Tube Demand Expands to New Categories

From new decorating capabilities to advanced applicators, tube packaging continues to evolve and fill the bill across multiple beauty categories.

By Leah Genuario, Contributing Editor

Bye-Bye Spot night cream, part of Nivea’s Visage Young line, harnesses sophisticated ingredients to improve skin condition and prevent new spots. What’s inside the package is not the only thing that’s impressive. The brand has tapped Alcan Packaging Beauty for its equally sophisticated tube packaging.

The laminate tube—which recently brought home an award from the European Tube Manufacturers Association—owes its intricate decoration to a combination of two print technologies. The photo-like graphics and subtle color gradations were created via Alcan’s trademarked direct printing technology, Pixel Graphics. Hot stamping provides a mirror effect.

ISPEC, Inc. offers a diverse portfolio of tubes.
Thanks in part to significant decoration and construction advancements such as these, tubes are popping up on more and more shelves these days. “Tube manufacturers themselves—whether U.S. or foreign—have given companies greater options in color, decoration and dispensing systems. There is no longer just a basic screw-on cap,” comments Lou Della Pesca, president of 3C, Inc., Hawthorne, NJ.

The increased customization options available to brands have also driven an increase in the types of products utilizing tubes. “It’s evolved from a component that was basically used for mass market and personal care products to one that is now being used for cosmetic and treatment products,” says Della Pesca.

The growth of the category does not come as a surprise. Tubes offer many additional benefits to marketers and to users. As Scott Stevenson, vice president of HandsFree Marketing, Inc., Huntington Beach, CA, explains, “Tubes continue to be a sound choice for marketing companies due to their low cost and the ability to resize the product without additional tooling expense.”

HandsFree Marketing offers new round applicators for tubes.
Users appreciate tubes for other reasons. “A tube is a superb package: It is economical, clean, very practical, you can open it and close it, carry it in your pocket or your purse, it has good shelf life and it’s convenient to hold,” says Jacques L. Theuvenin, vice president Americas, OMSO S.p.A., Reggio Emilia, Italy, with a U.S. base in Allendale, NJ.

Printing Trends

Within the past decade, new printing techniques have been introduced that have improved the way tubes are decorated. “People are moving toward photo quality imaging as much as possible. Using four-color process, we can achieve more of a photo look,” says Shanna Massey, sales manager for Express Tubes, Kent, WA.

Tube suppliers continue to push the envelope of innovation. OMSO has launched its OMSO Servotube, a patented printing technique for 3D extruded plastic and aluminum cosmetic tubes.

The Good Stuff Organics brand chose World Wide Packaging's new eco-friendly, one-piece oval tube.
Servotube “uses both flexographic and screen printing principles on the same printing press and at high speed,” comments Theuvenin. The flexographic process allows for “CMYK or hexachrome color separation” and can print “photographic quality décor up to 175 lines per inch in production.” Screen print heads are used to apply opaque colors. Theuvenin says the Servotube technology has been implemented widely. “Servotube cost per print is on average one third of the cost of a label,” he adds.

Vista Packaging, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, has introduced Flex Tech, a printing technique marketed as an alternative to labels. Flex Tech enables photographic printing quality directly on tubes and can also be used in combination with silkscreen processes and metallic printing. In addition to its decorating achievements, Vista Packaging has also released an innovative tamper-evident seal for oval tubes that is placed over the orifice so that the cap does not need to be taken off in order to break the seal.

High-quality graphics are not the only buzz associated with printing technologies. There is also a push from brand marketers for more vibrant colors as well as complicated color matches, says Jeffrey Hayet, executive vice president, global sales, for World Wide Packaging, Florham Park, NJ.

“This requires the use of dual-layer printing. The outside layer is printed in the vibrant color, for example cherry-apple red. The inside layer of the tube—the side that touches the product—is printed white, which increases the intensity of the color printed on the outside layer.”

Decorating Trends

Suppliers have noted other decoration trends utilized in an effort to capture the consumer’s eye. These run the gamut from foil stamping, to tube additives, to new approaches on tube filling and sealing.

