Neopac recently worked with Swiss company Gerda Spillmann AG to create high barrier packaging.
Tubes Tide

Despite its longevity as a packaging solution, tube technology continues to flow.

In the 1850s, Crème Dentifrice was invented, a category-changing product that cleaned teeth with a paste rather than a powder. The first toothpastes were mass-produced in jars, until the 1890s, when Colgate began packaging its oral care products in a tube.

Today, oral care applications continue to dominate the world market for tube production. For example, in Europe, 2.2 billion plastic tubes were sold in the oral care category in the year 2011, according to Karine Dussimon, senior packaging analyst at market research firm Euromonitor International. It was the top-selling application, followed by six more tube applications within the beauty and personal care categories: skin care, hair care, men’s grooming, bath and shower, sun care and color cosmetics.

Experts point to many reasons why the tube has seen such success within the packaging industry. “The tube has always been considered the perfect container for semi-solid formulations such as creams, gels, lotions and ointments because of its convenient size, shape, and light-weight characteristics. It’s durable, it can accept many decorating techniques, and in the case of barrier tubes, it can offer stability with aggressive formulations and highly pigmented products, along with the capability of offering shelf-life to products containing fragrances or active ingredients,” says Steve Gallo, director-business development, America, for Lageen Tuboplast LTD.

There are often additional advantages in terms of cost. “We believe tubes are the best packaging solution. The pricing over the past few years has been stable to slightly lower due to lower-cost raw materials and reduction in material used. Tubes are a very cost-effective option and still represent a very small percentage of the total finished product cost,” says Kunal Kuthiala, business development manager, creativity and innovation for Essel Propack.

A plastic extruded tube from Essel Propack, decorated by Stealth Printing Technology
While tube packages have been around for years, the trends associated with this packaging choice continue to change and evolve. Thanks to new technologies, a tube can be enhanced to fit broad ranges of formulas and price points, and altered to communicate any brand message.

Decorative Trends

Without exception, tube suppliers say they’ve seen a major ramp-up in decorative capabilities. These new innovations span improved printing processes, innovative inks and varnishes, as well as forward-thinking label technologies.

For example, Viva Healthcare Packaging has been teaming with various brands to offer injection-molded tubes with in-mold labels. In-mold labeling, with its ink side adhered to the plastic rather than left exposed, allows for superior protection of the ink and broadens decoration choices.

An injection molded tube with an in-mold label answers strong market requests like improved graphics, shorter times because of its simpler, more streamlined process, and sustainability because of 100 percent polypropylene construction, according to Bruno Lebeault, marketing director North America for Viva Healthcare Packaging. He says, “They are getting more and more popular and will continue to do so.”

The company recently worked with The Cloudbreak Group and Knowlton Development Corporation to introduce New York Yankees fragranced personal care products packaged in injection molded tubes with in-mold labels. Additionally, Viva Healthcare Packaging won the 2011 NJPEC Health and Beauty Package of the Year Silver Award for the Body Drench Quicktan instant self tanner. The bottle includes high-quality graphics on 100% of the tube surface.

Viva Healthcare Packaging recently teamed with The Cloudbreak Group and Knowlton Development Corporation to introduce New York Yankees fragranced personal care products packaged in injection molded tubes with in-mold labels.
World Wide Packaging, LLC has brought to market another innovative label solution with Mylar metallized labels for plastic tubes. “Mylar is a thinner label and allows us to bring the label closer to the tube shoulder,” explains Jeff Hayet, executive vice president of global sales for World Wide Packaging, LLC. He adds, “They look much brighter than a metallized label as well.”

The use of labels on stock tubes is a definite trend, remarks Michael Yankaus, promotion representative for JSN Cosmetic Packaging. “A label can be printed with four-color process inks, silkscreen-printed and/or foil hot stamped, and can now even be crimp-able. Use of a label allows our clients to use a stock tube and dress it up significantly to attract customers,” adds Yankaus.

Along with new label technologies, there have been significant leaps forward in printing capabilities.

