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Ticking all the Boxes

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Pharmaceutical packaging has many functions to perform but in the OTC area of the market brand owners and product manufactures are increasingly see packaging as a form of advertising. Some 75% of all purchase decisions are made by consumers in front of the shelf. This means that if a packaging format is attractive, easy to recognise and stands out on the shelf, it will have an advantage.

 Cartons meet these requirements head-on and offer huge opportunities for brand differentiation in terms of shape, finishes, print qualities, opening and closing devices and security features. Another growing requirement for packaging is sustainability – cartonboard, the raw material for cartons also admirably rises to this challenge. Cartons are made from a constantly renewable raw material, wood, which means they are renewable, recyclable, biodegradable, compostable and can even be used to produce energy. At the end of the day, more trees are planted each year than are felled making this a truly sustainable material. Sustainability is clearly important to consumers too which will see them capture an even greater share of the packaging selected for branded products in the retail trade.

During the last few years, there have been a number of exciting new developments, which have demonstrated the versatility of this form of packaging. Over this period, there has been a general move to retro styles reflecting a wave of nostalgia that has seen a surge in demand for mid-20th-century style homewares, vintage clothing and books. It seems ‘quality’ is associated with things of the past so as well as colour and design for packaging, textures have also been important. This has seen cartons incorporate print finishes & effects that include techniques that provide tactile qualities such as ‘soft-touch’ varnishes or inline reticulation processes that add prominent varnish lines.

‘Natural’ aesthetics which have been ‘on trend’ for a while which have been reflected in an ‘unprocessed’ look. Uncoated cartonboards with a rough finish or cartons subtlety enhanced with micro-embossing have been favorites. Micro-embossing combined with varnish techniques have been developed to produce the effects that mimic nature, such as leather, stone, feathers or snakeskin.  3D qualities are important and effects that provide depth and the impression of movement are also in demand. Printed holographic effects, which were initially applied to labels, are now enhancing cartons too. Taking this one stage further, a leading brand of toothpaste has even incorporated Fresnel lens technology to make a point of difference in a crowded marketplace. This effect leaps out of the pack and also helps to explain the product’s use.

Constructional design can help to accentuate movement and product presentation. This includes optical enhancements to cartons including clever fitments that hold/suspend products. For OTC and personnel care products the use of clean lines is often paramount. Cartons with subtle enhancements and embellishments have helped to lift premium products which have wanted to present a clinical look and finish. New materials such as mouldable cartonboard will provide new ways of providing further pack differentiation. The board, providing a truly 3D quality to any pack, is formed by using a specialist low energy process which makes it possible to form a paperboard material into a complete range of distinctive shapes. This exciting development can help to promote and complement a brand – from tactile profile lines to replicating the distinctive shape of a bottle or jar. The material also offers a more environmentally responsible alternative to plastic packaging.

The environmental qualities of a carton are, however, its major advantage. Folding cartons enjoy an unrivalled carbon footprint – no other packaging material can match. Over the last few years, major brand owners have moved more of their products into this natural and sustainable resource. Environmental consideration has been particularly important at the commodity end of the packaging market; many packs have been redesigned to remove mixed materials such as plastic fitments & trays to make recycling easier.

Security features can easily be added such as tamper evident closures and designs to make cartons child-proof. European legislation has recently dictated the application of product information in the form of Braille for an increasing range of healthcare products. Cartons provide the ideal substrate for Braille embossing – dots can be precisely placed at speed on any or all of the carton’s faces improving patient security.

Cartons clearly meet the full range of requirements of brand owners, retailers and consumers. They are made from a truly sustainable raw material they can be recovered and recycled; they can be embellished with high quality print and enhanced with interesting finishes and effects. They are easy to recognise on the shelf; easy to open and close and are well liked by consumers. The manufacturers of cartons and cartonboard are well established and well invested and are constantly looking for ways to increase their facilities to ensure they can always be at the forefront of innovation and development.

Neal Whipp, from the trade association, BPIF Cartons, sums up, “Cartons offer appealing environmental attributes: inherently renewable and highly recyclable; their sustainability credentials are readily understood by consumer, brand owners and multiple retailers.”

Bob Houghton

Head of Marketing and Communications


E Mail

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