Foil-stamp printing on tubes is an option from James Alexander.
“The decoration depends on the industry making the request. Naturally, the cosmetic industry wants a high-end tube with decoration to make their product stand out among the rest. We now offer foil printing and pearlized tubes to meet the demand,” says Carol Gamsby, sales manager for James Alexander Corporation, Blairstown, NJ.

These decorative techniques, says Gamsby, are easily affordable: “A prestige look is created by the colors chosen, which is at no extra cost for our tubes. Even the pearlized effect is at no extra cost. The design of their logo in our foil print is also a reasonable option.”

“Colors and additives to the tube material have also been increasing. Options available are glow-in-the-dark, metallic, soft touch, iridescent and transparent,” says Kim Kraynak, marketing manager, Continental Packaging Solutions, Chicago, IL.

Decorative touches don’t stop with the tube body, however. Even tube seals are getting a makeover. “Another decorating trend is the shaping of the seal of tubes to create a more unique package,” adds Kraynak.

Continental Packaging Solutions has introduced a glow-in-the-dark option.
All that said, not all packaging vendors have witnessed an emphasis on decoration. Chris White, president of The Filling Station, Flemington, NJ, believes decorative effects have been downplayed this year in favor of focusing on what’s inside: the ingredients.

“People are trying to think of something different to spark the economy such as stripes or twists in the formulation [think Aquafresh toothpaste]. They are definitely trying to reach—for example, let’s put two colors or add an anti-aging formulation. I’m seeing a lot of it, but it is difficult to execute so I’m not sure where it is going to go,” says White.

The Environment

As it has in every packaging segment, the growing public and corporate push for sustainability has also impacted tubes. Suppliers have responded by promoting more recyclable tubes, as
well as tubes that contain post-consumer recycled resins.

“Packaging in general is continually evolving, especially within the last five years with the growing trends in environmental sustainability. Companies are looking for more environmentally friendly materials, lightweighting of bottles and caps, and ways to reduce their carbon footprint with transportation of their packaging,” comments Kraynak.

Along the same vein, World Wide Packaging has recently introduced its eco-friendly one-piece oval tube. The body of the tube, its head and cap are made of a layer of post-consumer recycled plastic resins.

James Alexander offers pearlized tubes.
Already utilized by the Almay and Good Stuff Organics brands, the one-piece oval tube was designed to eliminate online filling problems associated with back-off in conventional tubes with caps. It also ensures correct in-hand orientation of package graphics, prevents cap leakage and eliminates residue contamination.

Construction Trends

The evolution of tube constructions has also been noteworthy. Massey from Express Tubes
has seen increased interest in five-layer extruded polyethylene tubes for more aggressive formulations. The construction is an alternative to polyfoil laminate tubes.
Vista offers FlexTech tubes.
“More and more people are being educated about it,” says Massey. “Five-layer is more economical than laminate and it is recyclable. It allows for that soft, elegant feel instead of a
cold, metallized look. It is good for most formulas that have active ingredients or essential oils,” she says. Five-layer tubes are easily differentiated from laminate tubes as laminates have a seam, and five-layer tubes are one solid, round component.

Laminate tubes are still a popular choice and a healthy trend, according to ISPEC, Inc. “With laminate tubes, it is easy to incorporate an aluminum or ceramic layer for improved ingredient protection,” says Chuck Lee, president of the Edgewater, NJ-based company. Additional benefits include the ability for “high-quality printing at low costs because laminate tubes start as flat layers,” as well as the ability of the packaging to retain its attractiveness throughout the life of the product.

Applicator choices for tubes have seen advancement in recent years and are a natural place for brands to incorporate customization. Choices are seemingly limitless, which has propelled tube usage into beauty categories not ordinarily apt to choose tubes.

For example, Della Pesca from 3C, Inc. offers a tube brush applicator especially suited toward makeup dispensing. “The tube has reached the point where people in many industries are using tubes for products that they may not have used tubes for before,” he says. “Now you can squeeze makeup into a brush and apply it directly to the face.”

Airless tube systems have also enjoyed a surge in the market. ISPEC, Inc., for example, offers an airless pump and airless tube assembly. “These tubes have a very good restitution of the formula with an evacuation rate in excess of 90%,” says Lee. “The obvious main benefit is that it is simple and easy to use. This tube combines the convenience of a tube with high-precision dispensing. The tube also has an extremely easy assembly snap-on system, as well as a screw-on system where the pump snaps into place or screws into place, making this system 100% airless.”

