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Rigid plastics: Clever heads drive body care boom

June 3, 2010 Comments Off Print Print

Innovative plastic applicators have become key to brands’ quest to stand out on shelves in the bustling personal care sector, says Gail Hunt

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Toiletries brands not only have to consider the product inside a pack, but the applicator itself. Increasingly rigid plastic applicators are becoming the point of difference for brands. Facial scrubs, roll-on under-eye creams, waxes and anti-cellulite creams are all markets that can gain from applicators that make things easier for consumers.

L’Oréal used RPC Bramlage-Wiko’s expertise in technically challenging personal-care packaging solutions in the manufacture of a bespoke application system for a new anti-cellulite cream for Garnier’s Skin Naturals bodytonic range.

The gel is applied by means of an ergonomically designed roller ball, which gently massages the skin to ensure optimum penetration exactly where it is needed. The applicator’s complex construction required precision manufacture to ensure that the highest standard of functionality was matched by the premium image expected of Garnier.

The application system, patented by L’Oréal, consists of five injection-moulded parts including the roller ball, which is manufactured in thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). Its specially designed head offers a soothing massage action while dispensing gel via strategically cut grooves in the plastic. An effective closure also ensures long-term product preservation.

The complete system is designed to fit on to the 100ml and 150ml extrusion blow-moulded bottles used by L’Oréal.

“As a prestigious and influential brand, consumers expect something special from Garnier products,” says Alfons Böckmann, director of RPC Bramlage-Wiko Cluster.

“RPC Bramlage-Wiko is delighted to have been given the opportunity to provide our expertise and support to ensure that the applicator for the cellulite crusher roll-on is unique, eye-catching and effective.”

This new area of innovation in product application design is certainly set to grow in the future, says Grant Marshall, creative director of The Design Group (TDG). Indeed, he believes that in two years’ time, it will become the norm in the toiletries and personal care sector because it is an excellent way to build brand loyalty. “Consumers can see a brand delivering the difference,” he says of these products. “The market leaders are already investing in this new technology as another way to make their products stand out on-shelf,” he says.

Creating rituals
Emotion plays a large part in toiletries purchasing decisions and is now seen as a key driver, he explains. “These new applicators, massagers and exfoliators help to build a relationship with a brand and become part of the rituals associated with it,” he says. Indeed, creating these rituals builds loyalty which is what all the brand owners are looking for.

“As there are a lot of tubs, tubes and jars on the shelves, graphics can only do so much to add value,” says Marshall. That is why he thinks building a unique function into the packaging itself will be successful. “Consumers don’t necessarily want lower prices in this market, they want value and if they buy into a delivery method, they will be much more likely to stay with the product,” he says.

Consumers get visual overload on the toiletries shelves and so product innovation can really make a difference, according to Marshall. John Anderton, managing director of cosmetics packaging specialist Vetroplas Packaging, agrees: “Applying products more accurately is a key benefit for consumers and brand managers have been keen to exploit this relatively new area,” he says. “As brands are becoming more sophisticated, then packaging has to be developed to match this.”

Coda Plastics produces cost-effective custom-made solutions as well as supplying a standard range including roller-ball packaging. Sales director Simon Girdlestone believes applicators will become more widely used for personal-care products and that interest is growing in this area.

“Innovative ideas will always be used within the personal-care sector and applicators of all types are a growing trend,” he says. “The issue, as always, will be the development costs of the devices and as such it is likely that the better known brands will launch the most innovative applicators and lead the way.”

However, Girdlestone thinks that the more established roller-ball packaging will remain an essential pack within the sector as “it has been with us for many years in a number of guises”.  He says it is a tried-and-tested application method in its simplest form and naturally there will be offshoots from any successful type of packaging such as this.

Cost implications
Girdlestone believes that the cost of development and also rising costs of raw materials will dictate which companies use these types of applicators first and much will depend on how the consumer values these products in the market. There is also a dilemma here as he says the more niche the product range, the higher the retail price can be set. However, generally speaking, the more niche it is then the lower the volume sold.

“It could well be that consumers’ own financial situations will dictate how this sector grows over the next few years,”
he asserts.

New product development in the deodorant roll-on has not stood still, the ‘upside-down’ deodorant roll-on developed by Promens Packaging and Unilever HPC being a case in point. Indeed, Promens Deeside (UK) was awarded supplier of the year to Unilever UK and Russia for this pack, earlier this year.

Promens says this pack responded to consumer frustrations with traditional roll-on designs such as uneven application, the need to shake the pack to start the ball rolling, the ball dragging across the underarm skin because the contents fall to the bottom on application and the need to turn the pack on its head to get the last drop.

Smooth operation
The ‘upside-down’ roll-on features a one-way valve enabling it to be stood on its head, ensuring the ball is always wet, while preventing leakage. The user can therefore benefit from maximum use of the product contents and the consistent dosage supplied by the pack, which works towards a smoother application.

This new design boasts four patents and as well as superior functionality, the pack also uses less plastic than conventional roll-ons. Lynx, Dove, Rexona, Sure and Axe are the Unilever brands that use this pack.

The importance of developing new applicators for this market was demonstrated last year by HCT Packaging when it incorporated a metal dispensing tip on tubes for Dior’s latest eye-treatment range. Although the Zamac tips were made from a mixture of zinc, aluminium, magnesium and copper, and not plastics, they were used on an HDPE/LDPE pearlised tube for the latest extension to Dior’s Capture Totale eye treatment. These tips are oval shaped to lightly dispense the cream on to the eye area.

The development of rigid plastic applicators is linked very closely with the introduction of new personal care products and, as such, it seems a market that will continue to grow. Developers would do well to bear in mind a recent report from research  firm Mintel, however, that found over-packaged personal care products are a huge turn-off to consumers. Innovation in applicators will have to be seen as being worth it.


ROLL-ON PACKAGING
Both Yves Rocher and more recently L’Oréal’s Garnier Skin Naturals Bodytonic range cellulite products have featured a ‘notched’ roll-on pack.

This applicator is a seven-part assembly and comprises a polypropylene (PP) cap; an elastomer roller; a polyacetal pin; a PP support and a polyethylene (PE) rotary curser. This roll-on is assembled in five parts and then the PE reducer and PP flask are delivered separately.

In practice, this clever, dual-purpose applicator allows product to be diffused and applied from a textured pack. It is now available as a standard pack with minimum order quantities of 5,000 units.

Although these products are undoubtedly a precision-moulded option that use several materials, all of the packs can be refilled.

Lapac, a leading French manufacturer of deodorant sticks, depilatory smooth and massage head roll-on containers and
accessories, is the company behind these packs. It is the latest company to join the Vetroplas stable.

Vetroplas Packaging was set up four years ago by ex-M&H Plastics managing director John Anderton to provide cosmetic packaging solutions for the UK. It has selected partners from Western Europe who Anderton believes offer attractive, quality packaging, coupled with style, flair and innovation.

At its factory in France, Lapac can design, develop and manufacture custom-made items as well as offering its own standard range of sticks and creatively designed roll-ons, says Anderton.

Another company represented by Vetroplas in the UK and Ireland is CTL/Tuboplast, manufacturer of flexible and laminate tubes. A new range called Beautytube offers seven special applicator heads, all of which have been designed to target certain product areas like eye treatments, lip plumping and for ironing out wrinkles.

Two smooth versions for deodorants, depilatory creams or perfumed oils are also now available in the UK from Vetroplas.

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