“With print technology continuing to evolve, we are seeing higher resolutions, more colors and more photographic-like quality in print,” says Alex Piagnarelli, vice president of sales for Montebello Packaging. “You are also seeing features like texturizing or soft touch finishes, as well as metallic hot stamping. Anything that helps promote a more upscale, prestige look.”

In response to this evolving trend, Neopac has ramped up its printing capabilities utilizing multiple processes, and terming their technique “Flexodruck.” Its polyfoil tubes can be printed using flexographic process color—CMYK—just like printing on a paper substrate. According to the company, every shade is dried after printing, enabling more precise images than what can be accomplished with traditional offset printing. In addition, three spot colors can be added to the flexo colors.

“Most of these machines were built to print labels. We saw the potential to print special images on polyfoil tubes by use of the flexo/offset and silkscreen printing process. It is because of the many print possibilities that we need to trial each one to ensure that the machine could meet our exacting print standards. Now we master even difficult subjects,” says Jurg Clement, head of the Neopac printing team.

JSN Cosmetic Packaging recently worked with prestige brand Phillip B to create an award-winning tube package that included foil applications on its cap.
More advances in the printing category are sure to come. Essel Propack, in addition to offering 10-color combination printing capability for laminate tubes, is also partnering with research and development groups to develop processes for new decoration techniques, including 3D and holographic imaging on a laminate substrate, which is then converted to a laminate tube.

Brand managers have also leveraged caps and closures as a way to aesthetically differentiate their products. Christopher White, president of The Filling Station, a contract filler of tubes, has observed a trend toward excellent graphics as well as sophisticated caps. “I see a lot of our customers using the available graphics that have eluded them in the past, as well as foil stamping and fancy caps.” To this end, The Filling Station recently worked with Dustin Hoffman’s wife to complete a tube-packaged product for Lisa Hoffman Beauty. “The caps were very nice, and we had to implement a special puck as to not scuff the cap,” adds White.

Yankaus has also seen a trend involving caps. “The use of metal-overshell caps on high-end products is very common,” he remarks. JSN Cosmetic Packaging recently worked with prestige brand Phillip B to create an award-winning tube package. While the company did not choose a metal overshell, it did include metallic cap decorations as part of its design. “These tubes utilize size distinction, special transparent finishes, and unique applications of hot stamped foil labeling, plus custom foil applications on their caps,” says Yankaus.

Despite growing capabilities, some brands may prefer to stick with a simpler decorative scheme. Shanna Massey, sales manager for Express Tubes, has observed that “for a while, full-body metallic, flashy looks were really popular, but it seems that recently, designers are going back to the basics with the “less is more” attitude for decoration and overall line branding.”

Functional Trends

Caps can serve aesthetic as well as functional uses. World Wide Packaging has seen an increase in the request for custom closure systems and custom heads, especially with regards to higher end brands.

Theodent’s cap, from World Wide Packaging, includes a flexible plug that squeezes into the tube’s orifice.
One of the most complex caps World Wide Packaging has created was for Theodent, marketed as chocolate toothpaste that successfully substitutes fluoride for a blend of minerals that include cocoa bean extract. The mint-flavored product is sold at Whole Foods Market locations and is targeted toward individuals who are concerned about the risks of ingesting fluoride. The tube utilizes an innovative angular shape and a shallow depth to imbue a sleek, yet professional appeal. Its cap includes a flexible plug, that when closed, squeezes into the tube’s orifice. It then expands slightly to create an especially tight seal.

Essel Propack has also introduced caps to increase functionality in a tube package. It has partnered with a cap manufacturer to launch the Quarter Turn & Click cap, which opens and shuts with a quarter turn to increase convenience. The company also markets I-cap, a cap with a silicone valve in the orifice to control or limit product dispensing, dependent upon the dosage or end-use need. “This aids the consumer by allowing them to squeeze once and evacuate the approximate required amount of product without a guess,” adds Kuthiala.

