For new and established brands alike, stock packaging is essentially a perfectly blank packaging canvas: It’s immediately accessible, relatively inexpensive and thanks to ever-expanding decorating options, infinitely customizable to be as elegantly simple or boldly ornate as desired.
And while the definition of “stock packaging” can mean either readily available in-stock items or packaging that’s quickly manufactured from in-stock molds, the common thread is personalized packaging that gets new products to market quickly, at a fraction of the cost of custom designs.
Marny Bielefeldt, vice president of marketing, Alpha Packaging, points to cost pressures as drivers in the increased reliance on stock components. “Large companies are finding they can invest money in custom-colored stock bottles or unique decorative effects for much less money than it might take to develop a custom bottle, and still get the impact they are looking for,” she says. “Small companies often find they can enter the market with more size options if they choose a family of stock bottles with a large size range, whereas they might never afford to develop custom bottles in a whole range of sizes.”
Small companies, or Indie brands, have also made an indelible impact on the how packaging suppliers cater to speed-to-market in the beauty and personal care sector, according to Mike Warford, director of sales, ABA Packaging Corp. “[Indie brands] move very quickly in introducing new products to market [and] are less willing to compromise on their desired packaging with regard to component selections, colors, materials and decorations,” he observes.
Bielefeldt adds that there are also more independent start-up companies now in comparison to several years ago, thanks in part to online selling and social media influencers. “These smaller companies want the look of brand leaders, but simply don’t have the volumes to justify custom packaging,” she says. “Stock packaging fits the bill for these small but growing companies in their early years, and as they launch line extensions and experiment with package sizes and styles.”
Likewise, the baked-in time and cost associated with custom packaging ideation and creation also drives companies to stock options. “If a company needs to launch three sizes of its product in six months, it is much less risky to choose from existing stock bottles in the same family that they know can be manufactured successfully, otherwise they run a risk with custom projects in which each new bottle would need to be designed, prototyped, tested, approved—all before bottles can be produced and filled,” Bielefeldt says, noting that the process can easily take six months or more, especially when multiple sizes are being developed.
Top Stock Trends
Ray Lewis, president of Nate Packaging, a company that defines stock packaging as originating from stock tooling, says a huge stock packaging trend involves brands maximizing color and decoration options to the degree that their packages could pass as custom. “Using metallization, silkscreen, hot stamping, digital printing as well as some new high-end inks that look like a heat transfer label but is actually direct printed—these packages now take on a life of their own,” he says. “They do not look at all like a stock item but now look like a custom tool to separate the brand on shelf with a low initial investment in just artwork and colorant versus a complete custom tool that can cost thousands of dollars.”
One of Nate Packaging’s recent stock projects was Burt’s Bees Hydrating Face Stick. Lewis says the package consisted of a 30ml, airtight, all-PP resin, hot pour propel/repel bottom fill stick component in an off-white, pearl color. “They used a pressure sensitive label to decorate the item as they can change out labels based on formula and application,” he recalls. “This was a great fit due to the airtight feature and our sustainability of a single material PP stick that can be run in PP PCR, as this was a water-based formula.”
Worth noting, Nate Packaging’s PCR PP resin stick, made from up to 100% post-consumer materials, was awarded this year’s Best in Green award at Luxe Pack New York. (Lewis speaks about Nate's PP stick package in this video.)
Worth noting, Nate Packaging’s PCR PP resin stick, made from up to 100% post-consumer materials, was awarded this year’s Best in Green award at Luxe Pack New York.
Hybridized and multi-functional packaging is also an important part of the stock landscape. Many of HCP Packaging’s larger palettes are available with up to 12 pan recesses for holding an array of eyeshadows for endless looks. The company also offers multi-functional packs to house double-ended mascara and eyeliner, or a brow product that both colors and grooms—and the concept is a hit in a beauty segment that’s become more mainstream.
“Cosmetics for men are becoming less niche—our recently released ‘Homme’ promotion shows a selection of packs that add an extra dimension to daily grooming regimes,” comments HCP’s Cheryl Morgan, creative marketing manager. “These packs are standards manufactured in HCP’s European facility: a double-ended ‘Manscara & Guyliner’ to subtly enhance the eyes and a multi-functional brow groomer combined with a flocked concealer applicator to disguise under-eye circles or blemishes.”
Morgan adds that “stock hybrid” packaging, such as a stock compact with a customized cover with an embossed design, are more in demand as tools to help increase a brand’s speed to market with stock packaging. “Projects with stock hybrids are being frequently requested to combine the benefits of stock packaging with a cost and time effective customization of packaging…with a relatively small tooling cost,” she says.
Highly detailed digital printing is a popular customization technique, especially in the case of heightened speed-to-market needs and smaller minimum order quantities (MOQs). 3D printing is another option for brands who need fast top-plate customization. This technique is showcased in HCP’s recent launch with Asian beauty brand Marie Dalgar. The brand’s Puzzle Nine Palette is built upon HCP’s Radii Rectangular Palette.
