The Latest in Sampling: Convenience with a Conscience
Sample-sized packaging has evolved to include all the ease, but eliminate any excess waste.
A sampling of product sampling solutions from Sonic Packaging.
Global Packaging helped create packaging for new sample-sized skincare products from Alastin.
Neopac helped We Love the Planet create a trial-sized package for its aluminum-free natural deodorant.
The Unispout Refill Bag from eXpack comes in a variety of sizes, and packs a plethora of eco-conscious benefits.
REN Clean Skincare is the first luxury beauty brand to offer its samples in the Monotube, from Tubex.
Joanna Cosgrove, Contributing Editor09.01.22
We are in the midst of a post-COVID boom. Consumers are making up for lost time by shopping while also heading back out on the road and to the skies for travel. Smaller-sized, unit dose and limited-use packaging that facilitates consumer travels or trying products before they buy is in high demand. But knowing that increased use of miniaturized packaging can generate excess waste, sample packaging providers are forging a more environmentally conscious path, winnowing their eco-footprints and innovating with more responsibly made and recyclable options.
Gauging the COVID Impact
As pandemic-related safety concerns have eased, makeup users have expressed an increasing inclination to shop in stores that allow them to self-test products (The NPD Group/Makeup Consumer Report, U.S., May 2022). It’s a signal of a return to normalcy and it’s being felt by many packaging suppliers.
“The need for creative, easy-to-use, unit-dose packaging has been front and center this year with marketers being more challenged than ever to connect with their customers,” comments Howard Thau, president and CEO, Sonic Packaging. “COVID’s impact has forced all companies to take a second look at their business models, as engaging with their customers continues to have a heightened focus for both big and small marketers.”
“Time and time again, driving sales through trial samples has been proven effective, and getting the ideal sample to the end customer requires additional resources above and beyond just getting a small amount of the product in their hands,” says Thau.
But alongside the return to normalcy is a renewed emphasis on environmental responsibility. “COVID caused e-commerce sales to spike, upping the desire for travel size items for sampling and testing,” remarks Cornelia Schmid, marketing manager, Neopac . “Consumers need travel options, yet they are mindful of the impact packaging has on the environment.
“In this case, we are experts and can provide solutions that are sustainable while still fulfilling the customers packaging requirements like protection and desirability,” says Schmid.
For Global Packaging Inc. , the coronavirus pandemic has had surprisingly minimal impact on their customers’ ordering behavior. “Though the retail sector did take a hit in 2020, we saw a strong comeback in the second half of 2021,” reports Sunny Sontakke, COO and vice president of sales and marketing. “We have observed little to no change in demand for sampling components during this COVID era from our current clients.”
Global Packaging offers a variety of limited use packaging solutions, including extruded plastic tubes, injection molded LDPE tubes and PP jars. The company can print in up to four-color offset printing or silk screen on the extruded plastic tubes, a maximum 1-color silk screen printing on injection molded LDPE tubes, and up to 2-color silk screen printing on sample size PP jars. “For our clients who are more cost sensitive, we recommend the injection molded LDPE tubes as they often have a better cost advantage compared to those of the extruded plastic tubes and PP jars,” says Sontakke.
The company’s primary sample packaging market interest has always been within the hygienic skin and dermatological sphere, though Sontakke says they’ve seen client market variegation over the years. “As such, we prioritized our travel components to be plastic tubes as they are considered to be one of the more hygienic options for sampling use.”
Global Packaging recently produced sample packaging for Alastin to be used for a new launch under its skincare product banner. The brand chose to house its formulations in multi-use, 16mm diameter, monolayer tubes decorated with three-color offset printing. Sontakke says Alastin used the tubes as a limited offering to promote their new product launch.
Packaging sized for single or limited use is perfect for hotel amenities and busy commuters who like to travel light. With the post-COVID pace of travel picking up, beauty and personal care brands are seeking to offer miniature iterations of their products for convenient use during travel.