And this year, another innovation in caps is—no cap at all. Montebello Packaging has pioneered a single-use neckless tube. “Conventional tubes today need a cap because you need to reseal the package after it’s opened. To put a cap on a tube, the tube has to have a threaded neck,” explains Piagnarelli. Montebello Packaging has recently introduced a neckless tube, where the tube orifice is covered by a peel seal rather than a traditional cap. The new innovation has a very specific application for single-use products. Its idea came from the launch of Montebello’s own beverage health supplement product called Intuition, launched last year in Canada, but Piagnarelli envisions many more applications in the HBA industry, such as travel-sized personal care products, under-eye treatments and other specialty skin treatments.

EZ Squeeze enables fully evacuated tubes. (Image courtesy of Coesia Health and Beauty)
Essel Propack offers its own version of a single-use tube featuring a twist-off closure that enables consumers to twist and break the dispensing orifice.

Barrier properties are also a main concern for tube users today. Many of today’s formulas feature volatile ingredients requiring premium protection.

“Due to the manufacturing process, laminated tubes are especially suitable for the packaging of highly perishable contents,” says Kuthiala. “During recent years, plastic barrier laminate tubes have gained demand, providing the benefit of laminate tubes with the feel/memory characteristics of extruded plastic tubes.”

“We see a big need for high barrier properties, as [formulas] contain less preserving agents as they did in the past,” agrees Sonya Gerhold, marketing for Neopac.

Neopac recently worked with Swiss company Gerda Spillman AG to create high barrier packaging. The Neopac Polydose packaging was chosen for its sun protection 50+ product, which utilizes natural ingredients and contains no parabens or mineral oils. The polyfoil layer of the tube, in addition to an airless closure system, provided excellent protection against both light and oxygen.

Express Tubes has also seen demand for increased barrier protection. “Five-layer polyethylene tubes are an awesome alternative for products that require additional stability and used to only be safely housed in aluminum laminate tubes,” says Massey.

Essel Propack decorated and manufactured a tube for L’Oreal’s Revitalift. Decorations include a combination of dry offset, silk screen and hot foil.
Suppliers are hard at work to introduce other functional solutions to the tube market. Lageen Tuboplast has introduced a sugarcane tube, which keeps typical tube functionality, but in a greener package. “Up until now, the green tube alternative has been to use post consumer recycled resin, which still originates as a fossil fuel product, is a non-virgin resin and is used only as a percentage of the polyethylene makeup of the tube. Sugarcane tubes are made with 100 percent virgin resin that is derived from sugarcane. The sugarcane resin has the same holding and processing properties as standard resin,” explains Gallo.

Environmentally friendly options are a growing trend in the global tube market, agrees Lebeault, ofViva Healthcare Packaging. “Consumers are demanding more eco-friendly tubes, and so recyclability of our tube has become a huge advantage,” he adds.

Viva Healthcare Packaging recently worked with Terax America on a project to make its packaging more environmentally friendly. The company worked to replace two different packaging materials—a polyethylene bottle and a polypropylene cap—into one tube package made exclusively with polypropylene. The project came with an added benefit: Packaging costs were reduced by 40%.

There are also ways to improve evacuation of product. “There is a product in the market called EZ Squeeze that greatly enhances the consumer’s ability to fully empty tubes. This should be very interesting for the market,” says Goran Adolfsson, president of Coesia Health and Beauty.

Future Growth

What’s next for the tube market? Adolfsson believes that global growth is in the future, driven by a number of factors. “We feel it is driven by an ongoing conversion from bottles to tubes and a lot of newly developed products utilizing tubes,” he says, adding, “A large part of the growth is due to emerging markets entering the phase where there is some disposable income available to large groups, and products like toothpaste are among the early products to be purchased by people during that phase.”

Despite likely growth, some U.S. manufacturers wonder who will benefit. “We have begun to witness a disturbing trend of offshore manufacturers penetrating the North American marketplace with very low cost tubes. This is made possible by the fact that there are little or no duties, tariffs or taxes placed on the tubes made by offshore suppliers and shipped into North America,” says Piagnarelli. “Various members of The North American Tube Council are trying to lobby Congress to initiate legislation that will create a more level playing field.”