New skin care line, My Body, tapped the expertise of PKG Group and Yonwoo International to create packaging cohesion.
Stocking Up in the Beauty Aisle

Benefits including speed-to-market, cost-effectiveness and variability continue to boost the use of stock packaging.

A stroll down the beauty aisle of any retailer will reveal many eye-catching packages that convey a specific brand image. The packages in their finished forms all look unique, but it’s possible the foundational bottle, cap and dispenser designs appear elsewhere in the store. While this may be the case, don’t expect anyone to notice.

Stock packaging, with its many advantages, has taken the packaging world by storm, but the term, itself, holds different meanings. A broad definition is two-fold: A stock package is either packaging that is in stock in a warehouse and ready-to-ship or, it can be packaging made-to-order from stock molds. The latter can also be called stock available or standard packaging.

Today, stock packaging suppliers have upped the ante, offering so many different designs and so many decorating options that the finished result is hard to distinguish from custom.

“To be truthful, with so many stock options in the marketplace, and now more than ever the array of innovative decorative effects that exist—the mixing and matching of these choices truly creates something as unique as a custom container,” says Rebecca Holland, marketing director for Kaufman Container, a full-service packaging center that offers in-stock packaging, packaging made with stock molds and custom packaging services. “It’s about putting together the perfect combination of elements while staying true to your brand to achieve the desired appearance for your product.”

Stock Versus Custom

An assortment of many different sizes from
Allstar Packaging Corp.
There are a number of factors involved when deciding between stock or custom. A brand owner considering its options should keep a few things in mind. First, examining “brand image and strategy should always be the starting point,” says Michael Musso, president and CEO, Cosmetic Specialties International, a U.S.-based manufacturer offering JIT manufacturing, decorating and shipping in less than six weeks from order approval. Musso says prestige brands often choose custom packaging, “given the price points of their product plus the brand image and differentiation they want to convey.”

DieterBakicEnterprises’ core competency is designing and developing homogeneous stock lines.
Dominic Bakic, CEO of DieterBakicEnterprises says that if a brand cannot find a fit between the brand story, the brand values and what is being offered in terms of stock packaging, “then I believe that the custom approach is absolutely the right way to go. This could range from custom design and appearance to custom functions with respect to closures or applications.” While DieterBakicEnterprises’ core competency is designing and developing homogeneous stock lines, its agency, DieterBakicDesign, offers turnkey custom packaging services.

“Brand differentiation is a key component,” agrees Lesley Gadomski, vice president of sales for Fusion Packaging, which offers made-to-order stock packaging. “Image and branding is everything in this business. Packaging sells and is therefore as important to the brand as it is to the consumers they serve.”

Time Savings

Aside from brand identity considerations, time and cost are the two deciding factors for choosing stock versus custom, says Mike Warford, national sales manager, ABA Packaging, a stock distributor of primary packaging components, offering hundreds of in-stock primary packaging options.

In terms of time, Warford adds that stock packaging items “will provide a speed-to-market that cannot generally be accomplished with a custom project.”

Just how much time can be saved with stock packaging? It’s hard to pin down an exact timeframe, but suppliers agree it can be substantial. In the case when a stock mold exists but the bottle is made-to-order, “this type of packaging option simply needs to get on a production schedule based on standard lead times and can be readily available fairly quickly, typically between weeks to months. Something custom can double, at minimum, the timeframe for a container to be ready. The development of a custom mold can be a lengthy process, including renderings, CAD drawings, revisions, prototypes and sample runs before the actual production takes place,” says Holland of Kaufman Container.

As an example, Musso of Cosmetic Specialties International says that a custom project timeline, running from concept to design to production, can range from three months to a year, while a stock package at his company can “be delivered fully decorated in less than six weeks.”

The time difference between stock and custom items is due to the extra work involved with custom projects, including design and tooling development, as well as package testing. These same factors also translate to cost savings.

Cost Savings

Stock packaging cost savings is primarily realized in the reduction of tooling costs.