To convey its breadth of travel-sized samples, Neopac developed an Amenity Set that includes samples of its eco-friendly options from 5-15 ml. The kit includes a Picea Wood tube, Sugarcane tube, Polyfoil Mono-Material tube, Recycled tube and a tinplate box for natural deodorant made from 100% post-consumer steel.
The company’s Recycled tube is made of 70% recycled content to circumvent the concerns of single-use packaging, according to Neopac’s Schmid. “While the packaging may be single use, we are using PCR in the tube in an effort to be more sustainable,” she says. “In addition, our Sugarcane and Picea tubes have a lower carbon footprint compared with standard PE tubes.”
We Love the Planet brand turned to Neopac to provide a trial-sized package for its aluminum-free Golden Glow natural deodorant, slated to be part of an e-commerce beauty kit sampler for the German market. The brand chose a Ø64 mm deep drawn, squeeze top tin made of 100% recycled steel, decorated with UV cured offset printing. The color scheme plays with black and gold, allowing glints of metal to shine through its halftone colors.
Striking a Sustainable Balance
Creating an effective sample-sized package that also makes efficient use of resources is no easy feat, but packaging providers are proving to be up to the challenge.
Sustainable packaging has been one of the main priorities for customers of Sonic, and Thau says the company works with its customers to strike the perfect balance of using as much environmentally friendly packaging as possible while making sure the integrity and “shelf life” of the product are not altered in any way. “It is important to note that flexible packaging—used for a good number of our projects such as packets, stick packs and pouches—is more environmentally friendly than their rigid counterparts, consuming far less raw materials, energy and water resources to create,” he says. “We can employ multiple sustainable options to pursue this result by utilizing compostable, recyclable and bio-degradable materials.”
Thau adds that while many of Sonic’s materials already contain a percentage of recycled content, they work with brands to continually transition towards a more sustainable option whenever possible, whether it’s in the form of sachets, liquid blisters, injection molded tubes and ampoules, or two-component devices.
“There are a variety of package types that we have recently produced from sachets utilizing our compostable materials, liquid blisters for bi-phase cleaning solutions, and a unit dose of a whitening product in a blister format with brush applicators for ease of use,” he says. “In some cases, the customer chose to use their graphics with a combination of matte and gloss finishes to differentiate the look of the samples.
“In other cases, they chose a custom design thermo-formed part to allow the customer to follow the regime the product has been designed to follow,” he continues. “Meeting the customer’s vision for how the package is aligned with their brand is where most of these programs start. Ease of use and clear direction on how the product/package functions ensures success for both the marketer and customer.”
JP Packaging has also been working to meet the return to growth and progress with innovation. “Brand expansions as well as new and emerging brands have the need for sampling and the demand for unit of use hygienic packaging options,” says Doug Rofheart, senior sales executive, JP Packaging LLC. “This has allowed us to add equipment to our fleet to meet this demand, and our engineering team has been busy on new package designs as well as working on optimization of current technologies.”
With specific regard to optimization, JP Packaging has worked closely with its supply chain in developing eco-friendly options to offset the environmental implications of single-use packaging. “We now offer an eco-friendly flexible film for liquids where the outer layer is 90% PCR PET,” Rofheart says, explaining that the inner layer is 35% bio-based PE, with the total 15% PCR by weight and 12% bio-sourced by weight.
JP Packaging also recently forged a new Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) enabling it to offer certified SGP flexible packaging materials. The SGP promotes a sustainable print supply chain through best practices, innovation, information shared and validation.
Sustainable solutions are at the heart of eXpack’s business, which consists of eco-conscious, single-use packages, like PCR, paper and biodegradable sachets. “Single-use packaging is eXpack’s core business, and while many view it as contradicting sustainability, the reality is if the correct materials are used, the environmental impact is lower,” says the company’s Leilah Skawinski, innovation and product development manager. “The Unitube is one example that demonstrates eXpack’s commitment to the environment. It is designed to have less residual waste—approximately 95% less plastic than bottles of the same size.
Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) materials are used in most of the sample solutions from eXpack, including the Unispout Refill Bag, which is 100% printable, with 99.5% product evacuation, a low carbon footprint and a high barrier structure, all while consuming nearly 60% less plastic than traditional plastic bottles with a 40% post-consumer recycled option.
“We offer our clients cost-effective flexible lightweight packages that use four times less plastic than a regular bottle and are fully collapsible, thus reducing space on transfer and storage,” says Skawinski. “For being flexible, these pouches deliver every single drop, meaning no waste of product to the consumer.”
Unisolve, a plastic-free, “no residue,” printable paper package that completely dissolves in water, is another new offering from eXpack. “It’s the perfect package for waterless formulations or can be used as secondary packaging,” says Skawinski. “This biodegradable and compostable water-soluble paper disappears in 30 seconds or less with water and agitation.”
What’s more, eXpack’s guarantee for sample and travel-size packaging is that the PCR plastics used will mirror the pricing of non-PCR materials. “If the client is accepting and wanting PCR material in their packages, eXpack has removed the main barrier of adopting sustainable packaging solutions: price,” says Skawinski.
Innovation in Action
Made of 100% recycled aluminum with 95% PCR content and 5% Post Industrial Recycled material, the Monotube from Tubex Aluminium Tubes satisfies sustainable sampling initiatives with a smart, resealable design and an all-in-one production process that hinges on its aluminum closure, which makes the tube easier to recycle.
“It is manufactured in just one production step that includes the closure–there is no need to separately manufacture and screw on a plastic cap,” explains Thierry Bitout, the company’s CEO. “The tube’s clever design gives consumers the option of using all the product in one go, or resealing it temporarily.”
The tube is opened when its aluminum closure is snapped off and can be temporarily resealed by turning the closure over and inserting it back into the opening.
And because the Monotube is made of aluminum, it delivers excellent barrier protection for the ingredients in its contents while at the same time being infinitely recyclable. “It can be melted down and reformed time and again without losing its premium quality,” Bitout says. “An impressive 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use–and the recycling rate of aluminum packaging in Europe is 69%, which already exceeds the EU’s recycling targets for 2025.”
What’s more, the specially developed aluminum alloy used for the Monotube, helps close the loop by incorporating previously used aluminum tubes. “Combined with a highly carbon-sensitive production across Tubex’s supply chain this means that the Monotube is minimizing emissions and scoring high on circularity,” he comments.
REN Clean Skincare is the first luxury beauty brand to offer its samples in the Monotube. “By using the Monotube instead of difficult to recycle sachets, REN Clean Skincare is taking a further step towards its Zero Waste pledge: to only use packaging designed to be recyclable, containing recycled materials or being reusable,” Bitout says. “As two companies deeply committed to protecting the planet, REN and Tubex are natural partners. Tubex is proud to be accompanying REN on its zero-waste journey–and to be showing that luxury skincare and sustainability can absolutely go hand in hand.”
Klocke America has introduced a variety of innovative new options including a dual dispensing blister package for products that require mixing to activate, outside of the package, as well as new multi-dose blisters for individual products or multi-step regimens that might also be tucked into a folding carton or affixed to a card. The company also launched Heat ‘N Dose, a novel self-heating engine that allows consumers to warm the product at the moment of use. Klocke America’s Jim Gabilanes, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing says the package is ideal for products such as hair masque, skin treatment, lubricants and massage creams/oils.
One of the company’s most recent sample packaging partnerships involved producing a solution for the trial of Kite Beauty Concealer. “Kite Beauty adopted our new Trio Pod pack and offered six applications in a compact and consumer friendly Slide Design package,” says Gabilanes. “Simplicity for the consumer was key, so we included a clear front film to highlight different shades, which could also be seen through the Slide Pack window.”
Shade names are printed on the backfoil, and two trios of one shade are placed in the easy-open slide pack. Each Trio Pod Pack is perforated in-between each application, allowing consumers to tear off and use each sample as needed. BP