Pharma chameleon

18 November 2019

You always want what you haven't got, right? It's true for personal care and pharmaceutical packaging too. So, the latest trend addresses this by bringing the best of each area to the other; personal care brands love to push their pharma credentials and pharma brands are focusing on their pampering elements. But how exactly are they making it happen? Emma-Jane Batey speaks to brands in both categories to find out.

White coat syndrome isn't just about getting nervous before a blood test – it gives a sense of authority and professional capability to all manner of situations where a little bit of medical knowledge can help reassure people. The packaging industry has harnessed the same effect by bringing in more medical-style packaging to beauty and personal care products; more and more expensive face creams are boasting their ingredients in a 'Harley Street' manner, rather than simply focusing on how special they make consumers feel, as has been the popular approach until recently.


If you look at the skin care counters in department stores, you'll see that brands are more often choosing to use 'luxe meets medical' styling to portray a sense of 'going beyond skin care' and more toward what is becoming known as 'tweakments' – not as serious as Botox but more effective than your normal moisturiser. Part of delivering this message is the packaging; as the first physical point of contact for a brand and its customers, the packaging must push the message of medical competence, over and above the pampering element.


Family-friendly organic skincare brand Childs Farm has been active in this trend with its new sun care range. Keeping the Hampshire-based brand's famously quirky, design-lead packaging, featuring – as all its skin and haircare products do – colourful drawings of animals, children, circuses and farms, yet this time with a pharmaceutical flair. Instead of its popular colourful lids and labels, the skincare range captures a calmer style, with more white and pale colours instead of the bright ones in its other ranges.


Sensitive to style


Childs Farm founder Joanna Jensen says, “We are an ambitious brand and we intend to continue revolutionising the baby and child-toiletries category so that all products are suitable for the skin and hair of newborns – even those with sensitive skin – and are safe for people who may be prone to eczema.” The new sun care range from Childs Farm includes a roll-on sun cream which is already proving popular with young children keen to be autonomous, and with parents that are happy for the children to not be complaining when they try to put on their sun cream. Jensen continues, “As a child, I was allergic to the majority of sun protection products, so I was determined that other children with sensitive skin wouldn't suffer the same discomfort I did. And as a leading supplier of sensitive skin products in the UK – our baby moisturiser sells a bottle every 20 seconds – it seemed only natural that we produce an extension to the range that means sensitive skin can be protected all year round.”


The packaging of the Childs Farm sun care range has been developed to ensure that all legal requirements are clearly visible, as well as the famous Childs Farm ease-of-use promise. Jensen continues, “All our range is cosmetic, so we follow EU guidelines on production and packaging. We are clear about ingredients, weights and measures, but we also talk about applying our products in a human and fun way. We are very proud to be registered with the Vegan Society for our sun care, which is a consideration that many purchasers are making now. We wanted to keep the packaging in harmony with the rest of the range, and also age neutral. Our grapefruit sun makes it clear what the product is for, while marrying it to the rest of the range.”


As a skincare brand that is always evolving, Childs Farm sun care is just the latest addition to its range, all of which is dedicated to bringing fun and efficacy to children and their parents when it comes to looking after their skin and hair. Jensen notes, “We are looking forward to releasing new products in 2020 that take our packaging to a higher level, marrying with our sustainability manifesto. Biodegradable labels and inks are being looked at. We are moving from 30% PCR for our bottles and lids to 50% PCR. And we are moving away from our pumps for our larger 500ml bottles as it's been impossible to find fully recyclable pumps. All of our products are also put in cases of FSC card and our gifting is either FSC or phthalate-free plastic that is completely reusable for hair ties, pins and even seeds.”


 High Street, high responsibility


As the largest pharmacy health and beauty chain in the UK, Boots is proudly 'at the heart of community-based health and beauty'. With 2,485 stores across the UK, in towns, cities, shopping centres and airports, over 90% of the UK population is within 10 minutes of a Boots store. With Boots serving as a reliable place to pick up a prescription at the same time as your lunchtime sandwich, it prides itself that over 6,500 of its 22,000 employees are registered pharmacists.


For Boots, packaging is both a responsibility and a marketing tool, with the stores housing leading brands, (carefully vetted) start-up brands and its own label products. From June 24th 2019, Boots has become the first national pharmacy, health and beauty retailer in the UK to use unbleached brown paper carrier bags as standard, both for its health products and its pharmacy sales. Seb James, senior VP and MD of Boots UK, explains, “Plastic waste is undoubtedly one of the most important issues around the world today, with TV shows like Blue Planet highlighting the effects of plastic pollution. This year, we are transforming Boots as we celebrate 170 years and the move to unbleached paper bags is another pivotal moment in that journey. There is no doubt that our customers expect us to act and this change signifies a huge step away from our reliance on plastic.”


