How Packaging Supports Formulations and the Consumer Experience



Making the right packaging decisions can enable personal care and beauty formulators to bring new creations to market, boost efficacy, avoid issues such as product degradation and provide consumers with an optimal experience.

“Ideally, the packaging choice will be made with product characteristics and end-user considerations in mind,” says Mark White (pictured), senior principal packaging engineer, Amway Corp., who will present “Packaging as an Extension of Formulation” as part of the Cosmetics & Toiletries Summit, taking place June 22–23 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. (Registration is now open.)

He adds, “Based on characteristics of products, you can steer marketing to a more applicable package.”

Getting Started: Refining the Package and Product Profile

Product development teams are well-served by beginning any project with a kick-off meeting comprising the formulator, the packaging engineer, the marketer, the process engineer and manufacturing. This dialogue will allow the parties to identify the must-haves and nice-to-haves for formulas and packaging, as well as what product claims are desired.

This in turn can lead to a discussion of what, if any, actives might be included, while procurement can begin to factor in packaging cost structures based on product specifications.

“You have that discussion to start refining the package and product profile,” says White. 

Benchmarks Don’t Tell the Whole Story

“Everyone likes to be a little different,” says White. “Sometimes there are good reasons that [products] are in certain packaging types, sometimes not.”

To avoid problems, White explains, product aspects such as viscosity and rheology should be top-of-mind when making packaging decisions.

In many cases, the development team is given benchmark samples that allow them to understand the types of packaging, forms and products found within the competitive landscape. Creative teams may like one benchmark for texture, another for after-feel and yet another for packaging. Because these attributes may have little in common, choosing the right packaging can be a complex process. White says, “It’s good to examine each product/package combination and ask ‘what are you really trying to accomplish?'”

White offers the example of a formulation that may be too thick for a dip tube to perform ideally. While the pump may technically work, the product viscosity could create product cavitation around the dip tube, leading to inconsistent dosing or “spitting” of product.

The result? An annoyed consumer.

White notes, “If [packaging and formulators] were on the same page at the beginning and had a coordinated meeting where all interested parties could ask some questions … they could find something more suited to high-viscosity products.”

Elongation, or “stringiness,” of the product should also be considered in packaging decisions.

“For any product out there, if you pour it and then try to stop it, [ask] ‘does the product break or does it string on continuously?’” says White. “If the product contains a lot of surfactants, it has a higher probability of stringing.”

He continues, “If the plan is to put [the product] into a tube, immediately I’m worried about how the equipment’s going to cut that off. More than likely I’m going to have a string that goes directly across the tube seal area, and when I try to seal it I’m going to contaminate the seal and have a leaker.” 

Know Your Ingredients

Knowing that a formulator wants to achieve a certain after-feel is good. Knowing which ingredients will be used to achieve this effect is even better. White notes that packaging teams should be highly aware of any formulations’ ingredients to avoid performance or degradation problems down the road.

The best place to start is with high-level ingredients such as water, sunscreens or volatile silicones, or ingredients that require special consideration, such as oxygen-sensitive materials.

In the case of fragrance, White explains, packaging must preserve the scent for the life of the product, but must also be constructed to ensure the perfume materials do not “attack” elements such as closures or liners.

Conversely, if a formulation is rather mild, or low-maintenance, packaging teams seek to avoid over-packaging to avoid unnecessary costs.

Focus on the End-user

Ideally, packaging contains, protects and delivers formulations, but White notes that it is just as important to ask: “What is the end user looking for? How can I make their experience better?” The answers to these questions can often drive packaging choices or add-ons.

For instance, says White, consumers like to know where their fill level is so they can keep track of when they need to repurchase a product. To accommodate this, packaging engineers may opt to include a view strip, window or, in the case of a dip-tube package, a vignette spray on the top 80% of the product, with the bottom 20% rendered transparent to alert users to low fill levels.

Consumers also want to get every bit of the product out of the package, making product evacuation a crucial facet. Dispensing options are therefore paramount.

Convenience and ease of use must also be considered. As a result, says White, designing packaging that allows for easy application of product can play a key role in the consumer experience.

This can include application aids built into packages, including spot applications and sensory applicators.

For more insights into these and other packaging-formulating considerations, register for the Cosmetics & Toiletries Summit.

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