Emphasis on Eco-Friendliness
Sustainable, environmentally responsible packaging is no longer a fringe concept, it’s an expectation. In response, stock packaging providers are broadening their ranges of recycled and recyclable packaging offerings for maximum appeal.
“The need for environmentally friendly has pushed us to add stock options that are on trend,” comments Aliya Anand, associate vice president of marketing and product development, APR Beauty. “We have added more amber glass options as well as bamboo over shell packaging to our stock list.”
SPA Technologies, which specializes in botanical and seaweed skincare products, expedited its path to market using APR Beauty’s fast order fulfillment of jars and airless pumps that were perfectly suited to support the brand’s sensitive formulations. Decorative labels completed the look.
Nowadays it’s not enough for stock packaging suppliers to simply offer green packaging; it also helps to have a working knowledge of the materials and understand the ins and outs of ethical sourcing too. “Eco or sustainable packaging has become more and more in demand, and we have found that the brands looking for this type of packaging tend to be well-versed in the different kinds of sustainable materials and they know exactly what they want,” says Bryce Peacher, marketing and communications manager, APC Packaging. “The challenges we have encountered have been in sourcing materials available in natural colors and educating factories about the differences between the various recycled materials available.
Jeff Carbone, key account manager, southeast region at Baralan USA Inc., agrees and adds that in addition to providing sustainable solutions, it’s equally important to be able to guarantee the functionality of the product for the final consumer. “It’s a combination of relevance and credibility [as well as] a daily challenge to achieve results by presenting to the market a range of high-quality products, capable of anticipating and satisfying the consumer’s needs even with adequate attention to environmental and social issues,” he says. “Our responsible vision is to identify sustainable materials that respect the conditions of recyclability and biodegradability, through a responsible choice by selecting biopolymers that derive from renewable resources and natural materials, not related to the food chain.”
Grace and Tonic turned to Baralan for full- and mini-sized stock bottles and jars to house its line consisting of an eye serum, moisture cream, and cleansing mud, all of which are Cosmos-certified ensuring the highest standard for organic and natural cosmetics. The brand, which is sold at Target, opted to frost all of its bottles and jars, and silk screen their artwork on top of the packages.
Carbone says the bottles and jars perfectly complement each other visually, and the componentry underscores Grace and Tonic’s vision, blending luxurious packaging with superior quality beauty products.
SamHwa USA Inc. offers a variety of refillable stock packages to keep with its sustainable initiative, including airless systems, lipsticks, airtight jars and airtight compacts—and most of its PP, PET, PETG packaging can be recycled. The company continues to fine-tune its practices and offerings and centered on the three Rs: recyclability, refillables and reduction.
“We are committed to increase recyclability of our stock packages by implementing more sustainable plastic resin and additive alternatives,” says Philip Cho, country manager, SamHwa. “Increasingly we are trying to find ways to make our packages slim, but also refillables so that consumers can continue using the package continuously. Reduction of the amount of plastic used in the packages is constantly being reviewed in our new products.”
The company recently launched a series of ampoule products that currently spans 10 different designs. All packages utilize a bi-injection button for dispensing that Cho says increases user experience for accurate dosages.
Eco-friendly stock packaging lines from PremiSpa are simply dubbed Green PP and Green R-PET. Green PP is comprised of partially bio-based compounds (PE and PP) with a renewable resource content of approximately 30% Biobased Carbon Content (BCC). The company says it provides the same performance of PP, but results in lower carbon dioxide emissions in comparison to conventional PP plastic. It’s also 100% recyclable. Green R-PET is derived from the “regeneration” of recycled PET bottles and is said to provide the same performance as standard PET.
As a participant in the Carbon Disclosure Project which drives corporate transparency and the measurement of environmental action, HCP Packaging incorporates Post-Consumer Resin (PCR) into packaging wherever possible as part of its green initiative. In 2018, the company achieved a score of level B, which is two levels above the general average, and Asia regional average of score level D.
HCP has several developments in the pipeline in response to the demand for packaging to be more environmentally friendly but always operate in adherence to what it calls the 6R Principles: Replace, Reuse, Recycle, Reduce, Re-Manufacture, Research.
“Sustainability is inevitably challenging for an industry that manufactures packaging primarily from plastic and HCP is finding that although brands want eco-credentials, they also don’t want to compromise on stunning decoration that includes metallic effects, glitter and a mix of materials,” comments HCP’s Morgan.
Beyond plastics, ABA Packaging’s Warford says other in-demand eco-friendly stock packaging materials are aluminum bottles, cans, jars and caps. “Aluminum is one of the most sought-after packaging materials for recycling, and we are working with all of our customers to encourage them in developing new projects using this great material,” he says.
Stock packaging providers know that brand margins and turnaround times are tighter. With the proliferation of more eco-friendly options and ever-expanding decorating techniques, stock packaging has become a bona fide alternative to higher-cost, custom packaging designs.