In the rather saturated European market, the squeezable plastic tube is one of the beauty and personal
Karine Dussimon, Senior Analyst - Packaging, Euromonitor International
care packaging solutions that has continued to see unit sales growth throughout - and despite - the global economic downturn. The format’s main application, toothpaste, used some 131 million units over 2006-2011 across the region, but other categories look set to offer more dynamic prospects to 2015.
Little threat to supremacy of toothpaste
In 2011, the large majority of squeezable plastic tubes were found in beauty and personal care. Some 2.2 billion plastic tubes were sold in oral care alone. As the standard packaging format in this category, the plastic tube is nonetheless having to give up some of its share to newer and often more premium looking alternatives.
Rigid plastic containers have managed to penetrate toothpaste in Eastern Europe, in particular with Colgate Max Fresh being offered in a 100ml PET bottle to provide increasingly necessary shelf differentiation. Although unit gains are still rather minor, the Aquafresh brand chose to launch a toothpaste product in a 100ml metal aerosol can with the aim of improving brand image but also retail margins and value sales. The plastic tube is nonetheless set to continue to grow at a unit volume CAGR of 1.4% to 2015, mainly fuelled by rising demand in Eastern Europe.
Tubes are also a main feature in skin and hair care, categories where they tend to be perceived by consumers as offering added value compared to more standard packaging formats. While they are easier to use than plastic jars while on the go for skin care products, they can also often give a shampoo a higher quality positioning than HDPE bottles. Both categories promise a CAGR of over 2% for plastic tubes to 2015.
Tubes tend to be perceived by consumers as offering added value compared to more standard packaging formats.
Skin care also remains attractive to brand owners because, although consumer confidence fell noticeably over 2008/2009, the post-recessionary period which many European consumers feel they are in allows for continued demand for higher-quality offerings, as long as these promise to make one look ever more beautiful and feel healthier. No wonder, then, that other categories such as bath and shower, color cosmetics and sun care also offer a very positive outlook for the plastic tube. In Spain, Comercial Farlabo España SA’s premium brand Piz Buin chose in late 2010 a pocket-sized 30ml squeezable plastic tube for the launch of its sun protection product Piz Buin Mountain. All three categories are set to post a CAGR of more than 3% to 2015 across Europe.
In a nutshell, squeezable plastic tube suppliers will increasingly need to be positioned in categories where product margins can be improved. This also implies that a key function of the tube of the future will be to convey both high quality and convenience, while enabling costs to be kept under control so as to remain competitive, in particular with other rigid plastic alternatives such as the PET bottle.
This balance between quality positioning and cost-effectiveness will perhaps not be anywhere more important than in the mature toothpaste category. With leading brand owners, such as Colgate-Palmolive Co, having a very vertically integrated and therefore cost-effective supply chain, competing brand owners will need to ensure they convey a unique positioning, such as health in the case of GlaxoSmithKline Plc, in order to justify higher retail prices.
Quality printing and aluminium coating will, in this respect, be considered good ways of achieving quality perception. However, this may also be addressed through pack size and closure functionality. Euromonitor International anticipates sizes below 100ml to post the most dynamic unit volume CAGRs to 2015, of over 3%, with a number of such items benefiting from the ever increasing demand for travel sizes and generally easy-to-carry formats. Meanwhile, plastic dispensing closures will gain volume share (CAGR 3%) over the more traditional plastic screw closures used on plastic tubes (CAGR -1%).