World Wide Packaging has additionally noticed the use of customized orifice shapes, which uniquely affect product dispensing. The supplier recently teamed with Avon to create a tube that utilizes a triangular cap. In order to allow for a thin, precise application, World Wide designed a plug that fit into the orifice. The orifice shapes can include cutouts such as a moon or a star for unique product dispensing.

Applicators aren’t limited to the dispensing end of the tube, however. One supplier has proposed an innovative alternative to dispensing applicators, providing brands with yet another way to differentiate tubes.

HandsFree Marketing, in addition to offering more than 20 different dispensing applicators, has also launched its new TubeTool. “The TubeTool is very unique in the sense that it permanently clips onto the sealed end of the tube. Most of our existing applicators are attached to the dispensing end, but the TubeTool attaches to the end of the tube that is sealed,” explains Stevenson.

This attachment can be used in a number of different ways. Stevenson says a popular appli-cation is using TubeTool for sunless tanning, where the TubeTool has a built-in soft applicator to aid in uniformly spreading the product. TubeTool is currently sold in one standard, stock size with 20 different oval applicator options.

“We believe the future of the TubeTool will lie in each customer giving us specifications for a customized TubeTool that will be manufactured to those specifications, such as a brush that would be used for hair coloring or a scraper for hair removal,” adds Stevenson.

Get Your Fill

The package decoration is settled upon, tube shapes and applicators have been chosen. Is the job done? Not in the least. It still needs to be filled.

Designing packaging that will catch the consumer’s eye and drive home sales is of paramount concern to marketers, as is the need to contain packaging costs. With everyone trying to shave off extra costs here and there, fillers offer a final word of caution to cost-conscious, tube-loving brands.

Joe Hark, CEO of Unette Cor-poration, Wharton, NJ, reminds marketers to plan for “enough head space and non-decorated areas to allow for proper sealing.”

And for those brands looking to switch tube vendors, don’t forget to include your filling vendor in the conversation.

Says White of The Filling Station, “The biggest challenge we’re encountering nowadays is with
customers who think they are buying the same tube [from a different vendor], but they’re not. In reality, the tube has a different wall structure or utilizes different plastic. Customers are trying to save a nickel or three cents, but they are buying a different tube. It causes the filler to go through hoops to seal it.”

On the Right Track with Tube Filling

Sounds simple enough: Take a tube, fill it with product, seal tightly and place it in a shipping container. That’s how tube filling was done when Sweden-based Norden Machinery stepped into the market in 1927. But in 1934, the company created the now industry-standard racetrack transport chain, laying the groundwork for what is a necessary design to accommodate today’s higher speeds and new options. Innovation continued, leading to the extensio­n of the racetrack and creation of many stations along the route—and the ability for in-depth quality control, including camera checks and reject stations—all while filling up to 500 tubes per minute. Norden developed Hot Air sealing for straight or shaped seals along with multicolor filling (up to three or four colors). Today, robots lend a helping hand, requiring a minimum of operator assistance, and feeding tubes directly from a carton onto the machine.

According to Göran Adolfsson, president Sirius Machinery Inc. (the parent company of Norden), 90% of the company’s high-speed, tube-filling lines are robot-fed. The company also offers check weighing between a tube filler and a cartoner while maintaining control of the tubes and rejecting underweight tubes before adding a leaflet and slipping them into a carton. With growing concerns about sustainability, Adolfsson says companies are looking to take the tube out of the box, and adds that Norden is on the right track. In the next year or so, he says, the company will reveal a simplified method that will take tubes directly from the filler to the shipping carton.

Adolfsson says the company’s international ties (with various subsidiaries and companies under the corporate umbrella) have allowed it to transfer technology from other areas into the health and beauty world. The favorable outcome: “Speeds are enormous,” he says, “and already perfected technology can be transferred to new areas.” How economical is it to own a filling machine? Adolfsson says that even small contract manufacturers with as little as 150,000 tubes a year can earn their money back.