“The initial purchase costs for custom will always be more because of tooling,” says Lou Della Pesca, president of 3C, Inc., a packaging firm offering stock packaging that’s custom-made according to a customer’s choice of color and decoration, as well as custom work. “If you took a stock package, and you made a custom package exactly the same, chances are the cost of the package itself won’t be much different. The difference is the cost of tooling,” he adds.

Tooling costs vary considerably, says Della Pesca, and the number of cavities in the mold directly impacts the cost.

Eileen Wang, vice president of sales and marketing for Allstar Packaging Corp., a multi-service firm offering both made-to-order as well as ready-to-ship stock packaging, says custom tooling costs more than $12,000 per injection part and $5,000 per metal part. “For stock packaging, the costs of design and tooling are amortized to the unit cost and shared by each buyer,” Wang adds.

Sometimes, when large volumes or higher cost components are needed, it may be worth spending slightly more for a unique custom package because costs can become negligible under certain scenarios, say suppliers.

“It depends on what quantity the company orders,” says Kenneth Wang, general manager for GloPak USA Corp., a Chinese manufacturer specializing in glass and plastic packaging, with an office and warehouse in the United States. Wang provides this example: “If they order less than 100,000 pieces at a time of an item that costs $0.10 or under, I suggest they order stock packaging. If they order more than 100,000 pieces at a time with items that cost more than $0.10, they should consider custom packaging. With annual usages that are more than one million on items priced more than $0.05, I strongly suggest custom packaging.”

Stock jars from Colt’s Plastics Co., Inc.
While tooling is the main cost differentiator, there are other savings with regards to stock packaging that may be initially overlooked. “Often the time, energy and cost to develop and create a custom design from scratch are overlooked when people think of custom versus stock. We’ve already taken care of that when we bring a new item to market,” says Cary Bentley, executive vice president for Colt’s Plastics Co., Inc., a packaging firm specializing in made-to-order stock packaging for all size clients, with the additional ability to integrate a customer’s forecasting and purchasing tools to meet large customers’ needs. “Another benefit of stock packaging is the resin purchasing power and economies of scale. Because we have several lines of PET-G jars used by many customers, our purchasing volumes allow for lower resin prices than would otherwise be available for a standalone custom job elsewhere.”

Minimize Headaches

Manufacturers and distributors of stock packaging also remind potential customers about hidden benefits when it comes to stock choices. Packages made with stock molds have been used before and have proven their worth in the commercial marketplace. This can cut down on headaches.

“With stock packaging, product compatibility and component-to-component functionality must be considered, but with stock packaging, testing can begin almost immediately. In the case of failure you simply seek out an alternate stock component, whereas with custom components, you are back to square one, re-engineering and re-sampling. This can destroy a launch timeline,” says Dave Desai, national sales manager, Coverpla, a manufacturer and distributor of perfume packaging, with approximately 80% of its catalog items in stock at all times.

Desai cautions against custom molds from discount suppliers, saying some brands “underestimate the importance of package engineering as well as the ability to get more products quickly, in the event the product is successful. The trade shows are full of horror stories—we hear them all the time.”

Decorating Options

So you’ve chosen stock, now what?The best way to customize a stock look, say experts, is through smart decoration choice.

“With stock packaging, the biggest challenge is to identify products as a unique entity in the marketplace,” says Wang of Allstar Packaging Corp. “This propels the brand owners to tailor their one-of-a-kind product through unique decoration.”

Cospack’s Bliss Collection is its newest stock packaging collection, consisting of airless dispensers and matching acrylic jars.
“Decoration is especially important to a stock package since typically a stock package does not come with the bells and whistles that a custom-made package would,” adds David Hou, director of marketing and sales for Cospack America Corp., which offers customers an extensive collection of ready-to-ship packaging, as well as made-to-order packaging choices.

Fortunately, decoration choices abound. “When it comes to decorating our stock packages, the sky is the limit. Through the various decorating options available, it is possible to have drastically different looks on the same stock container. Much in the same way that all of the great paintings in art museums started as a blank canvas in a frame, the possibilities with stock packaging are endless,” says Bentley of Colt’s Plastics Co., Inc.

