Often cited as one of modern life’s greatest frustrations, cap and wrap rage affects all ages, with the prising open of tightly sealed packaging causing injury and alienating consumers
On the flipside, for packaging injection moulders, it’s a fine balancing act between heightened product security using tamper evident closures and ease of opening, and keeping products fresh and visually appealing while using less packaging. Despite these competing agendas, there’s no rationale for poor design emphasises Kevin Heap, packaging expert at Sumitomo (SHI) Demag UK. “As well as introducing complex security measures and child resistance closures, injection moulders serving the packaging sector need to offer packaging functionality for target consumers,” says Kevin.
With life expectancies continuing to rise and the introduction of the Falsified Medicines Directive, whereby safety features need to be included on all medicines by February 2019, specialist closure moulders are rapidly pioneering new and creative approaches to ensure packaging remains friendly for all while protecting brand integrity.
Along with dosage control, new child resistance packaging concepts utilise complex and sophisticated opening mechanisms, such as flip top lids that can be opened one-handed or packs that require pressure being applied to two points. Other recent examples involve developing a two-piece combination tamper evident closure for pharmaceutical syrups. Also popular are flip caps that can be locked or feature tear-off bands.
Understanding changing demographics is central to R&D in the packaging sector, notes Kevin. “Players within the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries are rapidly getting to grips with the impact of mandatory safety features. We have observed a number of companies using the latest precision moulding techniques to address counterfeiting and product security. At the same time, they are taking the opportunity to consider future packaging designs … without stereotyping older generations.”
Several years ago, a study conducted by the University of Portsmouth found that ageing-related challenges — such as arthritis and deteriorating eyesight and physical strength — meant that consumers felt more vulnerable and powerless when purchasing packaged consumables, sealed containers and childproof bottles.1,2 In particular, dissatisfaction was reported among older consumers with fast-moving consumer goods packaging, for instance non-durable packaged items such as tinned food, packet meals and toiletries.
By 2080, people aged 65 years and older are expected to account for 28.7% of the EU population, compared with 18.9% in 2015. The share of people aged 80+ meanwhile is predicted to double from 5.3% to 12.3%.3 Although accessibility is essential when appealing to older generations, the issues of opening a childproof cap, unscrewing a jar or getting inside clam shell packaging are by no means confined to those who’ve reached retirement.
“One of the greatest challenges here is that no person likes to think of themselves as elderly or ageing,” highlights Kevin. “Packaging designs need to subtly make products easier to handle and open in a universal way without categorising consumers into ages, while also incorporating antirefill and tamper evidence features.” This point was supported by the Portsmouth study, which warned against labelling consumers as old. Aiming products at the senior market can alienate consumers.
One concept being widely deployed to counteract counterfeiting and product tampering are caps containing sophisticated valve technologies. Used by premium drink and pharmaceutical manufacturers, this technology can control the dispensing of product while also preventing containers being refilled.
A recent example developed on a Sumitomo (SHI) Demag IntElect system was a combination aluminium and plastic tamper evident snap-on security closure. Comprising a non-refillable valve for high-risk markets, it also includes an innovative tamper evidence mechanism that provides an irreversible opening event to leave permanent evidence of initial opening. The cap is produced in high volumes and is modular by design, so that trade customers can adapt it to different brands.
This cap works by releasing a plastic part when each bottle is opened. It is impossible to reinsert this part back into the cap’s neck; and, when it drops down it reveals a highlighted ring to indicate that the bottle has been opened.
For trade moulders producing mass-market food, beverage, toiletry and pharmaceutical closures, cost effectiveness is vital. Rather than trying to adapt existing equipment, it makes good economic sense to build a complete injection moulding system that caters to anticipated applications and changing consumer needs.
Kevin comments: “As we look to the future and changing demographics, it’s important to balance product security with easy opening packaging. It’s also critical to remember that young people are just as likely to experience the challenges of difficult-to-open packaging as older generations. Thanks to our innovative injection moulding community, the UK is at the forefront of combating packaging cap and wrap rage.”