience in quality control (QC), and government and regulatory affairs throughout the pharmaceutical, dietary supplement and natural product industries with organizations such as Nutrilite, Robinson Pharma Inc., Irwin Naturals, ChromaDex, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). A respected author and speaker, Lassiter has served on numerous industry and trade boards.