Stock Case Studies

VPI Packaging transformed stock packaging into a customized look for Elite Platinum Crème.
Many brands have successfully chosen stock packages to make a unique brand statement and build brand loyalty. Following are several examples offered by packaging suppliers:

Board Certified Radiation Oncologist Kevin L. Schewe, MD, FACRO, of Denver turned to VPI Packaging, a stock and custom PET packaging supplier, to transform a commonly used stock round cream jar into something that looked highly customized and fit into the brand image of his Elite Therapeutics line.

Elite Platinum Crème, developed to assist skin recovery following radiation treatment, utilizes apple stem cell extract as a key active ingredient. In order to showcase this feature, the brand wished to evoke the look of DNA strands on the jar. VPI accomplished this look by injecting the base in white and then spraying the base with matte silver paint. A 360-degree hot stamp in silver was used as the “DNA” decoration.

Injected in clear SAN and matte sprayed, the outer cover included a clear window, hot-stamped DNA-strands, and a magnifying effect created by the convex nature of the jar. The inner cap was injected in pantone blue. The blue inner cap was assembled to the cover with the DNA strands registering to the clear window. A pantone-matched blue logo completed the customized look.

New skin care line, My Body, tapped the expertise of PKG Group and Yonwoo International, suppliers of “stock designs custom produced to its customers’ requirements,” says Benny Calderone, Jr., director of sales and marketing. Showcasing the cohesive capability of good decoration, the brand took advantage of stock designs, using vacuum metallization, silk screen and hot stamping to create a uniform look through multiple products, containers and materials.

“All the packages were stock designs,” says Calderone. “Using readily available decorating techniques, they were able to achieve a high level of decoration and customization, using different packages while still achieving uniformity to convey their brand image.”

Fusion Packaging worked closely with the Elizabeth Arden team on its launch of Elizabeth Arden’s Visible Difference.
Fusion Packaging worked closely with the Elizabeth Arden team on its launch of Elizabeth Arden’s Visible Difference. The 5-SKU line is packaged in three 50ml airless bottles and a 15ml airless bottle from Fusion Packaging’s Wish Collection, as well as a 30ml airless bottle from its Axis Collection.

The sleek look of the prestige package was created through a white bottle color, enhanced by a vacuum-metallized pump assembly and base. Elizabeth Arden’s logo and its iconic red door provide a final touch to the stellar design, which seamlessly marries the two different stock collections.

“Some of the challenges we had to address were that the two collections chosen for the line, Wish and Axis, have two different materials. Color matching the white was critical for the brand. In the end, we accomplished the color match perfectly,” says Gadomski. “Additionally, we were able to achieve success with the artwork for the final design even with extremely tight registration and colors.”

Kaufman Container recently helped with the launch of ION Professional Products’ new Smooth Solutions Keratin Smoothing products.
On the hair care end, Kaufman Container recently helped with the launch of Ion Professional Products’ new Smooth Solutions Keratin Smoothing products, a line extension created to meet customer demand based on market trends for Keratin-containing products. The Keratin line was housed in the same stock available cylinders utilized by Ion’s main product line, however, the Keratin treatments are housed in a custom amber color.

To make the products stand out further, all packages in the line extension were treated to a combination of screen printing and hot stamping with gold foil, instead of the silver used on the standard Ion bottles, says Holland. “In addition to screen printing and hot stamping on the Keratin Treatment bottles, a five-page booklet label with instructions on how to use the product line was applied on the back of the bottles, adding yet another decorating process in the mix. This project truly exemplified how you can really take a stock container with a rather simple shape and turn it into a beautiful and eye-catching package,” she adds.

Future case studies will likely continue to showcase smart use of decoration, and techniques continue to evolve. For example, a new molding technology was launched at HBA Global in June by Coverpla.

“We have developed a technology we call ‘custom core, reverse embossing,’ “ says Desai. “This allows us to customize our standard caps to include our customers’ logos or designs without the expense of a complete new set of injection molding tools. Many people are of the opinion that innovation is limited to custom packaging. We are proving this is not the case.”