With Boots conducting customer analysis to determine that avoiding plastic packaging is a key issue for 92% of its customers, with 94% agreeing that the move to paper bags is a good idea, Boots UK head of marketing Helen Normoyle says, “We have seen a significant shift in our customers’ attitudes towards plastics and recycling in recent years – there’s never been a more important time to show our customers that we’re taking action to reduce our impact. Our new paper bags have been carefully tested to make sure that over their entire life cycle they are better for the environment, while still being a sturdy, practical option for customers who haven’t bought their own bags with them when shopping.”


All profits from the sale of the paper bags will go to Boots' long-term charity partner Children In Need, with the small, medium and large bags costing 5p, 7p, or 10p respectively. The UK-manufactured bags are made from unbleached, FSC-certified recycled brown paper, are printed with water-based inks and are suitable for standard domestic recycling.


White paper bags are already in use across Boots' network of Opticians, Pharmacy and Hearingcare divisions, it is looking to improve their sustainability by switching to the brown paper bags by end of 2019. At the start of 2019, as part of its plan to 'actively improve our sustainability', Boots' Product Evaluation Team worked with WRAP to analyse the consumer recycling messages on its bathroom toiletries, with the aim to enhance the message and boost understanding.


By understanding that clarity is key for consumers, the pharmaceutical-style of packaging – whether it's for actual medical products or for personal care products that want to promote their medical credentials – is a quick visual shorthand for reliability, quality and efficacy. So as long as it's used responsibly, it's a packaging style that looks unlikely to be out of fashion.



Pharmaceutical or market influencing innovation latest


Simply Balanced

Target Corporation’s Simply Balanced range have developed a new series of magnesium citrate tablets with an organic fruit and vegetable blend, claimed to support energy production and bone health.

The product is packaged in an injection-moulded clear PET jar, with a two-piece, two-colour injection-moulded PP push-and-turn child-resistant closure.  The packaging includes a clear outer part that is a similar shape to the jar section; this has an inner-location ring with four locking nodes that engage with the lugged neck of jar; embossed and gloss white-printed opening instructions to top.

This range of packaging was the winner of a 2019 AmeriStar Packaging Award in the Drug & Pharmaceutical category, and of a Bronze Award in the Drug & Pharmaceutical category at the National Association of Container Distributors (NACD) Packaging Awards 2019.

The large two-colour push-and-turn child resistant closure in the food supplements category is the major innovation present in this product.

The unusual jar shape and distinctive closure format give this pack a strong shelf presence and a premium image that sets it apart from standard supplement offerings. Its push-and-turn closure provides effective child resistance. Reasonable pressure is required to push the lid down before making a half-turn to release the locking nodes and remove the cap. Clear and simple opening instructions are embossed on the top of the lid and coloured white for improved stand-out against the clear cap, while the wide-neck jar allows easy dispensing of the large tablets. Packs can be stacked securely for retail display or home storage: the base of the jar fits over a raised ridge that runs around the perimeter of the top of the lid.

Smart Cups

Smart Cups have taken a new packaging approach with their ‘self-stirring, 3D-polycapsule printed cup’ that needs to be filled with water in order to make it ready to drink – the drink contents are ‘microencapsulated’ in the packaging.


The packaging for this functional drink is a printed metallised-film laminate free-standing pouch. Inside are six PLA Greenware pots, stacked inside each other and secured with an unprinted clear film, one empty cup (without micro-capsules) is fitted as the last one inside the pile to ‘seal off’ the others before the shrink-collar is removed.

Smart Cups’ micro-capsules are activated and dissolved when water is added to the cup. Simple instructions for use – ‘Fill. Fizz. Feel.’ – are printed on the pouch, as well as on the cups, along with corresponding pictograms. The self-stirring cups provide a convenient and hassle-free beverage experience for consumers. They are self-sustained, require only cold water to activate and could be an ideal solution for on-the-go, sports, camping, travelling or any sort of outdoor activities.


The dissolving process of the micro-capsules is moderately fizzy and rather gradual, and there is no audible hissing. The use of PLA cups ‘made from plants’ helps to ease the first impression that the product is a bit ‘over-packed’ and delivers too much waste to the environment. The PLA cups are claimed to be 100% biodegradable. The manufacturer recommends to keep unused cups in the pouch, with the protection cup on top of the stack to preserve the product longer. This so-called ‘dumb cup’ protects the cups that have the ingredients from exposure to moisture. The manufacturer also suggest to use the dumb cups to ‘collect spare change, as a planter, or use as a doggie water bowl if you drink one while walking your dog’. This also helps to soften the image of an over-packed product.



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