By Paul Dupont, director of business development, Ropack Inc.
Stickpack is a globally recognized and preferred packaging format in Europe and Asia, dating back to the 1970s. In the past decade, North American consumers have eagerly accepted beverage mixes, sugars and sweeteners, and dissolving nutritional powders and crystals in these slim packets approximately the size of a stick of gum. And recently, some mainstream products with high-volume retail sales have converted to the stickpack design. American acceptance of single-serving packaging, particularly among those in the important segments of working women and baby boomers, indicates that pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare companies will likely achieve similar success.
The fundamental question for pharma and consumer healthcare companies is a significant one: “What effect will the stickpack option have on the integrity of my product?” State-of-the-industry technology, a controlled production environment including Class 100,000 clean rooms, and stringent processes ensure product safety as well as safety of the consumers who will use the stickpack.
A series of factors will protect product integrity in primary packaging using the stickpack option. Most importantly, when the product is formed, filled, and sealed in an environment with controlled temperature, low relative humidity (20%), and controlled residual oxygen (<4%), it is protected from any contaminants. As further protection, the use of high-quality film, from 7 to 12 micron foil barrier, provides zero MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate) and OTR (oxygen transfer rates). Use of leading-edge stickpack equipment ensures a high degree of fill accuracy per dose (+ or - .1%). Together, these safeguards provide content preservation resulting in a shelf life of up to 24 months.
Reduction In Cost
The cost benefits of stickpack are significant, yet sometimes overlooked. With stickpack, for example, pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare companies significantly control costs bypassing encapsulation and tableting processes, thus eliminating the need for the extra step of bottling or blistering. Consider, too, that APIs can be sent directly to the North American packager. Excipients can then be locally sourced, blended, and filled. The end result is lower total product cost, product protection, and efficiency of time, along with the elimination of significant international freight charges.
Stickpack packaging simplifies the formulation process because there is no need for compression or more complex formulas that bind all ingredients. Because stickpacks use up to 40% less material, the reduction in paper and foil usage and waste volume is both a bottom-line benefit as well as an ecological one. Add in the efficient and economical cartoning, and the overall cost-savings with stickpack become substantial.
In the challenge to differentiate their brands from the abundance of products on the shelves, pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare companies benefit from the uniqueness of the stickpack design. The format gets noticed because it has not saturated the marketplace, yet it has strong consumer acceptance. And, as a sample, stickpack is an ideal option. Stickpacks also have the flexibility to accommodate beneficial additives, such as sweeteners, flavors, fiber, and more, making the product more appealing to the consumer and thus more marketable. Marketing messages also fit easily on the stickpack surface.
Perhaps the characteristic that gives stickpack the strongest marketability is its convenience for consumers. Its portability and single-dose dispensing fill a need in consumers’ active lifestyles. Opening the stickpack and dispensing its contents is easy. Propelled by the growth in popularity of bottled water, the slender stickpack fits into the opening of a bottle of water for no-spill dispensing.
Increasing competition brings challenges to the pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare industries. Considering stickpack for their new products or established brands gives companies a packaging option that delivers product safety, marketability, and convenience, all with a potentially significant cost benefit.